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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supreme Court strikes a blow for the Fourth Amendment (a.k.a. Scalia's got your back, this time)

Wait, what?
In an unusual reversal of roles today, traditionally right-wing Supreme Court Justices formed a majority in a decision which expands, in practice anyway, citizens' Constitutional Fourth Amendment rights.
From the Criminal Lawyer blog:
In a stunning 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court today reversed its longstanding bright-line rule which had permitted warrantless car searches after an arrest, even when there was no concern for officer safety or the preservation of evidence. The case is Arizona v Gant.
Writing for the majority in this important decision, Justice Stevens held that the police may only search the passenger compartment of a vehicle, pursuant to the arrest of a recent occupant, if it is reasonable to believe that the arrested person might access the car while it’s being searched, or that the car contains evidence of the crime for which that person was arrested.
Interestingly, the votes were contrary to common stereotype. The majority, which limited police powers, included the two most right-wing justices in the popular mind, Scalia and Thomas. The minority, which would have expanded police powers, included two fairly liberal justices, Kennedy and Breyer.
"The high court's conservative majority in recent years has generally sided with the police while cutting back on the rights of criminal suspects in car cases," noted Reuters, reporting on the case in late March after the high court agreed to rule.
The events leading up to the court's decision were summarized in the court's decision, available here(PDF link).


Blogger Nathaniel said...

Thanks for the pingback. Here's our wrapup of the Court's Fourth Amendment cases this term: http://burneylawfirm.com/blog/2009/04/24/supreme-search-seizure-court-uses-term-to-attack-4th-amendment-absurdities/

24/4/09 8:31 PM  

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