Warrant-less searches and seizures, surveillance of your electronic communications, PDMP, REAL ID, RFID – the 4th Amendment is under assault…
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution is intended to be a “Hands Off” list of rights the People declared that government is not allowed to take away by law or rules. Among the most dear to the Founding Fathers was the right to be secure in your person, places, and effects from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The “Reasonable” threshold was only met in their eyes by a particularized search warrant issued by a judge upon probable cause that a law had been broken. It was their intent that without such a warrant that applied to only one specific situation, the government could not seize or search you.
Unfortunately, those founding principles have been eroding away…
History of the 4th Amendment
The founding generation had good cause to hold the 4th Amendment principles near and dear. Their heritage was replete with battles against authoritarianism and an abusive legal system at least as far back as 9th century King Alfred, who secured for their ancestors the right to a jury of their peers when hauled before a court.
In the decades before the war for American Independence, King George’s men were issuing “writs of assistance” and “general warrants”, which would give officials the “legal” power to search homes and businesses in an effort to enforce the many mercantilistic laws, like the Navigation Acts, Excise Act, Molasses Act and Stamp Act – oppression that so stifled the free market and liberty, in general.
Even the U.S. Supreme Court once respected the origins of the 4th Amendment. “[T]he Fourth
Amendment’s commands grew in large measure out of the colonists’ experience with the writs of assistance. . . [that] granted sweeping power to customs officials and other agents of the King to search at large for smuggled goods.” UnitedStates v. Chadwick, 433 U. S. 1, 7-8 (1977).
4th Amendment Is Being “Legislated Away”
The Bill of Rights is meaningless if bureaucrats and politicians can make rules and laws that trump its protections.
Unfortunately, that is exactly what is happening today. A series of court opinions have claimed that 4th Amendment protections don’t fully apply to what they call “pervasively regulated businesses”, and that can even include a residential apartment.
That means the government can begin to regulate some activity or business that has never before been regulated and by such fiat loose itself from the chains of the 4th Amendment.
Our Win in Federal Court Advances 4th Amendment
A win in the 8th federal circuit Court of Appeals Monday will help draw a line in the sand against the forces eroding what was one of the rights most dear to the Founding Fathers.
It all started on June 3, 2013 while I was traveling to the local rock quarry to get some chat for my daughter’s chicken coop. A Highway Patrol trooper pulled me over to do a roadside inspection of my large farm dump truck, even though he had not observed me breaking any law and had no suspicion of breaking any law.
My truck had been inspected that morning by an official inspection station that was sanctioned by the Highway Patrol.
I did exactly what Sam Adam or Patrick Henry would have done – I denied consent to the search.
Fortunately, the Trooper did not act like many a Redcoat would have – instead of bayoneting me, he politely and professionally issued me a citation. I fought it in Phelps County Court, where Judge Ron White agreed with me that the state law allowing troopers to make such suspicion-less, warrant-less stops was, in his words, “offensive.”
Although I won in court that day, there was no appeal that could be used as a precedent to help other people.
That’s where Missouri’s Liberty Law Firm, the Freedom Center of Missouri, enters the story. The Freedom Center’s director of litigation, Dave Roland, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court on my behalf. We’re asking for $1 in damages and a declaratory judgment that Missouri’s practice of the sort of suspicion-less, warrant-less searches they tried on me are unconstitutional.
Lost the First Round, but Won the Second
At the federal circuit court level, the judge ruled against us, but a panel of judge at the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court judge, in part, and ordered him to reconsider the case. The case is still developing, but at this stage it looks like we won’t be able to protect common carrier truckers (because I’m not one and don’t have standing), but we have a very good chance of protecting other folks, like farmers, who transport goods in commercial vehicles.
Join Us On the Legal Battle Field for Liberty!
The Freedom Center of Missouri is planning an expansion that will enable them to take on more cases like this 4th Amendment case. Tomorrow (Thursday, Aug. 10), you have the rare opportunity to meet with Scott Bullock, the president of the Institute for Justice, the leading national liberty based public interest law-firm.
Scott will be explaining the history and future of public interest law and how you can help.
I’ll be at both the St. Louis event at noon and the 6:30 event in Kansas City. I hope to see you there!
Event: Meeting and discussion with Scott Bullock, president of the Institute for Justice about the role public interest law firms play keeping government in check and preserving liberty. This is also an opportunity to learn about and support Missouri’s corollary to the Institute for Justice, the Freedom Center of Missouri.
Date: August 10 (Thursday)
– Noon in St. Louis (Please rsvp to this one with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
– 6:30 in Kansas City
East Room at Rooster (restaurant) – Noon
3150 S. Grand
St. Louis, MO 63118
Kansas City Public Library – Central Library — 6:30 pm
14 W 10th St.
Kansas City, MO 64105