Chipping Away at Our Constitutional Rights

This week the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in an important case, Herring v. United States, involving our rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. As a general rule, the police cannot use evidence against us if the evidence was obtained illegally. This is known as the exclusionary rule. Basically, if the cops obtain evidence illegally, the evidence is thrown out and can’t be used in court.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has signaled its intent to chip away at the Fourth Amendment and so this week’s decision comes as no surprise, at least to me. In Herring, the Supremes held that if the police mistakenly arrest you and find evidence of anything, the evidence can be used against you even though the arrest was illegal. In other words, even thought the evidence was obtained illegally, no exclusionary rule applies. Of course some people may think this sounds like a good idea. I mean the cops found something bad, so who cares how they found it, right? Sounds like the Court is closing the gap on “technicalities” used by dirty defense lawyers to get criminals off. I couldn’t disagree more.

I, for one, refuse to consider our constitutional rights as mere “technicalities” or “conveniences.” As an attorney, I am sworn to uphold and defend our constitution. I will continue to do so, albeit I will have to become more innovative in fighting the abuses of the government. The Fourth Amendment is supposed to stand as a wall against tyranny and government abuse. By throwing away these protections, we move one step closer to a police state where the government can do whatever it wants and we can do nothing.

In short, the Supreme Court’s decision in Herring gives more power to the executive branch (i.e., police, prosecutors, district attorneys, etc.) at the expense of ordinary citizens. Remember, if one group becomes more powerful, another becomes less. So who do you think lost out here?

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4 Responses to Chipping Away at Our Constitutional Rights

  1. D- says:

    I believe we as a people have lost sight of what we all learned in elementary and grade school. I’m only reminded of it because I have a 2nd and 3rd grader who learned and reviewed core democatic values, respectively, this school-year around election time. My 2nd grader’s packet stated that the Constitution was, in layman jr. terms, “a set of rules for the government to follow”. One of my 3rd grader’s worksheets describes the Preamble’s main point as one in which “the U.S. govrnment was established by the people”, with the goals of the Constitution being “to guarantee justice, peace and liberty for the nation’s citizens.”

    As grown people, we witness again and again the government’s goal of nullification of the Constitution through a series of adjustments and revisions to it. We all have to ask ourselves, how do we learn from a young age then teach our children that the Constitution was written for the people, by the people to keep our government in check, then turn around and sit back and do nothing when the government alters it at the expense of the people for whom it was written, as opposed to our benefit? Our government has sold out to the highest bidder, and has, therefore, sold us out in the process.

    We have to stop paying attention to the smoke and mirrors they use to distract us, and start demanding answers and reform. Each of us has or knows someone who has been victimized by the government in some form or another (i.e. – profiling of a certain race/ethnic background, police misconduct, IRS wrongly assessing or penalizing law abiding citizens, SSI/SDI recipients having their meager checks deducted due to a previous “overpayment”, unwarranted traffic citation(s) in the name of revenue, low income families being deprived justice because of indigency, etc…). We need to stand firm when in that position, or stand in support of someone who finds themselves in that position, and do whatever is in our power to do so to say “No” to the injustice until we our satisfied with the resolve.

  2. Michael Dezsi says:

    D is right. Perhaps we can learn more from our children than anyone else. Well spoken (or written, I should write). Thanks for your compelling comment.

  3. Attorney Cusumano says:

    Unfortunately, as an attorney representing defendants, I have had little success on the 4th Amendment issues. But, it is absolutley imperative that all criminal defense attorneys continue to file the Motions. It should be noted that the distinctions between “conservatives” and “liberals” are blurry. As a Libertarian, being conservative is very civil rights orientated. Two anecdotes for your review:

    In a case in Recorders Court circa 1994-95, Judge Warfield Moore presiding. Defendant is in a hotel room in Inkster allegedly selling drugs. After a warrantless entry into the room the 18 year old defendant is thrown to the floor and the detective holds a gun to the back of his head, and demands to know “where is the dope.” Defendant states “in the bathroom” and evidence is seized. After reducing the Defendant’s girlfirend witness to tears by berating her about what she was doing in the room unclothed with Defendant (not germane to any issues – but so what, allowed by Moore on cross examination) Moore ruled on the record: “Mr. Cusumano, just because an officer holds a gun to the back of a suspects head, doesn’t mean the statements he makes are coerced.” I had to take a plea after the denial of the Motion to supress.

    Recently, I represented a young woman (9th grade education, homeless, no drivers license, only a cabaret dancer license) pro-bono caught up in a Troy Police sting. The john was allegedly Senator Stabenow’s husband, Thomas Athans. Athans claimed he received oral sex for money at the Residence Inn in Troy in Feb. 2008. Athans was released without charges and despite a suspended license allowed to drive away and ticketed the next day. The issue was the warrantless arrest and search of the hotel room. Police, controlling all the information, tells hotel management that there is prostution going on. The hotel assistant manager then “evicts” the occupant. Expectation of privacy disappears, the prosecution theory goes, and the the room is searched with permission of the hotel. During the hearing it was discovered that Athans was not inconvenienced enough to even ID defendant, photo line up or live line up. Motion filed and heard and denied. No other jurisdication does this. Warren, Detroit, and Macomb Country Sheriff all get their warrants. Unfortunately, as Fieger well knows, the government has the resources to overwhelm most average defendant’s resources. The government should be forced to pay attorney fees if the case is dismissed on Constitutional grounds or goes to trial and they lose. That will never happen so the only point is this: the use our abilities to educate people of the issues and use the internet to expose the issues.

    The case above is chronicled at http://www.alyciamartin.blogspot.com. Citizens of conscience cannot just “roll over” and allow this outrage to go unchallenged. I for one will continue the fight until I draw my last breathe.

  4. InYourFaceNewYorker says:

    @Attorney Cusumano

    Why does the government care if ADULTS are selling drugs TO ADULTS or are prostituting themselves TO ADULTS? I just don’t get some of these laws. If nobody’s getting hurt, then why are these acts an issue, especially in this economy where people are driven to such desperate acts?

    Or what about something as simple and harmless as running around naked when it’s 95 degrees out? It makes no sense to me why the government makes laws against people doing things that don’t affect anybody else. True, it would offend my sensibilities if I saw an old person running around naked (no offense to any old people reading this). I really don’t want to see an old man’s saggy baggy junk flopping up and down or an old woman’s gazoomas bouncing, but I realize that it’s my problem and the reason I would cringe at those sights is because I’m not used to seeing naked old people (except in figure drawing classes I took in art school). In some European countries (I think the Netherlands is one), it’s not uncommon for people to run naked through sprinklers in public. That’s what I heard, anyway…

    Julie

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