24 June 2013
by Dave Jolly
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Like the rest of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, our governments, local, state and federal have been making it a habit to disregard the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. Not only does the NSA spying violate the Fourth Amendment, but so does the incidents of law enforcement entering and searching private homes without warrant or probable cause or without announcing their presence before entering.
Case in point is what happened to John Gerald Quinn of Texas. The police had obtained information that suggested that Quinn’s son was involved with illegal drugs. They followed the law in obtaining a search warrant for Quinn’s home. When the SWAT team arrived, they did not knock on the door or announce their presence when they forcibly burst through the door to conduct their search. Against normal police protocol, they executed a no-knock raid on the home.
The reason police gave for the no-knock raid was that they suspected that there might have been an AK-47 in the house. Quinn believes that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights by executing the no-knock raid based solely on suspicion that there was a gun in the house.
The Rutherford Institute has taken Quinn’s case before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. John Whitehead, President of the Rutherford Institute commented about the case:
“Whatever the issue might be, whether it’s mass surveillance, no-knock raids, or the right to freely express one’s views about the government, we’ve moved into a new age in which the rights of the citizenry are being treated as a secondary concern by the White House, Congress, the courts and their vast holding of employees, including law enforcement officials.”
“Although the SWAT team had been granted a search warrant on the basis of leads provided by informants that Quinn’s son may have been involved in drug activity, the warrant did not authorize police to enter the residence without knocking and announcing their entry.”
In the appeal filed by the Rutherford Institute, it stated:
“Here, the police based their no-knock entry solely upon their suspicion that the occupants of the residence may have been in possession of a rifle. That the suspected possession of weapons was the only ‘justification’ for use of a no-knock entry in this case is undisputed.”
The appeal contained a footnote concerning the police mention of the AK-47 that reads:
“The [court] seems to think than an ‘AK-47′ rifle is some sort of ‘exceptionally’ dangerous weapon. Actually, despite the faux mystique surrounding that particular type of rifle fostered by popular media, the AK-47 is not uniquely dangerous. It is the most-used rifle in the world because there are 100 million of them, it is cheap to make and easy to repair, and because it can be chambered for a wide variety of calibers.”
“When chambered for .223 caliber … it is no more dangerous than any other .223 caliber rifle such as the AR-15 – the most widely used hunting rifle in the U.S. today.”
“As a gun collector who prudently kept his legally owned collection safely secured in gun vaults, it was altogether possible that Mr. Quinn could have had a large number of guns in his home and no ammunition. The point here is not to argue that ‘possession’ of guns does not roughly or usually equate to possession of ‘working’ guns. The point is: an AK-47 is no more powerful – and is indeed less powerful – than many common hunting rifles.”
“The police, being weapons experts, obviously knew this – but testified about the ‘dangerous’ nature of this particular gun because they knew the jury would have heard of it in the media and would know about its mystique as the weapon of choice for terrorists around the world. Clever, but misleading.”
If the courts rule in favor of the police, it would set the precedent to be followed by every law enforcement agency in the country. All they would need to do is suspect that someone has a weapon in their home to give them the legal right to make a no-knock raid on anyone’s home. It doesn’t matter if there is a weapon in the home, your Fourth Amendment rights could be legally violated based on just a suspicion if Quinn loses his case.