Entries in Fourth Amendment (2)


Supreme Court Ruling Makes Drug Busts Easier

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Cops suspecting illegal drug use in private residences got a boost on Monday from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices said that police have the right to break into a home if there is reasonable suspicion that those inside are trying to destroy evidence.  The vote was eight-to-one.

The case involved a Kentucky man who sold crack cocaine to an informant.  When police chased down the suspect to an apartment building, they knocked on a door after smelling marijuana and yelled "Police Police Police."

Hearing activity inside the apartment, the cops broke down the door and arrested another man for smoking pot and possessing powdered cocaine.

While the suspect was convicted of drug trafficking, the Kentucky Supreme Court determined police violated his Fourth Amendment right against "unreasonable searches and seizures."

However, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned that decision, ruling that police officers, even without search warrants, have the right to enter homes after knocking if they believe evidence is being destroyed.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the lone dissenter, said the Fourth Amendment was violated because "Police officers may not knock, listen and then break the door down."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Supreme Court to Weigh Child Abuse Against Family's Privacy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court will debate the sensitive issue of child abuse on Tuesday as it hears arguments over whether a child protection investigator should have obtained a warrant or parental consent before pulling a nine-year-old out of class and interviewing her about alleged sexual abuse in the home.

Children's rights advocates on both sides of the issue are carefully watching the case. The issue pits the privacy rights of students and their families against a state interest in aggressively combating child abuse. It's been 21 years since the court has heard a case involving the child welfare system.

The case stems from the 2003 arrest of Nimrod Greene, a man accused of sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy in Oregon. As a part of that case, investigators became suspicious that Greene may have been also sexually abusing his own daughters.

Bob Camreta, a caseworker for the Oregon Department of Human Services, and James Alford, a deputy sheriff, visited one of the daughters' schools and interviewed the child for two hours about her relationship with her father, asking whether he had touched her inappropriately. Based on the girl's responses, Greene was later indicted on six counts of felony assault. His daughters, known in court documents as "S.G." and "K.G.," were put briefly in foster care.

S.G. later recanted much of her testimony, and the charges that Greene abused his daughters were eventually dismissed.

The girls' mother, Sarah Greene, sued Camreta, arguing that he violated the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure when he interviewed her daughter without her consent or a warrant.

A lower court ruled that the interview of the girl was unconstitutional, but said that Camreta was immune to such lawsuits. But Camreta, concerned with the ramifications of the ruling on future cases of alleged child abuse, decided to appeal the portion of the ruling that found that the interview had been unconstitutional.

"The most recent study on child abuse shows that between 750,000 and 900,000 children are the victims of various forms of child abuse or neglect every year," the attorneys argue. They cite statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which say that a parent is the abuser in 80 percent of child abuse cases.

Camreta contends that he chose to interview the girl at school because schools are a place "where children feel safe" and because doing so allowed him to conduct the interview away from potential suspects, including the child's parents. He says the interview was reasonable.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio