Wisconsin Court Decision Stomps Fourth Amendment

Wisconsin Court Decision Stomps Fourth Amendment
Posted by FoM on March 23, 2000 at 22:19:54 PT
By Thomas Derpinghaus, The Daily Cardinal
Source: U-WIRE
In a move that will be hailed by law enforcement coalitions and conservative judicial panels--but no one else--the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled Friday that the smell of burning marijuana is enough to allow police to enter a residence without a warrant. 
The decision, penned by newly appointed Justice Diane Sykes, said although the court "generally gives deference to the rights of the individual," in this case, our Fourth Amendment rights protecting against illegal searches must be completely thrown out in the name of law enforcement. What has been happening on our streets lately that call for this massive rollback of the civil rights given to all Americans by the Constitution? First, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear a case that could overturn the Miranda self-incrimination decision and now this. Why all the hysteria? Allow Assistant State Attorney General Thomas Balistreri, the man who argued the case for the state, to enlighten you: "[The decision] gives police another tool in the war on drugs," he said, while simultaneously tap dancing on the Constitution. Who knew that our public officials were so talented? Catch Balistreri right now in the off, off, off Broadway version of the new production of the musical comedy "Crime and Punishment." The Assistant Attorney General, a.k.a. Fred Astaire continued: "I don't think that law-abiding people have anything to fear. But if you've got a dozen close friends over to smoke pot, you may have." The ruling is based on a case in which police, in pursuit of two "suspicious" men, attempted to enter Milwaukee-native Vanessa D. Hughes' apartment because it smelled of marijuana. She agreed to a search, and police quickly discovered cocaine on her person. The 4-3 majority decision is based on Sykes' contention, contradictory and flawed as it is, that "the unmistakable odor of marijuana coming from Hughes' apartment provided this fair probability [that other drug-related contraband was present.]" Police officers, like the rest of us, have the capacity to lie. And this decision, if upheld, may lead to widespread abuse by overzealous officers eager for an arrest or a bust. After all, who is going to argue that an apartment didn't smell like pot if the only two witnesses to the smell are the police officers? No test exists today that would either confirm or deny an officer's contention that a doorway or hallway smelled of kaya. Until one exists, no defendants can be sure that, in their case, an appropriate search has been executed. Not to mention that in the Hughes case, no marijuana was actually found on the premises the police searched. The two cops didn't even find the two men they were looking for. And Hughes confessed to having the cocaine. So if there is nothing to produce a "pot smell" in the apartment, how can the entire search be upheld and found to be constitutional? It can't. As long as this decision is upheld, people who are ill-advised as to their rights will continue to be abused and railroaded to prisons and jails in the name of "the war on drugs." Sounds more like a bar fight against drugs. It is unsafe to allow police the legal leeway to assume that if a domicile smells like marijuana, an immediate search is imperative, for fear of losing the evidence in the time it takes to get a warrant. Further, it is unsafe to allow police to assume anything, especially if that assumption, however factually devoid it may be, may lead to an arrest on a heavy drug felony. What was it my grade school teachers used to tell me about assuming something? I wasn't really listening, but if I recall correctly, it makes us both look bad. So until this decision is challenged further, police will continue to make illegal searches and disrespect our legal system, while stoners continue to stock up on air fresheners. Try cinnamon next time. It really brings a dorm room to life. U. Wisconsin(U-WIRE) Madison, Wis.Updated 12:00 PM ET March 23, 2000(C) 2000 The Daily Cardinal via U-WIRE  Copyright  1995-2000 Excite Inc. Related Articles & Web Site:Drug Policy Forum of Wisconsin: of Drugs Gives Officers Right to Search of Drugs Gives Police Right to Search of Pot Not Should Not Warrant Search Court Rules MJ Odor May Warrant Searches
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Comment #3 posted by William_Pitt on March 24, 2000 at 19:31:07 PT
The poorest man may in his cottage...
The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storm may enter; the rain may enter; but the King of England cannot enter - all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement!-- William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, during a 1763 debate in Parliament 
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Comment #2 posted by kaptinemo on March 24, 2000 at 11:38:40 PT:
Der Fuhrer zez zat only der guilty need fear!
'I don't think that law-abiding people have anything to fear. But if you've got a dozen close friends over to smoke pot, you may have." 'Seems to me I've heard something like this before... from a little bespectacled rabbit breeder who ran an organization called the SS. Let's see... I think his name was Heinrich Himmler.We are continually being reminded, by the recent scandals in the New York, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan police forces, of the dangers of granting too much power (or not providing sufficient monitoring, which does the same thing as granting too much power) to police forces. Just like politicians, we have been in the habit of winding them up and letting them go their merry way, without paying sufficient attention to their actions. Largely because of the supposition of many Americans that the police will only 'go after' the bad people. (Of course, when you are white, middle class and living in the 'burbs, that means just about anyone with a skin color two shades south of vanilla.) So long as 'those people' are kept in line, the taxpayers could care less. But when their actions go beyond the supposed 'pale of the law' (i.e. when their son or daughter is picked up on a cannabis possession charge) then they get indignant. After all, *their* children aren't *criminals*, noooo! So, Mr. and Missus America, when the local gendarmerie come to your nice house, the forfeiture-induced greed shining in their eyes and their noses twitching because they claimed to smell the sweet scent of maryjane wafting from your front door, don't look so surprised. This is what happens when you let the guard dogs growl and snarl at their masters. This is what happens when you don't have a short enough leash.
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Comment #1 posted by MMM on March 23, 2000 at 22:51:25 PT
Welcome to the U.S.A. Finally a Police State!
I can just hear Europeans now: "No, let's not think of taking a trip to the U.S.A. They're crazy. Smoke a joint and you could wind up in jail for five years, and it's not surprising since they even put sick people in prisons for smoking, too. Sick and even elderly people in prison. Crazy Americans. Between that and the fear of crime at night, how can people live in a place like that? So sad. They even passed a law where police could pretend to sniff marijuana and get their homes raided while so many other countries are lessening marijuana penalties, especially for sick people, and to think they're supposed to have the best medical care in the world over there. So deluded those Americans. 
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