We don't need no stinkin' warrants!
May 29, 2006 3:56 AM   Subscribe

The Supreme Court ruled a week ago that police may enter a private home without a warrant to break up a fight. Does this have any bearing on the War On Terror? Some people think so.
posted by EarBucket (49 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm conflicted about this, because it seems reasonable that if they actually see a crime being committed, they have probable cause to enter. It does seem open to abuse by an administration that hasn't shown much respect for the Fourth Amendment in the past, however.

What if, instead of seeing a fight through the windows, the President designates the people in the house as unlawful combatants? Can the police enter without a warrant?
posted by EarBucket at 3:57 AM on May 29, 2006

Entering your home with plausible excuses is so pueblo-managing. Try entering a lawmaker office suddendly republicans bitch like democrats and democrats wine like republican. Oh wait, when shit rains everybody opens the shitbrella !
posted by elpapacito at 4:15 AM on May 29, 2006

While we're at it, someone should decide that individuals below the poverty line should be prohibited from owning federal currency. Vouchers would be provided, and credit/debit would shoehow remain in effect, but in a carefully-regulated fashion, to avoid a welfare state fiasco.

*adjusts monocle*

In any instance, the carrying of paper bills, minted coins, checks, or bonds would be banned.

*sips Kir Royale*

Should things work out well enough, the motion should be quickly passed to include members of the middle class, who are really service-industry supporters in the grand scheme of propserity. The pretense of their yearning for economic responsibility is just that.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:24 AM on May 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

You would have to be a member of the Wall Street editorial staff to think that allowing police to stop a fight on private property, where they can see people are bleeding, where others are yelling "Stop! Stop!", has any connection whatsoever to al Qaida or wiretapping.

This is a non-story. The police saw evidence of violence, and heard calls for the violence to stop. What if a woman was being raped and screaming for her attacker to stop? Are the police supposed to call a judge because they cannot enter without a warrant?

It was an anonymous decision for a reason. The police have the duty to stop assaults where they have a reasonable belief that they are occurring.
posted by adzuki at 5:18 AM on May 29, 2006

The person who has scored the most points playing Warrantless Wiretaps is GOP Sen. Arlen Specter, just ahead of Democratic presidential gamer Sen. Russ Feingold. The rest of the country has shown little interest in Washington's new game. In opinion polls about the NSA's surveillance programs, strong majorities essentially say, So what?

posted by rxrfrx at 5:39 AM on May 29, 2006

The only surprising thing I found in this article was that the Utah Supreme court had initially ruled it unconstitutional. I'm all for keeping the government out of my house, but if there's a violent crime clearly in progress-- even one that's immediately life threatening-- the police's job is to stop it.

Not sure I understand Smart Dalek's comment, though.
posted by justkevin at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2006

A fight in progress is somewhat different from a conspiracy in the planning stages.
posted by mischief at 5:40 AM on May 29, 2006

"even one that's immediately" = "even one that's not immediately"
posted by justkevin at 5:41 AM on May 29, 2006

On its face it seems like a reasonable holding. Police have long been allowed to enter a residence in cases of emergency (like responding to a 911 call). They just lowered the bar slightly to include preventing foreseeable injury.

However, I think there's plenty of room to abuse this as an after-the-fact explaination. For example the "plain feel" doctrine allows police to rummage through your pockets if they can feel from the outside what is obviously illegal drugs. Now in reality what police do is just go right into your pocket and then claim that they "knew" the drugs were there before the illegal search. What was supposed to be a way to prevent police indiscretion turned into a convenient tool to explain it away instead.

I fear the same thing will happen here for warrentless searches of homes, with police busting into houses whenever they feel like it, claiming they heard a disturbance and wanted to prevent foreseeable injuries.
posted by falconred at 5:50 AM on May 29, 2006

Justice John Paul Stevens called it "an odd flyspeck of a case."
Damn right he did. How the heck did this even get to the Supreme Court? I thought "exigent circumstances" covered this nicely ...
posted by kaemaril at 6:22 AM on May 29, 2006

In opinion polls about the NSA's surveillance programs, strong majorities* essentially say, So what?

Gallup: Based on what you have heard or read about this program to collect phone records, would you say you approve or disapprove of this government program?
43% approve
51% disapprove
6% no opinion

CBS: Not all major telephone companies have agreed to share this information with the government. Do you think phone companies should share information about the calling patterns of their customers with the government, or is that an invasion of privacy?
32% should share
60% invasion of privacy
8% unsure

CNN: As you may know, the Bush Administration has reportedly been wiretapping telephone conversations between U.S. citizens living in the United States and suspected terrorists living in other countries without getting a court order allowing it to do so. Do you think the Bush Administration was right or wrong in wiretapping these conversations without obtaining a court order?
44% right
50% wrong
6% unsure

Newsweek: As you may know, there are reports that the NSA, a government intelligence agency, has been collecting the phone call records of Americans. The agency doesn't actually listen to the calls but logs in nearly every phone number to create a database of calls made within the United States. Which of the following comes CLOSER to your own view of this domestic surveillance program? It is a necessary tool to combat terrorism. It goes too far in invading people's privacy.
41% necessary tool
53% goes too far
6% unsure

*under creative definitions of "majority".
posted by queen zixi at 6:44 AM on May 29, 2006

Here's the opinion [pdf].
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:09 AM on May 29, 2006

kaemaril is right. This is just a logical application of exigent circimstances. 9-0 for the state. Cert was clearly improvidently granted on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:14 AM on May 29, 2006

So to apply Henninger's logic to the War On Drugs:

Chrystal Meth abuse is for some communities an emergency in terms of its destructive impact.

It's reasonable for the government to shut down the production and distribution of Chrystal Meth.

Chrystal Meth dealers often operate from private homes.

Therefore it's reasonable for the government to compile without search warrants telephone records from every home in order to sleuth out networks of dealers and users.

The fact is, snoopers can always cast as reasonable the goals behind warrantless intrusions. But that's not the test. The test is whether the intrusion is reasonable with respect to the individual whose privacy has been violated. In my case -- assuming that my telephone records were swept up in this thing -- I'd like to know what on earth in terms of my average American daily activities would give the slightest reasonable cause to suspect that I'm an al quaida operative and worthy of surveillance. And criticizing Bush doesn't count.

Finally, contrary to what Henninger implies, Brigham City v. Stuart is a rather humdrum affirmation well established law -- the principle that police can enter without a warrant upon reasonable belief that a crime is about to occur. It is in no way a new vindication for the warrantless phone snooping. Just the opposite in fact. In order for the snooping to fall within that principle, the government would have needed cause to believe that the millions of us whose phone records were taken were then and there strapping on suicide vests and pocketing boxcutters. Even the Bush Administration, in all its boundless paranoia, couldn't suspect that. I hope.
posted by Toecutter at 7:39 AM on May 29, 2006

it's probably a bad precedent.
posted by brandz at 7:42 AM on May 29, 2006

queen zixi, i believe the author is referring to the early polls that asked dumb questions like "is it OK for the president to listen to phone calls to protect us from terrorism?" that totally fail to make the point that the activity is plainly illegal. i think those had at least a slight majority saying it was OK.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:08 AM on May 29, 2006

fighting is disturbing the peace. police officers have been entering domiciles to interrupt violent disputes and restore the peace since the beginning of the republic. what the hell is wrong with you people?

as an aside, toecutter, how come you can spell henninger, but not crystal?
posted by quonsar at 8:10 AM on May 29, 2006

queen zixi, i believe the author is referring to the early polls that asked dumb questions like "is it OK for the president to listen to phone calls to protect us from terrorism?" that totally fail to make the point that the activity is plainly illegal. i think those had at least a slight majority saying it was OK.
posted by rxrfrx

Or "Is it okay for the government to listen to Other People's phone calls so that you feel safer from whatever anti-social act those low lifes may be discussing?" would probably have a resounding "Yes!" in some circles.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2006

Cert was clearly improvidently granted on this one.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:14 AM EST on May 29 [+fave] [!]

That's the general consensus.
posted by footnote at 8:51 AM on May 29, 2006

It sounds like the court simply said "Well, under the federal constitution, the police could have entered, but perhaps not so under the Utah constitution" -- and that this is a rather routine case.

The extension the pants-pissing WSJ author makes is ridiculous.
posted by delmoi at 8:51 AM on May 29, 2006

I see nothing wrong with the court decision in this case.

In reading the actual decision I found that the test used to determine resonable grounds to enter without a warrant was exercised properly. The Chief Justice, though I'm not a fan by any means, outlines the courts determination of reasonable through a discussion of what went on in the original event. In otherwords, if the event is viewed objectively afterwards (threat of violence, actual violence) then the 4th amendment has not been violated and the subjective intent of the officers is not relevant.

The test being what the officers found and the evidence supporting it afterward. This does not open the door to raiding muslim households in the hope of finding incriminating evidence. 4th amendment rights would supercede this illegal entry.
posted by pezdacanuck at 9:08 AM on May 29, 2006

Chrystal Meth

Surely that's been a drag queen name *somewhere*.
posted by mediareport at 9:34 AM on May 29, 2006

Heh, dammit.
posted by Toecutter at 12:24 PM on May 29, 2006

The path from liberty to a police state is taken at a snail's pace, with each new movement cloaked in reason and necessity. It all seems so harmless, so incremental, so important to our safety, it can't possibly have any deleterious effect!

Puzzles are made from small pieces. The picture may not be clear until they're placed together. One day, we may well look back on this "flyspeck of a case" in horror, as it was right before our eyes that the pieces of warrantless wiretapping, the ability to hold American citizens indefinitely without charge or trial, police entry upon suspicion of harm, and pieces yet to be seen were used to eliminate any roadblock to the state's agenda. And it'll all be legal.
posted by SaintCynr at 12:53 PM on May 29, 2006

One day, we may well look back on this "flyspeck of a case" in horror

Oh please! I'd like to see you tell the cops to go away and come back later with a warrant when they enter to stop someone from beating the crap out of you.
posted by footnote at 1:08 PM on May 29, 2006

Footnote, "Oh, please" all you like. If someone is dumb enough to come into my house against my will, the police would have to come to help *them*.

Don't assume everyone is like you, k?
posted by SaintCynr at 1:15 PM on May 29, 2006

SaintCyr, it doesn't matter who owns the house. It could be the owner getting beaten up, the owner beating someone else up, the owner beating his kid up, whatever.

The ultimate holding of the case is that "police may enter a home without a warrant when they have an objectively reasonable basis for believing that an occupant is seriously injured or imminently threatened with such injury."

In this case, the police actually *saw* someone getting punched and spitting blood, and that's when they entered the house.

Sometimes, police protection is a good thing. You may feel confident that you're strong enough to fight off your attackers until the police get a warrant, but the domestic violence victims of the world might not feel that way.
posted by footnote at 2:02 PM on May 29, 2006


6 years ago, would you have believed that an American citizen could be held indefinitely without charges?

But here we are. The fact that you don't see how a law can be misused is what separates us.
posted by SaintCynr at 2:19 PM on May 29, 2006

"is it OK for the president to listen to phone calls to protect us from terrorism?"

Obviously the terrorism card here is just a ruse, because Shrub Inc. were in fact looking for insider stock tips. The average citizen has nothing about which to worry.
posted by mischief at 2:29 PM on May 29, 2006

SaintCynr : Wait, are you seriously suggesting that if, for example, you're merrily beating your wife to death, the cops should be sitting outside listening to her screams while they ring a judge for a warrant to enter your domicile?

It's not like the Supremes have suddenly come up with something radical and new. This IS a flyspeck of a case. It establishes nothing new. Can this power be abused? Sure, of course. Anything can be abused, but this is NOT a new power, it's been around for YEARS. You're a bit late to the table if you want to be moaning about it.
posted by kaemaril at 3:55 PM on May 29, 2006

It's a ludicrous thing to have gone so far up in the system, and the fact that the Supremes bothered to say anything at all about it instead of sending it back down the line is what makes it fishy.

I'm a little weirded out that a couple of folks are getting all twisted over someone else seeing the potential implications of a case like that even going before SCOTUS at this time in our history.

I can definitely guarantee he's not saying police should simply watch a DV case explode before their eyes. He's saying, like any reasonable person, that they already *have* the laws to respond appropriately to those things, and having precedent set on the Supreme Court level to further expand unwarranted entry is a troubling thing, particularly when considered in the climate we're currently experiencing.

kaemaril: I'm not sure what you were hoping to achieve by choosing such horrific hyperbole to make your point, but it was definitely not conducive to any useful conversation.
posted by batmonkey at 5:00 PM on May 29, 2006

batmonkey : SaintCynr was suggesting he was such a tough guy that anybody breaking into his house would need help. My example was pointing out that SaintCynr himself could be the perpetrator. I'm sorry, did I upset you a widdle bit with my 'horrific hyperbole'? Frankly, if you're going to worry about 'horrific hyperbole' I'd look to all those who seems to think this means the start of the Police State. Now THAT'S hyperbole.

Tell me, what precedent does this ruling set, exactly? I may have missed it, it was so subtle.
posted by kaemaril at 5:22 PM on May 29, 2006

Kaemaril, you speak without knowledge. If you want to find out why your words are so ill-conceived, email me.
posted by SaintCynr at 5:50 PM on May 29, 2006

1) "Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the
issues, topics, and facts at hand -- not at other members of the site."

2) If you don't see it, it's not my place to explain it to you. I don't know your story, and I don't dare presume otherwise simply to make a point. Perhaps you've a lack of immediate experience with the current state of things in the US. For many of us who have seen the effects of the fear-mongering and seemingly harmless cases such as these within the US, stories of this nature can produce quite the shudder.

I understand how vague that may seem, but I hope it is sufficient at least to explain why some individuals see this as a continuation of worrisome trends rather than simple and practical addressing of gaps in current law (particularly when no such gap was present in this case).
posted by batmonkey at 6:02 PM on May 29, 2006

SaintCynr: I'm sorry, but I really don't care why my words are 'so ill-conceived' as far as you're concerned, so I have no interest in mailing you. As far as I can see my words are not ill-conceived when it comes to the issue, which is all that concern me.

Now, if you want to adopt a wounded tone and suggest I've said something deeply hurtful to you with my "horrific" (and quite staggeringly obvious) hyperbole that's OK by me - and in fact I apologise, because I intended no slight toward you - but I'd suggest you lay off statements like this first:

Footnote, "Oh, please" all you like. If someone is dumb enough to come into my house against my will, the police would have to come to help *them*.

Don't assume everyone is like you, k?

What are you suggesting there, exactly? Maybe that whilst you're macho enough to handle any intrusion the other poster isn't, somehow? Maybe a bit less macho? Could it be that you 'speak without knowledge' and with 'ill-conceived' words when it comes to the other poster?
posted by kaemaril at 6:06 PM on May 29, 2006

At the risk of being overly repetitive:
"Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand -- not at other members of the site."

I'm fairly certain we've all read that again and again, but it is part of why I put down my $5 in order to be more participatory here after reading for so many years.

It's such a clear instruction, such a small observance, not even a rule, really. It puzzles me that it can be so difficult for some to practice.
posted by batmonkey at 6:09 PM on May 29, 2006

batmonkey: I'm as big a conspiracy fan as the next guy, so if you want to conjecture away be my guest. I'm failing to see, however, how this is worthy of a 'meh' let alone a shudder. It would be one thing if this expanded the law or set a new precedent ('Yes, you can break in if you see a guy who looks vaguely muslim...') but it doesn't. It simply maintains the status quo.
May 22 — The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Monday that the police do not need a warrant to enter a private home to break up a fight in which injuries have occurred or are foreseeable.

The decision, which overturned a ruling by the Utah Supreme Court, was an example of something that the justices often declare to be unworthy of their time and attention, but that they engage in regularly nonetheless: the simple correction of a lower court's error.

They could have refused cert., I suppose ... but then the error stands.
posted by kaemaril at 6:13 PM on May 29, 2006

batmonkey: I apologise if you think I'm 'being nasty' to SaintCynr. Such is not my intent. However, lest you think me the sole offender, I will remind you of:
1) What he said in response to Footnote, which I consider to be just as much a violation of the 'not at other members of the site' rule you cite.
2) 'Kaemaril, you speak without knowledge. If you want to find out why your words are so ill-conceived, email me.' ... hey, look, there's another violation of that 'not at other members of the site'
3) I merely asked SaintCynr if he thought it should be acceptable for police to have to wait for a warrant for a violent crime to be committed. I admit, I cast SaintCynr as the protagonist in that little scene... but given his comments previously about how he'd be able to defend against anyone dumb enough to invade his home, I thought pointing out that it's possible he need not be the victim in such an attack might be useful to pop the 'I can defend against anything' bubble. I thought domestic violence might be a fairly typical crime, and since Utah seemed to believe a 'bloodied nose' wasn't justification enough, I figured a crime which can start with a bloodied nose and escalate in very little time to something more deadly would be apropo.
posted by kaemaril at 6:28 PM on May 29, 2006

This thread is proof that one need not be schizophrenic to be overly paranoid.
posted by mischief at 6:30 PM on May 29, 2006

have to wait for a warrant for a violent crime to be committed = have to wait for a warrant while a violent crime is being committed.
posted by kaemaril at 6:37 PM on May 29, 2006

True enough. And I'll happily offer "Mea Culpas" all 'round if my worries bear no fruit (oh-so-happily!), I assure you.

Still...it's been said eloquently enough before: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you." I'd rather be a bit more worried and able to see danger coming than not worried at all and surprised if things go to hell.

Two wrongs don't make a right, for one thing

For another, saintcynr hadn't been speaking about any particular individual in his original post, then was addressed specifically and less than courteously by footnote. From there, saintcynr only quoted out what footnote had said and asked that footnote not assume that their experience in the world informed everyone else's perspective. This perplexingly prompted footnote to travel the path to eye-rolling ad hominem sputtering. And saintcynr's reply? Nothing but logic and acknowledgement of the difference in opinion.

Which, for some reason, prompted you to join in on the aforementioned ad hominem fest whilst also making your foul example (which had nothing to do with the case, I might add, since you've made the point that it's all you care about) to be quite obviously targeted to saintcynr.

And despite being politely asked to take it to email by saintcynr, you've elected to continue in that vein. Which, I must admit, irritated me a tad.

So, here we are. Regretful, all around. Bah.

My apologies to those who are bothered or made bored by my attempts at addressing the FPP and this particular kerfuffle. Normally, I'd resort to email far prior to this, but, since everyone else was keeping it in the posts, I figured it would be more productive in the end.
posted by batmonkey at 8:27 PM on May 29, 2006

batmonkey: You know, for somebody who believes so strongly in the following:

"Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand -- not at other members of the site."

You're certainly keen enough to lecture. And for somebody railing against my 'horrific hyperbole' you seem just as keen to use less than objective language such as 'horrific' and 'foul'.

Further, I do not consider 'Kaemaril, you speak without knowledge. If you want to find out why your words are so ill-conceived, email me' to be a polite invitation to e-mail. This essentially translates to 'You're stupid, email me to find out why', and I do not consider that a polite request.

So, I must regrettably withdraw my earlier apology to you. I still regret anything I might have 'said' to Saintcynr that he might have considered to be in any way a personal attack, as it most certainly was not intended as such.

You, however, sir, deserve no such apology. I would posit that if you truly found my comment so objectionable the appropriate response would be to bring it to the attention of the mods so they can delete it, not to jump in and start lecturing whilst at the same time trying to maintain some semblance of the moral highground by stressing that posts should be about the issues, not the posters.
posted by kaemaril at 9:15 PM on May 29, 2006

Metafilter: You speak without knowledge.
posted by EarBucket at 4:26 AM on May 30, 2006

I regret that my meaning was not clear. My apoolgies to anyone who was annoyed or inconvenienced.
posted by SaintCynr at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2006

Weird. The whole mess is just odd. Police should have the right, if they happen to see a crime being committed, to stop that crime. Under the circumstances here, they had been called to the scene for something else and that explains why they’d be ‘happening to see’ the crime.
I’d be a lot more stressed out about this if the law was stretched to include “happen to see” as say, through cameras positioned all over the streets and pointed into the windows of your house. Or even if “happened to see” included a cop on patrol. He’s got no reason to look into someone’s window if he happens to be passing by. But if he’s on the property and has been called there - solid.

This morass’ oblique connection to the war on terror is disturbing. The more surreal something is in connection with the government the more dangerous the issue it is hiding. I have no idea why/how/wtf/ this is connected to the War on (some) Terrr.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:56 AM on May 30, 2006


Yeah, looks like this is being propped up, the way it was ruled. The whole ‘reasonable’ schtick, which is bullshit.
Policing cannot be ‘proactive’ - by it’s very foundation.
Evil will, therefore good must.
If good will - it ceases to be ‘good’ and becomes an agenda which may however inadvertantly cause evil.
There’s no harm in stopping a fight if you see it, but to extend that to proactively attempt to prevent all fights through use of ‘x’ method eliminates on-scene judgement not only by the officer, but by the particulars involved.

I played rugby with a couple of guys who liked to wrestle and beat the crap out of each other when they were drunk. They rarely hurt each other and if they started to we’d separate them. They got a bit cut maybe, or got a black eye. Nothing serious, and again, they were friends, they just liked to duke it out a bit.

I doubt they’d trade a cut lip or a shiner for a 2-5 year stretch in prison.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:06 PM on May 30, 2006

"to travel the path to eye-rolling ad hominem sputtering"

By saying "oh please?" I'd say that it makes SaintCynr a pussy, if that's enough ad hominem to get his widdle dander up.

SaintCynr is the one who claims to represent everyone else -- like most people would happily rather deal with an armed attacker themselves than allow the police to cross their threshold without a warrant. Yeah, don't mess with a tuff guy like SaintCynr! He'll kick your ass.

People who say things like that online are usually pussies in real life. Like the kind fo people who think saying "oh please" is an "ad hominem" attack.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:54 AM on May 31, 2006

Now that this has had some time to simmer down, I'll clarify.

I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a childhood of physical and sexual abuse, as well as my service in the Persian Gulf War. I do not think of myself as the "tough guy" that some of you seemed to think, and I have no interest whatsoever is boasting and puffing myself up online. Or attacking them, for that matter. That's for others. I regret that my original meaning wasn't clear. I was in no way trying to arrogate to myself the mantle of badass, as some of you seem to insinuate. I was simply very taken aback at the vitriol that was sent my way over a simple misunderstanding, as at the time, I was under the impression that Metafilter was site that encouraged respect for others and meaningful dialogue- not piling on a person who has been misunderstood or who has a viewpoint others find easy to ridicule. I know now that MeFi has no such tradition, and that despite the above average intellect of some of the folks here, it is clear that human failings are human failings, no matter the brain power of the people involved. It's always fun, for some here, to laugh at someone else or make a snap judgment ina fit of cognitive miserdom. Again, I sorely regret the factors that caused my meaning to be unclear, and I own some responsibility for the fact that this went so against me.

If any of you are unaware, PTSD causes a broken fight or flight reaction, as well as massive anxiety, because the sufferer is constantly assessing their environment for threats. That was the impetus behind my "if someone breaks into my house, they'll need the police" comment. It's solely related to the fact that I don't feel safe, even in public, but if I were made to feel unsafe in my own home, my terror would be so extreme as to enable only one course of action- attack that person without rational thought until one of us was incapacitated or dead. It's not macho bullshit. It's the fallout of a life of suffering violence from others.

Perhaps this will clear some of this up, perhaps not. From *my* lifetime of observing the behavior of others, always watching for danger, I know damned good and well that most, if not all, of you don't care one whit about the problmes of others, so I'm not expecting any epiphanies or that any of you will reconsider your position for one second. That's fine. I didn't make this post to seek anything from any of you, I did it to satisfy my own requirements for clarity and respect. Good day to you all.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:15 AM on June 24, 2006

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