The words are familiar to all: "The right of the people to be
secure in their persons, houses and effects against unreasonable
searches and seizures shall not be violated." Yet the Fourth
Amendment to the U.S. Constitution remains an abstraction to most.
It has been amusing and disturbing to observe the flurry of
local media activity surrounding the raid on the St. Charles County
residence by officers of the St. Charles County Sheriff's
Department, the O'Fallon Police Department and one agent of the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The reaction in my office and probably in the offices of all
other attorneys who deal with police and constitutional issues has
been, what is all the fuss about? What is it about this take down
that has warranted several days of television, radio, talk show and
It can't be that the police raided a house where no contraband
was found. That happens all the time. It can't be that the search
warrant was issued on the word of an informant, the identity and
reliability of whom was known only to the police. Confidential
informants are routinely relied on by the police to secure warrants.
It can't be that the officers were arguably rude and heavy
handed in their dealings with the occupants of the raided home.
Their treatment was, according to the news accounts, comparatively
mild and restrained. Was it the Ninja costumes, the late hour or
the kicked-in door? No, no and nope. It was simply this. The
police kicked in the door of a nice, white, middle-class family. The
ultimate question then must be how could it happen to these people?
Believe it or not, in the final analysis the police are not to
blame. We are. This raid is what we, the populous, the voters, the
consumers of the law and things political, have wrought for
ourselves. The rhetoric of politics uniformly calls for a
governmental - a police - solution to the crime that is perceived
to infect our community. Get tough on crime, lock up the bad guys,
protect us. We don't care how you do it. Stop criminals from
slipping through the system on the notorious "technicalities" that
have turned our courts into revolving doors.
What escapes the rhetoric is that the "technicalities" are
mostly protections of the Bill of Rights - restrictions on the
power of the government. It is hard to watch an apparently guilty
individual go free, even in the name of protecting the vitality of
a constitutional protection. …