David R. Henderson  

Mark Thoma on Privacy

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Best Ezra Klein Post Ever... I Don't Want It, But I Insist ...

Mark Thoma has an excellent post on privacy. Actually, it's about more than privacy: he highlights a New York Times piece by David Shipler about privacy that is also about more than privacy. Both call privacy a "privilege." But some aspects of privacy, including many parts Shipler discusses, are not privileges: they're rights.

Consider these sentences from Shipler's lead paragraph:

The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime.

The first was a violation of property rights. The second was a violation of liberty.

Commenter Dennis Drew, on Mark Thoma's blog, links to some pretty disturbing videos of police out of control.


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CATEGORIES: Property Rights



COMMENTS (6 to date)
Mark Brady writes:

"The first was a violation of property rights. The second was a violation of liberty."

Certainly these are two disturbing cases, but does the distinction that you seek to draw stand up under scrutiny?

Zubon writes:
The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed.
It is worth remembering that this is explicitly what the Supreme Court did NOT rule. SCOTUS ruled that "police could break into a house without a search warrant if" there were exigent circumstances. It was explicitly not an issue in the case whether "[hearing] what sounded like evidence being destroyed" created exigent circumstances, because the lower court did not dispute that point (it thought it was unnecessary to consider that question). The case was remanded, and the lower court will most likely rule it an illegal search on that point (that sounds of movement do not create exigent circumstances).

The point that upsets everyone about that SCOTUS case was explicitly not an issue in the case. If you assume exigent circumstances, it seems pretty uncontroversial that police can enter without a warrant.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Zubon,
So what did the Supreme Court rule?

Kevin Driscoll writes:

The Supreme Court ruled that if the police really do have a good reason to believe that evidence is being destroyed (exigent circumstances) then they can bust down your door without a warrant and the evidence will be admissible in court.

As Zubon said, the SCOTUS explicitly declined to define what constitutes an exigent circumstance. The lower court will decide if "the smell of marajuana and sounds of physical movement" constitute an exigent circumstance. My guess is that the court that originally ruled the search a violation of the 4th amendment will similarly rule that the police in this case did NOT have exigent circumstances.

The evidence was originally ruled impermissible because the defense argued that the police created the exigent circumstance themselves. The Supreme Court basically ruled that the police did not create the exigent circumstance because the defendant could have chosen to not do anything and pretend to not be at home or could have answered the door and refused entry to the police without a warrant.

Joe Cushing writes:

I'm curious what evidence destruction sounds like. I believe, rustling was the sound heard by police in this case. What does rustling sound like?

Joe Cushing writes:

I'm starting to feel like we need to build homes with dynamite and battering ram resistant doors. Also, with vestibules so there are two of them.

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