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Court ruling a big blow for the Constitution

Court ruling a big blow for the Constitution

Wayne Hoffman
August 30, 2010
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August 30, 2010

I know that there are a lot of people out there who believe government exists to care for us, send us entitlement checks and tuck us in at night. The fact is, if you want freedom, you must recognize that the only thing that stands in your way is government. If granted the power to deny freedom, it will use that power. It has and it does.

The handmaidens of Big Government are the judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, of which Idaho is a part. Earlier this month, the court allowed to stand a ruling that says police can surreptitiously attach a GPS device to your car, track your movements and monitor your activities -- all without needing a search warrant.

The decision comes from a 2007 case in which a federal agent noticed a group of men buying fertilizer at Home Depot and decided to follow them to see if they were growing marijuana. One of the men was Juan Pineda-Moreno. Federal agents decided to track Pineda-Moreno by slipping into his driveway in the dead of night and attaching a GPS device the size of a bar of soap to the underside of his Jeep Grand Cherokee parked just a few feet away from his rented trailer home.

In January, a three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that agents did not violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment is designed to protect people against unreasonable search and seizures and requires probable cause and get a search warrant before law enforcement can start snooping through your stuff.

The court noted that " because Pineda- Moreno did not take steps to exclude passersby from his driveway, he cannot claim a reasonable expectation of privacy in it, regardless of whether a portion of it was located within the curtilage of his home." To understand what this means, for years, case precedent has been clear that a home's curtilage -- those areas adjacent to and around a person's home --are included parts of our Fourth Amendment protections. The court's decision wipes that away and makes your property and all its contents fair game. If you are so lucky to live with big gate around your house, you can protect your property from police invasion. But, the court ruled, if your newspaper carrier, mailman or neighbor child has unfettered access to your property, the police does, too.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, in his Aug. 12 protest of the decision not to hear the Pineda-Moreno case, said the case gives police the unprecedented power formerly reserved for a child retrieving a wayward ball.

"But there’s no limit to what neighborhood kids will do, given half a chance: They’ll jump the fence, crawl under the porch, pick fruit from the trees, set fire to the cat and micturate on the azaleas. To say that the police may do on your property what urchins might do spells the end of Fourth Amendment protections for most people’s curtilage."

The Constitution exists to limit government, but little by little, activist judges and statist legislators have found new ways to destroy our liberties and make us wards of the state. Given the government's propensity to abuse power, I trust the neighbor kid on my lawn more than I do any agent of the government.

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