March 28, 2017

How you can make cops present a warrant to search your vehicle

A chance to protect your car, truck, or motorcycle from police searches Retweet

We want to build upon and expand the property rights protections of the 4th Amendment. The case is Ryan Austin Collins v. Virginia (hereafter simply, Collins) where police used a prohibition era exception to search a motorcycle on a homeowners property and under a tarp. You can make a tax-deductible contribution, [Heagan Motorcycle Cover]for this amicus brief, because we’re partnering with our sister-organization, Downsize DC Foundation (home of the Zero Aggression Project)

We’ll describe this project in two steps…

  • First, we’ll remind you of what was gained from our landmark victory in Antoine Jones v. U.S.
  • Second, we’ll explain how victory in the Collins case could reinforce our Jones victory.

What we gained from our landmark success in Antoine Jones v. U.S.

Our side won the Jones case 9-0. The High Court ruled unanimously that police must have a warrant before they can attach a GPS tracking-device to your vehicle. DC Downsizers deserve much of the credit for that result. You funded briefs that had a crucial impact at two different stages of the case…

  • First, we filed the ONLY brief asking the court to hear the case.
  • Then, we filed a brief making a uniquely principled argument that determined the outcome.

In the Petition brief, we urged the court to take the case, re-examine its Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, and restore the property basis of the Fourth Amendment. We wrote…

“The original objective, property-based text and purpose of the Fourth Amendment should be revived and applied.”

The Court responded to us almost directly…

“Petition GRANTED. In addition… the parties are directed to brief… Whether the government violated respondent’s Fourth Amendment rights by installing the GPS tracking device on his vehicle without a valid warrant and without his consent.” (Emphasis added)

That’s YOUR victory. But the second victory was even better. It could change judicial reasoning far into the future…

Our brief asked the Justices to restore the 4th Amendment’s protection of your property rights!

For 43 years (1968-2012), the Court’s 4th Amendment decisions have been based on a “right to privacy,” NOT property. The privacy protection is a much weaker standard. Our briefs, and ONLY our briefs, specifically aimed to restore the property right protection. And…

Our argument prevailed!

Look at what Justice Scalia wrote in his majority opinion . . .

“The text of the Fourth Amendment reflects its close connection to property, since otherwise it would have referred simply to ‘the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures’; the phrase ‘in their persons, houses, papers and effects’ would have been superfluous.”

This was our point exactly.

Four other briefs mentioned property in passing. Ours majored in it. Only we asked the Court to make a fundamental course correction. Our strategy prevailed. As a result, the Jones decision even included a frank admission of how far the Court has strayed from the Constitutional text:

“Our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was tied to common-law trespass, at least until the latter half of the 20th century (but) our later cases… have deviated from that exclusively property-based approach in favor of a more flexible, modernist analysis based upon the Court’s perceptions of a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy.’”

This, too, demonstrates the influence of our briefs. We explained the history of 4th Amendment jurisprudence and specifically argued for a return to the original text. Our “history lesson” contributed to the majority decision, as shown in this quote from the ruling:

“The Government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information. We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a ‘search’ within the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted.”

In addition, we ALONE asserted the valiant proposition that it was NEVER permissible for the government to attach a GPS to an automobile for the purpose of gathering general evidence. The Fourth Amendment does not permit “fishing expeditions.” This was the key issue…

Throughout history, The State has been fond of issuing general warrants. Such “warrants” were fishing expeditions designed to quell and intimidate the potential opposition. That’s why the Framers specifically wrote the 4th Amendment to prohibit general warrants. Instead, warrants must be based on a specific and probable cause. They must also be particular about where the police can look and what is being sought.

Our brief made these points by focusing on a crucial English case from 1765, Entick v. Carrington. This case was well-known to the Founders. It’s been cited in two previous Supreme Court cases. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion celebrates Entick as a “monument of English freedom,” that explains “in plain terms the significance of property rights in search and seizure analysis.” Scalia continued…

“Our law holds the property of every man so sacred, that no man can set his foot upon his neighbor’s close without his leave; if he does he is a trespasser, though he does no damage at all; if he will tread upon his neighbor’s ground, he must justify it by law.”

Scalia’s words echoed our UNIQUE historical argument based on Entick v. Carrington. Our fingerprints, YOUR fingerprints, are all over this decision.

Our Jones victory was reinforced in Florida v. Jardines (2013). And current Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, positively cited the Jones rationale in the upcoming U.S. v. Ackerman case. If we continue to follow-up correctly, Jones will continue to have expanding impact.

Now you can extend the Jones victory. We seek a favorable ruling in Ryan Austin Collins v. Virginia.

The Collins case is simple…

  • Police invaded Collins’ yard and took the VIN number from a motorcycle he had under a tarp.
  • The cops did this under a long-standing “automobile exception” based on the idea that cars are mobile, and therefore deserve less protection than houses.
  • The automobile exception is a holdover from the era of alcohol prohibition.

Collins’ legal counsel will argue that the automobile exception should not apply so broadly that it extends to vehicles located on private property.

Our brief will support that position, but will also argue that the “automobile exception” should not exist at all.

The Jones ruling established that Fourth Amendment property rights are a “baseline,” and privacy rights can only add to, but not subtract from, that baseline. Here, however, the police were permitted to violate private property rights based on the lesser standard that Collins had no “expectation of privacy” for property parked in his front yard. This reasoning is inconsistent with Jones and Jardines.

The Collins case presents an excellent opportunity to defend and advance the property-based understanding of the protections afforded by the Fourth Amendment. A re-examination of judicially created “exceptions” to this constitutional right matters to all citizens who may be subjected to unconstitutional searches and seizures.

Success in this case could protect your property and your car from being searched by snooping cops!

Please make your best contribution to help fund this brief….

  • We are working with the Downsize DC Foundation (home of the Zero Aggression Project) so that your donation can be tax-deductible, if you itemize. The Foundation issues annual receipts, by mail, in January.
  • We need YOUR support, regardless of contribution size.
  • We are seeking a major donor who will take an interest in our Jones-based Fourth Amendment work. We have already filed almost a half-dozen amicus briefs in follow-up cases. Another case is coming soon. The Jones precedent will be lost if we don’t spread the news through the court system. But it can and will expand if we spread the word by submitting amicus briefs like this one.

Thanks for being an ACTIVE DC Downsizer,

Jim Babka, President
DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
& Downsize DC Foundation (home of the Zero Aggression Project)

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