While the back story is much more complicated than the above summary, the ruling diminishes Fourth Amendment protections from unreasonable searches and seizures. In this case, it was the three dissenting liberal judges on the court who gave the majority a lesson in how the Fourth Amendment is designed to restrain police power. In previous decisions, the court has ruled that anyone objecting to a warrantless search provides sufficient deterrent to such searches. This would apply even in cases where other residents approve such a search. In a word, it just takes one who knows his rights to be able effectively to defend them. Following Tuesday’s decision, that is no longer the case.
Fernandez attacked an innocent on the streets of Los Angeles back in 2009, and then ran back to his apartment to hide. When police arrived at the apartment his wife opened the door. When Fernandez heard the commotion at the door, he shouted: “You don’t have right to come in here! I know my rights!” The police, noting that his wife was bleeding, arrested Fernandez on suspicion of domestic violence but returned an hour later to search his apartment for evidence linking him to the street attack. His wife consented both verbally and in writing to the warrantless search. The search turned up enough evidence to convict Fernandez and send him to prison for fourteen years.
During his trial, Fernandez tried to quash the evidence gained from that search claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated, notwithstanding his wife’s assent an hour after his arrest. The courts ruled in favor of the police and against Fernandez all the way up to the Supreme Court, which affirmed those previous decisions. Police powers were expanded at the expense of the Fourth Amendment.
Here is how Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the 6-3 majority in the case, explained the court’s reasoning:
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