Warrantless search ruling ‘disturbing’

A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on warrantless searches is “a disturbing infringement on the constitutional protection that we have enjoyed,” according to criminal defense lawyer Cathy Green of Manchester.

The high court overturned a ruling of the Illinois Supreme Court and reinstated the conviction of a motorist found with marijuana in the trunk of his car. The state court had ruled that the search, conducted with a drug-sniffing dog after the driver had been stopped for speeding, was initiated without probable cause and thereby violated the Fourth Amendment ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“It’s clear this would be a (prohibited) search under the New Hampshire Constitution,” said Green. “The New Hampshire Constitution continues to offer more protection than the U.S. Constitution.”

The protections have become more limited in federal courts under Supreme Court rulings of the past two decades, she said. Citing the dissenting opinion of Justice David Souter of New Hampshire, joined by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Green said the ruling reflected an unhealthy “trend in the development of the Fourth Amendment.”

“The basic premise of our Constitution is that we are not supposed to be subject to random searches. We’re supposed to be free from police investigations without probable cause,” said Green. “The U.S. Supreme Court over the past 20 years has continued to diminish a person’s rights against unreasonable search and seizure.” Green said it was not surprising that the case in question was decided for the state by a 6-2 vote.

“They were following their own precedents,” she said. – JACK KENNY

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