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Fourth Amendment: Supremes Get One Right…Or Do They?

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What exactly is admissible criminal evidence and when is a warrant needed?

By John J. Bastiat · at The Patriot Post/https://patriotpost.us/articles/56274?

Why does following the Constitution matter? The answer to this question has many moving parts but ultimately boils down to the choice of living in a society where the rules apply evenhandedly to all (Rule of Law) or one where the rules are either nonexistent or else a moving target, depending on who has the power at any given moment (rule of men). Supposedly, here in the U.S. we live in the former society; the people of Russia, in the latter.

The presumed arbiter of the final say in this Rule of Law construct for America is the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). But what happens when the law is gerrymandered over time from its constitutional moorings into something wholly different? That’s the question Justice Clarence Thomas implicitly asks in his concurring opinion in Collins v. Virginia, a Fourth Amendment case appealed from Virginia’s highest court, on grounds that at first blush appear to be a slam-dunk.

The facts of the case are fairly straightforward. A police officer investigating two traffic incidents involving “an orange and black motorcycle with an extended frame” learned the motorcycle was likely stolen. The officer then discovered photographs on the suspect’s Facebook page of the motorcycle parked in the driveway of a house. The officer went to the house and observed what appeared to be the motorcycle under a white tarp, parked in the driveway. Without a search warrant, the officer walked to the top of the driveway, removed the tarp, and confirmed the motorcycle was stolen by referencing license plate and vehicle identification number information. He then photographed the uncovered motorcycle, replaced the tarp, and returned to his car to wait for the suspect. When the suspect arrived, the officer arrested him.

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