Pubdate: Tue, 03 Mar 2009
Source: Sentinel, The (GA Edu)
Copyright: 2009 Kennesaw State University
Author: Gage Thompson


.and why you shouldn't.

If you're a regular reader of this newspaper, you've probably read the
Police Beat at some time in the past. As amusing as it was at first,
it has become a real sore spot for me. It is acutely apparent that few
people understand the basic protections afforded to them by the

The fourth amendment provides you with freedom from illegal searches
and seizures by law enforcement officers: The right of the people to
be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no
Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or
affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and
the persons or things to be seized.

In layman's terms, this means police can't search your belongings or
residence without a search warrant except under a few circumstances. Even if
they have a warrant, they can't search anything but the specific area
mentioned in the warrant. This is a protection that KSU students apparently
either do not know about or do not care to exercise. Let's take a look at
this example from Police Beat:

Police were dispatched to University Village in reference to the odor
of suspected burnt marijuana coming from a bedroom on Feb. 17.
Officers asked if they could search the residence and the residents
complied.  One student allowed the officers to search his bedroom,
admitting to marijuana and saying he didn't know where it was.

Of course this student was arrested. One mistake set this successful
arrest into motion; allowing the officer into the residence in the
first place. The rules may be different for on-campus housing, but if
you live in a house, the police can't just invite themselves in. If
they want to come into your home they must ask, be invited in or have
a warrant. So what you should do when a police officer comes to your
house? Open your door, step outside, close the door behind you and
talk to the officer there. If he asks to search your home politely
respond, "I don't give permission for any searches, officer." If he
then searches your home, it would be considered an illegal search.
Anything he found would be thrown out in court.

Do not let an officer intimidate you. If an officer wants your
permission to search your belongings, it means he already suspects you
and doesn't have the evidence to arrest you yet. If he had enough
evidence, you would be sitting in handcuffs in the back of his car not
on your comfortable couch. Don't hand him the evidence he needs just
because he asks politely. Remain calm, be polite and answer all
questions. Respectfully tell him you do not consent to any search
without a search warrant. Never admit to owning any contraband, even
if asked directly.

Many people dismiss this, saying that an officer will just detain you
while he gets a warrant. This might be true, but if he searches your
belongings he will find whatever you want to hide. Given a choice
between potentially getting arrested if he is able to obtain a warrant
and definitely getting arrested by declining your protection against
illegal search the choice is clear. It is worth your time to gamble
that he does not have probable cause.

Always refuse searches. You have nothing to gain and everything to
lose when you allow an officer to search your belongings. Why people
routinely waive their fourth amendment rights is completely beyond me.
I don't know what kind of marijuana students at KSU smoke, but I'm
guessing it must be pretty strong to make them forget a 222-year-old
document that they learned about in third grade.
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