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4th Amendment & Police Protecting the Public


The Fourth Amendment guarantees that our houses and effects will not be searched and seized without a valid warrant, less consent or exigent circumstances. Exigent circumstances are basically where a police officer either searches, or enters the home or property of another because public policy, safety, or justice requires it.

The above piece of law gives the police more power and authority—this much is true. However, police are given this extra power to keep us safe—not to infringe on our rights. Think the government is bearing down too much and don't believe me—read this real life scenario, where the court does everything to side with the defendant's constitutional rights.

After city police officers witnessed a dog fighting with other dogs in a fenced-in yard, the same dog—now blood-soaked—ran into the adjoining house through an open sliding-glass door. The officers—thinking of the worse—ran after the dog and entered into the house. The facts are vague from here, but for illustrative purposes you can assume the owner of the house (Carpenter) had something illegal inside.

The Indiana Supreme Court in Carpenter v. State held that the police violated Indiana's state counterpart to the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure. The court reasoned that although the police had some type of interest in protecting the public from blood-soaked dogs running into people's houses—there was apparently no indication that anyone—a person that is—was in any "imminent peril." The court also claimed that since the dog was in a fenced-in area and that the gate was locked, the dog did not pose a threat to the public. Furthermore, the court saved its best (by best, I mean worst) argument for last—the court then reasoned that if the officers were so worried about the dog escaping and harming the public, they could have just walked up and closed the glass door to the house.

WAIT...did the Indiana Supreme Court just tell us that a police officer could casually jump your fence, walk up to your back door, close it and tell you that they were just worried about your dogs getting out? So, the next time you see a police officer jumping into your fenced-in yard and closing your back doors—thank them for not letting your dog out into the public—since this occurs all the time.

All jokes aside and in conclusion, the Indiana Supreme Court shows its absolute allegiance to its citizen's search and seizure rights. Although the police officers may or may not have had the intention to "keep the public safe," and we know Mr. Carpenter was not completely innocent, the Supreme Court did not automatically side with the police officers and held them to the law. In Indiana, if Mr. Carpenter is going to jail—the police are doing it the legal way.

Still think the government or police has too much power? Apparently not in Indiana.

If you find yourself facing criminal charges, do not hesitate to contact the Columbus criminal defense attorneys at The Meranda Law Firm LTD. We are diligent and hard-working legal professionals that know what it takes to succeed in your criminal defense.