The 4th Amendment says: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Too often, however, the privacy protected by that amendment has been undermined by exceptions blessed by the courts.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court was asked in a California case to carve out yet another exception — allowing police to enter someone’s home without a warrant when an officer has probable cause to believe that even a minor offense had been committed. Such a ruling would be a disaster for the right of privacy.
In October 2016 California Highway Patrol Officer Aaron Weikert noticed that Arthur Lange was playing loud music and honking his horn as he was driving home in Sonoma. Weikert later testified that he believed the music and honking violated state laws against excessive noise.
Weikert followed Lange home and, as Lange was preparing to turn into his driveway, the officer said he turned on flashing red lights, a signal that a motorist should stop. Lange pulled into his garage and then, as the electric garage door was descending, Weikert used his foot to stop it from closing. Then he entered the garage and noticed signs that Lange was intoxicated.
Lange’s lawyer sought to suppress the evidence obtained by Weikert because the officer had entered Lange’s residence without a warrant. But California courts took the position that the officer didn’t need a warrant because of…