Pubdate: Sun, 04 April 1999
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 1999 by The Baltimore Sun, a Times Mirror Newspaper.
Author: Frank W. Soltis


The Supreme Court has decided to permit police to search the
belongings of a car's passengers, even if the passengers are not
suspected of wrongdoing. At a time when the public is expressing grave
concern over police conduct and respect for individual rights, is it
appropriate for the Supreme Court to so broaden police powers?

It has been well established, both statistically and anecdotally, that
there is a gap between the caliber of individual in law enforcement
and the demands of the job. Whether that gap is a matter of training
or the type of person that this line of work attracts makes no
difference. But, at least until the current rash of violent,
aggressive police behavior is curbed, the last thing we need is to
expand police powers.

It's hard to take our rights back once we've given them away. It's not
unlikely that the police will soon be searching each passenger as well
as his or her possessions or emptying buses to search each rider.
There was, after all, a time when the police couldn't conduct a search
without a warrant. Now, all they need is probable cause.

According to Justice Antonin Scalia, passengers have "a reduced
expectation of privacy with regard to property" when traveling by car
on public roads. In reality, probable cause means probable search and
a "reduced expectation of privacy" means that we are forfeiting our

Our right to privacy is one of our most fundamental rights. To
casually turn it over to agencies manned largely by out-of-control
cowboys amounts to casting pearls before swine.

Frank W. Soltis
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea