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Against Consent Searches

Powerful Essays
Schneckloth v. Bustamonte is a decidedly pro-order case because it qualifies another excuse police can raise to search a citizen. It asserts that an individual can verbally waive their Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures so long as this waiver is not coerced by a government official. The Court goes on to decide that it is not required for suspects to demonstrate knowledge of these rights before waiving them. The blow to liberty interest is put most elegantly in Justice Marshall's dissent when he writes, "I have difficulty in comprehending how a decision made without knowledge of available alternatives can be treated as a choice at all." This precedent that a citizen may make a decision to waive their rights without knowing of the alternative, in this case maintaining the Fourth Amendment's protections, is perfectly legitimate is dangerous for liberty interests in a world where order-seeking policemen seek to take advantage of uninformed citizens. It is a terrible matter of policy. The logic in reaching this conclusion is no better. It is an argument fraught with weak reasoning and dangerous interpretations of the Constitution. The Court sets up their argument by listing two competing concerns which must be accommodated in defining a voluntary consent. They are the legitimate need for such searches and the requirement of assuring the absence of coercion. The Court digresses from the case at hand with the first concern. The facts of Schneckloth v. Bustamonte indicate that the suspects were stopped for the violation of having lights burned out on their automobile. Given these circumstances there is no legitimate need to search for further evidence. All the proof needed to give a ticket for... ... middle of paper ... ...e police officers. Miranda established the precedent that a citizen has a right to be informed of his or her rights before the police attempt to violate them with the intent that the warnings erase the inherent coercion of the situation. The Court's violation of this precedent is especially puzzling due to this case's many similarities to Miranda. The logic used by the Court in order to justify their conclusion is fraught with weak reasoning and dangerous interpretations of the Constitution. It violates the precedent set in Miranda and seems tainted with a desire to justify consent searches at any cost. Schneckloth v. Bustamonte is a decidedly pro-order case because it qualifies another excuse police can raise to search a citizen, but it is also dangerous because it shows that the Court is not the unbiased referee between liberty and democracy that it should be.
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