Though the Court of Appeals initially ruled the search and seizure unconstitutional, the Supreme Court “found that the police were not investigating a crime but exercising their ‘community caretaker’ function.”
In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court just killed the rights of citizens outlined in the Fourth Amendment by stating that police officers may enter a home, or parts of the home, without a warrant and can seize evidence to use in the arrest and prosecution of citizens.
The Fourth Amendment states that unreasonable searches and seizures are not allowed and that the only legally recognized search and seizure is one that is preceded by a warrant granted by courts. The warrant must be supported by probable cause.
The deciding vote was cast by Justice Rebecca Bradley who was appointed by Governor Scott Walker, a member of the Republican party. There has been skepticism surrounding this decision because Justice Bradley was not present for the oral arguments and instead listened to them later on a tape recording, stating that it was sufficient enough for her to make a decision.
The case that reached the Supreme Court and begged the question of whether officers have the right to search and seize without a warrant was the case of Charles Matalonis. After admitting that he had been in a fight with his brother, who the officers found bloodied in a nearby residence, Matalonis allowed the cops to come into his home. They saw blood, presumably from the fight, and cannabis before asking Matalonis to open a locked door in the house for them. After he refused, the cops broke the door down and found marijuana growing in the room. They then arrested and charged Matalonis with the manufacturing of marijuana.
Though the Court of Appeals initially ruled this search and seizure to be unconstitutional, the Supreme Court “found that the police were not investigating a crime but exercising their ‘community caretaker’ function by checking to make sure no other people were injured in the house.” The three Justices that challenged the decision stated that between arriving at the house and breaking down the door, 20 minutes had passed and there was no reason to suspect anyone else had been injured. There was, however, reason to suspect that more cannabis would be in the room and that is the real reason the officers unlawfully entered the room. Had the decision remained deadlocked at 3-3 before Justice Bradley was appointed, the Court of Appeals decision would have been final.
In regards to the new Justice, this has been a controversial start for her in the Supreme Court. When she arrived, there were five earlier cases that had been argued but hadn’t been decided and she chose to cast the deciding vote on this one. The Free Thought Project points out that,
An unelected judge appointed by a partisan politician cast a single vote, without being present during arguments, which effectively nullified the Fourth Amendment in that state.
These are serious but true allegations, and it paints a clear picture of what exactly this decision has done to the state. Because of this single vote, cops may now enter a person’s home without a warrant and search and seize evidence to arrest and use against a person in a court of law.