High court widens exceptions to Fourth Amendment bans

The United States Supreme Court appears to be building on its landmark decisions of last term -- which bolstered police powers and restricted the rights of the accused. In an unanimous ruling Tuesday, the high court expanded exceptions to a Fourth Amendment ban on warrentless police searches and seizures without probable cause.

A 1968 Supreme Court decision allowed police to stop and search suspects whom they had reason to believe were about to commit a crime. Now police may make such stops and even arrest someone they suspect may be guilty of having already committed a crime.

The case involved the rights of a man arrested in Covington, Ky., in 1981 after police were alerted by a flyer that indicated the man had a criminal record and was wanted for questioning. At the time, it was uncertain whether a valid arrest warrant had been issued.

Loaded guns were found in the suspect's car. And he was subsequently found guilty of illegal possession of firearms and sentenced to prison.

However, the Sixth US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, holding that search-and-seizure Fourth Amendment rights had been violated -- since there was no evidence that a crime was about to be committed.

In reversing the Circuit court, the US Supreme Court, in effect, may have expanded on its last-term decisions providing ``good faith'' exceptions to the so-called Exclusionary Rule. Previously, evidence that had resulted from police officers following improper procedures had been suppressed during criminal prosecutions.

Now such evidence can be used in certain circumstances, where authorities believed they acted within the law.

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