“The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces
of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through
it; the storm may enter, the rain may enter -- but the King of England
cannot enter; all his force dares not cross the threshold of the ruined
- William Pitt the Elder 1708-1778.
American jurisprudence has long accepted the wisdom of this 18th-century
proclamation. Indeed, this sentiment is the basis for our Constitution’s 4th Amendment that protects us from unreasonable government searches and seizures.
However, many fear that our 4th Amendment Right is slowly dying as its protections are gradually chipped
away and legislatively narrowed to protect us in fewer and fewer situations.
The most recent law to be criticized by civil liberty advocates is
House Joint Resolution 76. There’s an
article circulating social media that claims this resolution allows warrantless
searches of private homes and is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. The article and associated (rather alarming)
video generally claims that the unconstitutional provisions were buried in a
bill that addresses the Washington D.C.‘s public transportation
authority and allows law enforcement to forcibly enter and search homes
in the metro D.C. area without a warrant.
Generally, most criminal defense attorneys and
civil liberties advocates have come to expect this type of legislation from our increasingly
militaristic police state, but the coverage of House Joint Resolution 76 leaves out the fact that
the bill only allows transit authority workers who, "upon reasonable
notice and a finding by the chief executive officer that a need exists,"
can enter private lands that are adjacent to the railway system to inspect,
investigate, examine, and test.
"Notice" and a "finding that a need exists," sounds
a lot like (but different, nonetheless) from what the 4th Amendment requires cops to prove to a judge before a warrant is issued.
H.J.Res. 76 is troubling, nonetheless, because it is not clear whether
the 100+ years of jurisprudence that interprets the warrant requirement
will apply to the Transit Authority's CEO when making the determination
that a "need exists." It’s also not clear if the Transit
Authority’s CEO will necessarily have enough legal experience to
heed our founding fathers’ (William Pitt the Elder’s) concerns.
Has the federal government just passed a law that completely ignores the 4th Amendment? Probably not. Unfortunately, however, this bill, like many
before it, seems to continue the trend of chipping away at our constitutional
right in the name of security. What effect this bill will have on state
law making bodies and local government is, at the moment, anyone’s guess.
If you are confronted by the police, remember these four phrases:
“I do not consent to answer any questions”
“I do not consent to a search of my property or myself.”
“If I am free to leave, I wish to leave now.”
“If not, I wish to speak with my attorney.” 
If you feel that law enforcement officers are violating your right to be
free of unreasonable seizures and searches, call Longwell Lawyers and
protect your Rights.
“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In
both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly
unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of changein the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims
of the darkness.”
—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
 This information should not solely be relied upon and is only intended
to promote awareness of your constitutional rights. You should consult
with an attorney immediately.