The way judges are issuing search warrants these days, you would think the Fourth Amendment never existed.
Last week we heard the story of a Maryland judge signing a warrant that allowed state troopers to raid a man’s home because he posted a Youtube clip of an gun-wielding, plainclothes cop who came across as a thug.
Now we’re hearing a story of a California judge who signed a search warrant last December that allowed UC Berkley police to confiscate a camera and memory cards from an independent journalist after he was arrested during a demonstration on campus.
Oakland journalist David Morse was charged with assaulting a police officer and vandalism, but those charges were later dropped.
Police returned his camera, but refused to return the memory cards containing his images.
Their justification, according to the Contra Costa Times:
The affidavit noted that protesters often promote future demonstrations using photos of past events.
Is that it? Obviously, that judge, whomever it is, does not believe in the Fourth Amendment.
But he or she obviously does not believe in the First Amendment either because it is not a crime to plan or promote demonstrations.
The article points out that California has a shield law that protects journalists from being forced to help the government. It further states that the search warrant did not include the fact that he is a journalist.
But in this case, it really shouldn’t make a difference because they never had any legal justifications to confiscate the photos in the first place.
Even before the charges against him were dropped, there was never any indication that he used the camera in the commission of a crime.
Nevertheless, Morse was required to ask a judge, presumably another judge, to force the cops to return his images.
A hearing is scheduled for May 11.