The Special Needs Doctrine and the Fourth Amendment

4th Amendment (Photo Credit: The Huffington Post)

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  The U.S. Supreme Court uses three approaches in rendering decisions involving the 4th Amendment: the Warrant Approach, the Reasonableness Approach, and the Special Needs Doctrine.

The Warrant Approach (also known as the Traditional Approach) is the approach the Court uses when it requires probable cause and a warrant to be secured in a case to characterize a search and/or seizure to be legal.  Most people are familiar with the aforementioned approach to the 4th Amendment.  The Reasonableness Approach allows law enforcement to engage in a legal search and/or seizure if there’s reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred and probable cause would eventually be obtained by executing the search and/or seizure.

While I’m sure that some people (maybe many) will believe that the Reasonableness Approach to interpreting the 4th Amendment is problematic enough, the Special Needs Doctrine is much more problematic.  The Special Needs Doctrine is employed by the Court to permit law enforcement the right in emergency cases to conduct searches and seizures without a warrant and without probable cause.  These emergencies cases have to be in the interest of protecting public safety.  This doctrine contends that protecting the public safety is far greater a concern than protecting individual privacy.  The Court recognized that there are emergency cases where obtaining a warrant and probable cause is “impracticable.”  The Court posits that law enforcement should be empowered with the ability to act in the interest of protecting public safety and not compromise public safety simply because it was unrealistic to obtain a warrant and probable cause.

Although I’m a strong supporter of giving government the tools it needs to protect the American people, this doctrine does open up the possibility for law enforcement to invade people’s privacy.  Each time law enforcement acts in the name of “protecting public safety” isn’t an authentic effort to safeguard public safety.  As a student of history, I’m aware that the American government has a history of violating individuals’ privacy for selfish and malicious purposes.  One thing we must continue to work on at the national level is finding the right balance between national security and civil liberties.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Need for a Flat Tax

Uncle Sam

America’s current income tax code is simply unfair.  From the cradle to the grave, the government has its hands in our pockets.  It’s a reality that our extant income tax code punishes wealth: As individuals move up the economic ladder, an increasing percentage of their income government entitles itself to receive.  Dr. Ben Carson recently lectured President Obama about how unfair the tax code is.  He highlighted that the bible explains that God requires everyone to give ten percent of his or her earnings to Him.  As Dr. Carson disclosed, God does not care how little or great one makes—He wants everyone to pay the same percentage of his or her income to Him.  For Dr. Carson, this is the same principle government should embrace.  He attacked the argument that a flat tax would not “punish” the wealthy enough by positing that “it’s not supposed to.”

Although it’s difficult for many to resist trying to take more of rich people’s money, especially for those who are barely making ends meet, there must be an understanding that this type of thinking deincentivizes people from striving to become wealthy.  In the 21st century, we shouldn’t let this type of class warfare continue.  Let people enjoy more of the money they’ve earned.  A poor man has never given someone a job.

When we’re fair to wealthy people, we enable them to create more jobs.  In the struggling Obama economy, Americans need an explosion of job creation.  Replacing the current income tax code with a flat tax would help to spur job creation, ameliorate consumer confidence, and boost personal finance.

If we have a flat tax in place, we will not have to worry so much about individuals finding tax loopholes.

Our tax code must be reformed to make America the most attractive nation to do business.  Individuals are seeking tax shelters and shipping jobs overseas because our tax code is robbing them of their wealth.  If someone is openly going to keep robbing you, you’re not going to sit there and continue to let him or her rob you.  Those aforementioned individuals are protecting themselves from this same victimization.

Do you believe the current income tax code is fair?  Why or why not?  What do you think about replacing the existing tax code with a flat tax?  What are your ideas about reforming the income tax code?

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison