A look at Judge Alito’s decisions on law enforcement


The Yale Report on Alito examines thirteen categories of decisions rendered by Judge Samuel Alito throughout his career. One of those categories, “Responsible Law Enforcement,” provides a summary of Alito’s decisons regarding the powers of law enforcement agencies and the rights of the accused:

Doe v. Groody–Alito dissented from the majority in that he would have allowed the strip search of a ten-year-old girl and her mother, even though neither of them was named in the search warrant. Alito wrote that he was aware of “no legal principle that bars an officer from searching a child (in a proper manner) if a warrant has been issued and the warrant is not illegal on its face.”

U.S. v. Stiver— Alito interpreted the content of a search warrant that permitted the law enforcement agency to “seize all drug paraphanalia” to include allowing the law enforcement authority to answer the suspect’s telephone and pretend to be him.

United States v. Lee–The FBI, without a warrant, hid a video camera in the room of a man whom they suspected would be discussing bribery payments with an informant. The camera ran twenty-four hours a day, yet Alito found no evidence of the suspect’s Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

Leveto v. Lapina
–Alito ruled that the government agents had violated the rights of a wealthy couple who was accused of tax evasion. Alito declared the suspects had been detained without probable cause, had not been read their Miranda rights, and that the wife had been given a body pat-down when she was dressed in only a nightgown.

United States v. Zimmerman–The majority reversed a district court denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found in his house. The reversal was made because the panel found that the information used to obtain the warrant was too old to construct probable cause. Judge Alito dissented, citing a police “good faith” exception to excuse what had happened.

These are only a few of the cases. There are numerous others described in the Yale report. In fact, in the more than fifty cases involving criminal procedure issues for which Judge Alito wrote opinions, he ruled in favor of the government 90% of the time.

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