Kansas law enforcement has violated people’s Fourth Amendment rights many times over the past decade, with at least 25 court rulings or lawsuits indicating that since 2014, the Kansas City Star reports. The number almost certainly significantly undercounts the true number of violations because it includes only incidents that have made their way into the courts. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Star’s investigation began after police raided the Marion County Record in August. Gideon Cody, then the Marion police chief, obtained search warrants for the Record’s newsroom, as well as the homes of the publisher and a city councilwoman. Cody’s investigation quickly fell apart and he resigned weeks later. Because Kansas allows non-lawyers to serve as magistrate judges, it’s possible some search warrants are approved without being reviewed by an attorney.
The episodes identified by the Star encompass everything from warrantless searches of homes to the alleged wrongful seizure of vehicles, firearms and animals. Many alleged Fourth Amendment violations are never challenged in court, especially if criminal charges are never brought. In other instances, prosecutors might quietly dismiss a criminal case before troubling conduct by law enforcement draws attention or reach a plea deal before Fourth Amendment issues are resolved. Many individuals who believe their rights have been violated don’t have access to top-flight lawyers or the ability to attract public attention the way the Record did.
Several key factors make Fourth Amendment violations more likely, including insufficient experience among officers and a lack of coordination between law enforcement and prosecutors before searches.