Many Americans have probably read about oppressive governments in history books and thought, “Why didn’t the people stand up and stop this from happening?” In hindsight, it just seems so obvious that the people should have noticed and protested government overstepping its bounds. But often, it is less noticeable than some people might think.
Oppressive governments do not usually take away all freedom overnight. The government chips away a little freedom at a time. The slow and gradual process is done on purpose to prevent the people from rising up against the government. History shows how important it is for us to remain vigilant and know our rights.
Too often, people don’t know their constitutional rights until it’s too late. As a service center to small-government grassroots activists, FreedomWorks is working to educate citizens on their civil liberties in five main areas, beginning with your home, your car, and on the street.
For example, when the police is pounding and shouting at your door, no one has any time to do research. Do you have to let them in your house? What if they have no warrant but try to come in anyway? It’s better to know the answer before you are ever put in that tense situation.
You have every right to not consent to a search. Law enforcement cannot legally search your house without your consent or a warrant—a piece of paper signed by a judge giving law enforcement officers permission to enter a home or make arrests. But did you know that a roommate may legally consent to a search of your belongings?
The best thing to do is to ask through the door if the officers have a warrant. If the answer is no, you do not have to let them in your house or answer any questions. You cannot be punished for not consenting to a search. If the answer is yes, ask for the officers to slip the warrant under the door. Make sure that the warrant is accurate and complete. (Pay close attention to the address line, since it is not unusual for police to accidently show up at the wrong door.)
A warrant means that police can legally search your house, but it does not mean that you have to answer any questions. It would be a good idea to ask the police if you can watch the search. If you can, be sure to take notes of what they did and who was involved.
Julie Borowski is a Policy Analyst at FreedomWorks, an organization dedicated to lower taxes, less government, and more freedom. Her writings on economic policy have appeared in numerous newspapers and online outlets. She is on the Board of Advisors for the Coalition to Reduce Spending and she launched an independent YouTube channel called TokenLibertarianGirl in June 2011.
She was previously selected to be a Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow with the Institute for Humane Studies where she worked at the Center for Competitive Politics. Most recently, she was a government affairs associate at Americans for Tax Reform.
Julie has volunteered for political candidates in Kentucky and in her home state of Maryland. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Frostburg State University in May 2010 where she studied political science, economics and international studies. She is now located in Washington, D.C.