Reading the Fourth Amendment

The US Supreme Court has declined to strike down a policy introduced in San Diego to combat welfare fraud. In asserting that this policy breaches the Fourth Amendment the New York Times claims "When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people’s homes, it is bad news for all of us."

If they were talking about a police investigation to prosecute fraudsters, this would be true. And there is a well-established procedure for dealing with this. Evidence gathered in an illegal search cannot be used in court. But this situation is quite different. What the authorities are expecting here is that welfare claimants should be able to positively prove that they are entitled to welfare payments. Their liberty is not at stake, so no standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt is required before the government can withhold payment. If welfare claimaints do not co-operate with investigations into their eligibility then they can lose their benefits.

That the New York Times does not understand the difference between criminal prosecutions and executive actions to defend taxpayer's money is concerning. Would they suggest that everyone should be entitled to welfare payments without offering any proof that they are eligible unless the government can prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are not?

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