The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation has condemned new regulations issued by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control. In a statement issued today, the ACLU criticized the new rules as an unnecessary and intrusive attack on the privacy of citizens. The regulations at issue were promulgated by the Ohio Department of Public Safety and take effect today. “Once again, the state is doing its best to erode the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens,” warned Christine Link, Executive Director of the Ohio ACLU. “These regulations effectively require citizens to sign away their right to be free from otherwise unlawful police searches in exchange for the opportunity to buy beer in quantity, which is, remember, a perfectly lawful activity,” Link added in a statement released today.
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution imposes limits on the ability of police and other law enforcement agents to enter the homes of citizens or conduct searches on private property. Over the last twenty years, court decisions have severely limited Fourth Amendment rights, but recently years, the United States Supreme Court has begun to more firmly limit the scope of police searches allowed by the Constitution.
Under the new rules, anyone purchasing more than five kegs of beer must submit a notarized affidavit to state officials five days in advance of their purchase. The affidavit not only notifies authorities of the date, time and location of the event at which the beer will be served, but authorizes – in advance of any wrongdoing -- law enforcement officials to enter the premises where the event is being held to search violations of state liquor law.
The new keg regulations would allow state officials to bypass the Fourth Amendment entirely. “The implications are frightening,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director Raymond Vasvari. “The law already allows the police to intervene in cases where parties become disruptive. But the law also imposes limits on that intervention, to protect the privacy of law abiding citizens. Now the state wants to bypass those protections in the name of efficiency. That’s simply not the American way.” The ACLU is investigating possible challenges to the regulations, but has yet to determine whether or not to take the Department of Public Safety to Court. “We are keeping our options open,” said Link. “This is serious business, and the state should know that we are prepared to take it seriously.