Constitutional Protections

Few public policies pose as great a threat to our fundamental freedoms as the war on drugs.  Since the 1970s, the U.S. judicial system has utilized a “drug exception” to the Constitution, permitting the erosion of our constitutional rights in the name of drug prohibition.  DPA is committed to supporting and strengthening your rights, such as your First Amendment right to free speech related to drugs and your Fourth Amendment right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

Since the war on drugs began in earnest four decades ago, the Supreme Court has sent a consistent message that when it comes to fighting drug crime, personal liberties take a back seat.  In most drug-related cases brought before the Court, the majority has favored scaling back constitutional protections, clearing the way for drug policies that infringe on our rights to free speech, religious expression, and protection from unreasonable searches.  These rulings have essentially created a “drug exception” to the Constitution. 

Since the vast majority of drug law violations are private acts with no complaining witness, our Fourth Amendment right to protection from unreasonable search and seizure has proven particularly vulnerable to drug war policies.  Police now routinely search individuals without cause, raid homes on flimsy evidence, and engage in racial profiling.  Countless drug enforcement practices strike at the heart of what the Fourth Amendment is all about, including wiretapping, surveillance, the use of confidential informants, and entrapment.  Employers, schools and hospitals may conduct suspicionless drug testing that has dire consequences, and people with drug convictions can be denied voting rights in many states. 

DPA has made eliminating the “drug exception” to the Constitution a top priority and is working to restore the constitutional protections sacrificed in the name of prohibition.

Learn More

Ten Ways the War on Drugs Violates the Constitution

Thurgood Marshall’s Prescient Warning: Don’t Gut the 4th Amendment