In U.S. v. Jones, 24 MJ 294 (CMA, 1987), the court held that gate inspections were valid under the
Military Rules of Evidence (Rule 313). They represent a balance "between the responsibility of the
commander to secure the safety and welfare of his installation and the rights of persons to be free from
unreasonable searches and seizures of their persons and property." As such, one valid purpose of
such an inspection is to "maintain readiness and the effectiveness of the command." In evaluating gate
inspections, courts look to two basic factors: (1) was the gate inspection in furtherance of command
policies and directives? (2) was the objective to focus on this particular vehicle and appellant or was it
to safeguard the security of the installation? Stated differently, the inspection must be "carried out
pursuant to appropriate command policies and directives." Also, it must be conducted "for the general
purpose of ensuring the security of the installation" and not planned or executed "with the intention of
singling out appellant or his vehicle." If the latter, courts will regard it as a subterfuge search, requiring
the presence of probable cause. Remember, the purpose of allowing these inspections is not to
provide a subterfuge for avoiding constitutional protection. U.S. v. Flowers, 26 MJ 463 (CMA 1988).
The Fourth Amendment, you will recall, is a prohibition against unreasonable searches and
seizures. We have examined the various types of governmental action that are viewed as both
reasonable and unreasonable by the courts. In all of the areas which we have looked at, this
determination involves a balance between the rights of the individual and the rights of the state. If our
only interest is the rights of the individual, then law enforcement collapses and crime runs rampant.
Under such conditions, society itself is endangered. On the other hand, if our only consideration is law
enforcement, then individual rights are not protected. Our goal, then, is to safeguard both and
somehow achieve a happy medium between the two interests.
The Fourth Amendment principles which we have examined are designed to protect individual
rights while also furthering legitimate law enforcement interests. Over the last two hundred years, the
courts have interpreted the Bill of Rights with this in mind. If those who enforce the laws understand
the importance of the two interests involved, then BOTH may be attained. We can enforce the law, and
we can also protect the rights of the individual. It is not an either-or proposition; the need is to
accommodate both. The important point is that those who are responsible for the enforcement of our
laws (whether they be police officers, commanders, or NCOs), must understand and appreciate the
necessity for preserving this delicate balance. We can expect no more; we can tolerate no less.