I’ve written at length about how our country seems to be turning into a police state. Police departments around the country are apparently regarding the citizens by whom they are employed as the enemy. In the name of the “War on Terror” or the “War on Drugs”, more and more of our precious liberties are getting filched away- nibbled to death by ducks. Merely understanding and standing up for one’s Constitutional rights is increasingly viewed with suspicion by almost every police department- or at least the ones which make the news. The most innocuous of behaviors is increasingly falling afoul of some Government regulation or another, which are frequently misapplied by law-enforcement personnel to the detriment of individual liberty in this country.
For example, a photographer standing on a public sidewalk in Phoenix, Arizona, was told by a police officer that he wasnot permitted to take a picture of one the Federal building. When the photographer asked what legal authority forbade taking pictures of a public building from a public sidewalk, he was brusquely told to “Google it”. There have been numerous reports of citizens getting harassed and even arrested for the “crime” of taking pictures or video of police in the performance of their duties on public thoroughfares. A group of police in Philadelphia have taken to raiding local grocery and convenience stores for the crime of selling small ziploc bags. Worse still, these Phillie cops go out of their way to disable all security cameras in the establishments they raid.
In the course of my job, I am frequently required to undergo periodic security training. The last annual training refresher I took instructed me to beware of suspicious activities such as owning firearms and practicing marksmanship. After hearing this little security tip, I immediately went to the Security manager for my building and reported myself for meeting several of the criteria which my training indicated were possible terrorist behaviors. He was less than amused, the more so since he would have to report himself under those same guidelines.
In yet another case, a self-described libertarian was at an airport to catch a flight when the Transportation Security Authority agents became suspicious of the cash he was carrying. When they asked him how much he was carrying, why he was carrying it, and what he did for a living, he replied by asking if he was legally required to answer those questions. This was deemed suspicious behavior, and the police and FBI were called. The FBI disgustedly told the TSA to let the man board his plane. In defense of the TSA, my few experiences with them have been uniformly professional and courteous.
When police perform traffic stops, they often ask if they can search the vehicle. If they are not granted permission to search, their frequent reply is the statement, “If you haven’t done anything wrong, you shouldn’t object to a search.” I have no problem with the police saying this in an attempt to induce cooperation, but I do have a serious problem when refusing to permit a warrantless search becomes probable cause for issuance of a search warrant.
Since when did refusal to permit a search become probable cause? I’m pretty sure the 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution are reasonably clear on this subject, but I’ll let you be the judge:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
The supreme law of the land is the Constitution of the United States. Why, then, are we (the People) permitting our public servants to trample the liberties enshrined and guaranteed therein?
We (the People) have been sold a bill of goods by our elected officials. We are being told that these infringements upon our liberties are necessary to keep us safe from drugs, child molesters, terrorists, commies, albigensians, heretics, martians, or fill-in-your-boogieman-of-choice. And we (the People) have swallowed this line of bullshit with nary a twinge of remorse.
It has become easier to just go along with whatever new byzantine abuse of Government power comes down the pike than to stand up for our inherent liberties. The Rights guaranteed (not granted) by the Constitution are worthless if we (the People) do not stand up and demand that those rights be acknowledged. All rights come with concurrent responsibilities, foremost among them the responsibility to ensure the continuation of those rights.
Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. Anything you may have seen on TV may bear little or no relationship to the real world of police and courts. If you want legal advice, hire an attorney. Since I am neither licensed nor qualified to give legal opinions, the following is not intended to be legal advice. This is only my personal opinion and stated intent for my own actions when detained or arrested. Your mileage may vary. Follow this course of action at your own risk.
If the police want to search your house, car, office, or person, demand that they first get a warrant. When detained or delayed by the police for any reason, be courteous- but refuse to speak without an attorney. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are not under arrest, ask if you are free to go. If you are not free to go, demand to speak with an attorney. Do not raise your voice, swear, or argue. Simply refuse to speak without an attorney present.
Be warned, following this course of action will very likely result in increased police attention and possible arrest. The police will be extremely annoyed with you, and will use a wide variety of tricks to try and get you to talk to them. Even if you answer some of their questions, you are under no obligation to continue to do so. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the subject:
In the US, the Miranda warning is a warning given by police to criminal suspects in police custody, or in a custodial situation, before they are asked guilt-seeking questions relating to the commission of a crime. A custodial situation is one in which the suspect’s freedom of movement is restrained although he or she is not under arrest. An incriminating statement by a suspect will not constitute admissible evidence unless the suspect was advised of his or her “Miranda rights” and made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of those rights (the term “Miranda rights” is somewhat misleading, as the mandated Miranda warning simply clarifies preexisting Constitutional rights). However, a 2004 Supreme Court Ruling upheld state “Stop and Identify” laws, allowing police to require biographical information such as name, date of birth, and address, without arresting suspects or providing them Miranda warnings.
The Miranda warnings were mandated by the 1966 US Supreme Court decision in the case of Miranda v. Arizona as a means of protecting a criminal suspect’s 5th Amendment right to avoid coercive self-incrimination.
The wording of the so-called Miranda Warning varies from state to state, but the general meaning is fairly unambiguous. The police can stop you and demand that you identify yourself without necessarily placing you in a “custodial situation”. This does not necessarily mean that you have to provide some identification, only that you must give the police your name, date of birth, and address when requested. You are not legally required to answer any other questions, and you are within your rights to refuse to answer any further questions.
Given the increasingly hostile attitude of far too many police toward the citizens they allegedly serve, and the deliberate and methodical diminution of our precious liberties by both police and our elected officials, it is my opinion that everyone should do their utmost to protect the tattered remnants of our Constitutional rights while we still can. Furthermore, I call upon everyone to contact their elected representatives in both state and federal governments and remind them that they are public servants and we (the People) are the public. If those public servants wish to retain their cushy jobs and exorbitant paychecks, they had better start paying attention to the proper historical relationship between the US government and the citizens it is supposed to serve.
Here is a quote from Benjamin Franklin that needs to be more often on the public lips:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
There are Four Boxes to be used in defense of liberty, in the following order: Soap, Ballot, Jury, and Ammo. On this page, I am calling for all Americans to use the first three. The precipice of tyranny is creeping up on us with cat-like tread. If we do not act now, we may soon be forced to resort to that fourth box. Like Pandora’s box, opening the Fourth Box will unleash horrors and chaos upon the world. Let us all work together to forestall its use. Write your representatives and senators. Stand up for your rights. Our liberties are under attack from within. Failure to use those first three boxes now leads inexorably to the opening of that Fourth Box, and nobody sane wants that.
Current status: Concerned
Current music: Man in the Box by Alice in Chains