Thursday, July 12, 2012

Another checkpoint refused

This video, hosted by Liveleak, shows another driver refusing to cooperate with a checkpoint. It was sad to see the video labeled "Another Asshole With A Camera". It seems like an extremist view, refusing to cooperate with law enforcement at a checkpoint, but it's actually not.

Amendment IV, U.S. Constitution:
    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.
It's a very short amendment, and very easy for any literate person to understand. I do realize there's the concept of a "living, breathing" document, but the amendment appears to be airtight. Much more important, in my view, is the reasoning behind the creation of the amendment. In colonial days, British troops stopped the colonials for no reason all the time. History has proven the validity of the amendment -- Gestapo under the Nazis, KGB under the Soviets, the Stasi under the East Germans, etc.

It's never an extremist viewpoint to demand, in a democracy, that police stop or detain people only with a valid reason. My understanding is that the courts have reduced Amendment IV to mean "reasonable suspicion". Also, there are special circumstances that suspend the amendment. If a terrorist detonates a nuclear bomb, people within a certain radius are all going to be searched (the survivors, I suppose), and that's all reasonable and legal.

I'm fine with all of this. I think most people are. Still, if none of these clear exceptions exist, and there is no prior probable cause or reasonable suspicion, than law enforcement may not stop free occupants of the U.S. -- period. If people want immigration checkpoints, as depicted in the video, or DUI checkpoints, or any other type of checkpoint, that's fine. I have no problem with it. But, the constitution has to be changed first, or it's unacceptable. That's why the founders created the mechanism to change the constitution. If a thing is not important enough to warrant a change in the constitution, than how important is it?

Wasn't it Franklin who said, "Freedom is never taken away all at once."? Was he wrong?

I don't view "living and breathing" as a license to change the interpretation of the constitution as the wind changes direction. I would prefer to change the constitution itself, because this forces a public debate. A court summarily ruling that checkpoints are acceptable skips an important part of the process. It skips us.

A common argument in support of checkpoints is, "But DUI checkpoints stop drunk drivers. Do you want drunk drivers on the road?" This is a false argument. There are many ways to stop criminals without violating everyone's constitutional rights. I'm against checkpoints, but I'm also against drunk driving and I'm not terribly fond of illegal immigration. Find a way to accomplish the goal of catching lawbreakers without violating the guaranteed rights of all. If we ignore Amendment IV, which other amendments are we willing the ignore?

By the logic of the checkpoints, we should have police enter every home, whenever law enforcement wants, to search for illegal drugs, unreported income, child abuse, and illegal guns. By the same logic, if you're against these kinds of searches, than you're in favor of heroin use, tax cheats, pedophiles, and gangsters owning large collections of machine guns. The logic that favors checkpoints is obviously flawed.

I've said this many times before on this blog: Give first time DUI offenders six months in prison and a five year suspension of the driver's license, and give second time offenders three years in prison and a 15 year suspension of the license. Watch what happens. People who can't follow the rules, and a very important one at that, are removed from society. Isn't that the purpose of the justice system? Violating constitutional rights isn't part of the program.

You know, Hitler didn't take total control of Germany the moment he won his first political office. It was a gradual process, over the course of many years. Again, I know I sound like an extremist, but I'm not. If the people of Germany had stood up to the slow erosion of liberty early on, Hitler would never have become dictator, and WWII would not have happened. Not to pick on Germans, because I think everyone respects them, but if they had been vigilant of their rights, all of those problems could have been avoided.

Freedom and tyranny always hang in the balance, and it doesn't take much to tip the scales, and it's really easy to tip the scales toward tyranny in the name of "for the common good." It's much more difficult to tip them back again. It usually requires warfare or, as Jefferson said, "refreshing the tree of liberty with the blood of patriots." Again, all of that may sound extremist, but it's not. It's only common sense.

I think that the safeguarding of rights clearly guaranteed by our constitution is an important thing, and is a responsibility every individual has. It should be a routine exercise. In this country, since the late 18th century, We The People have all the power. We're the employer, and police and government work for us, not the other way around. We don't "do as we're told" here. We make the rules, one vote at a time. Safeguarding rights on the street, by arguing with the police, may not be the right venue, but the voting booth is.

If the whole nation, or a majority, wants to make a change, simply change the constitution to include, "except for immigration and DUI checkpoints." I believe that's the correct process to follow, if we really want checkpoints.

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