Passengers Have Rights Too

 Constitution, Crime, Politics, Society  Comments Off on Passengers Have Rights Too
Jun 192007

The Associated Press is reporting that the Supreme Court has ruled that passengers in automobiles have the same Constitutional protections from illegal searches.

Bruce Brendlin was arrested in 2001 for drug possession after a car in which he was a passenger was stopped by Yuba City police. The State had conceded there was no basis for the original vehicle stop, so Brendlin had argued that the drug evidence should be suppressed.

Now the state made an interesting argument. They claimed the conviction should stand because the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure applied only to the driver. This would not have been a hard for even me to decide. I believe, based on junior high school civics classes, that the Constitution applies to everyone all the time (except when the “decider” says it doesn’t…enemy combatants).

Surprisingly, the court decision was unanimous. David Souter wrote for the Court:

We think that in these circumstances, any reasonable passenger would have understood the police officers to be exercising control to the point that no one in the car was free to depart without police permission. A traffic stop necessarily curtails the travel a passenger has chosen just as much as it halts the driver.

I guess Souter had watched a few episodes of “Cops.” Let someone that’s a passenger in a vehicle stopped by a police officer try to just walk away…yeah right. So finally, a little sanity from the court.

Waiting For The Black Helicopters

 Congress, Constitution, Politics, Presidency, The Courts  Comments Off on Waiting For The Black Helicopters
Sep 302006

Since I’ve been blogging about the abuses, lies and failures of the Bush administration, a former co-worker and good friend used joke with me to, “watch my back,” and that I could expect to find black helicopters hoovering over my house any day now. Others have given me advice, “These people are capable of anything. Stay off small planes, make sure you aren’t being followed.”

I always laughed and shook my head whenever I heard this stuff. Extreme paranoia wrapped in the tinfoil of conspiracy, I thought. This is still America, and these Bush fools will soon pass into history, I thought. I am a citizen, and the First Amendment hasn’t yet been red-lined, I thought.

Matters are different now.

It seems, perhaps, that the people who warned me were not so paranoid. It seems, perhaps, that I was not paranoid enough. Legislation passed by the Republican House and Senate, legislation now marching up to the Republican White House for signature, has shattered a number of bedrock legal protections for suspects, prisoners, and pretty much anyone else George W. Bush deems to be an enemy.

So much of this legislation is wretched on the surface. Habeas corpus has been suspended for detainees suspected of terrorism or of aiding terrorism, so the Magna Carta-era rule that a person can face his accusers is now gone. Once a suspect has been thrown into prison, he does not have the right to a trial by his peers. Suspects cannot even stand in representation of themselves, another ancient protection, but must accept a military lawyer as their defender.

Illegally-obtained evidence can be used against suspects, whether that illegal evidence was gathered abroad or right here at home. To my way of thinking, this pretty much eradicates our security in persons, houses, papers, and effects, as stated in the Fourth Amendment, against illegal searches and seizures.

“Coerced evidence would be permissible if a judge considered it reliable – already a contradiction in terms – and relevant. Coercion is defined in a way that exempts anything done before the passage of the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act, and anything else Mr. Bush chooses.”      Continue reading »