“Drug Arrests” and Your Fictional Constitutional Rights

April 20, 2009

Police search vehicles every day on trumped up excuses and cover their tracks later.  Who cares?  Certainly not the citizens of the United States.  The protections citizens believe they have from the Fourth Amendment concerning unreasonable search and seizure simply do not exist in reality, on the street where the uniformed police always push the envelope in the name of “fighting crime.”

A pastor in Arizona was beaten by Border Patrol agents when they insisted on searching his car at a Border Patrol checkpoint.  The pastor thought he had rights protected by the Constitution.  The Border Patrol knew otherwise because they were more powerful and they could later justify pretty much anything they did because, no matter what they do, they are “fighting crime.”

Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, was stopped by Border Patrol checkpoint 87.5 miles from the Mexican border.  He was well within the United States.  When stopped, he refused to allow a search of his rented vehicle.  He had no drugs and no other occupants in his car.  That did not stop the Border Patrol, who used a drug sniffing dog, which, the Border Patrol claims, made a “hit” on Anderson’s car, thus giving them “probable cause” to search his car for drugs. When Anderson refused to allow a search, the police broke both front  windows, immediately began using a Taser gun on him and continued to so, bashed his head into the broken glass on the car window, dragged him out and shoved him on the ground and stood on his head, regardless that he never physically resisted at all,  As blood streamed over his face, they handcuffed his hands behind his back, put him in their trailer, and the officers came in to laugh at him.  Eventually the police drove him to be given eleven stitches but took as long as possible, with stops to exchange casual chat with some fellow officers along the way, before allowing Anderson to use the rest room.  This is standard procedure, in case you don’t know.  Police officers think it’s funny to degrade arrested suspects by making them wet their pants.

Anderson says the drug dog did not bark or give any other indication, but the Border Patrol insists the dog “alerted” to drugs in the vehicle.  Of course, no drugs were found in the vehicle, and we have only the Border Patrol’s word that the dog ever made any indication.  Some have claimed in the past that police goad  drug dogs to make a sign when the police want them to.  Then, the police can just point to the dog as though the dog is some sort of scientific instrument with objective reliability as the predicate for their actions.  But in many cases, as in this case, no one can say the dog ever made any indication at all.

After arresting him, the police told the bloodied Anderson this would never have happened if he had just answered their questions when they stopped him.  Anderson called them on their story switch and said “I thought you said you searched my car because the drug dog hit on it.”

The United States Supreme Court ruled in 2000, in Indianapolis vs. Edmond that police cannot set up roadblocks with drug dogs to randomly search vehicles for drugs.   However, an earlier exception had been made for the Border Patrol.  The Court in 1976 decided United States vs. Martinez-Fuerte, there is an exception to this rule which allows Border Patrol the unique power to establish checkpoints for seeking illegal immigrants, allowing a secondary purpose of finding drugs.  Therefore, while ordinary police cannot set up a checkpoint with a drug-detecting dog within the Fourth Amendment, the Border Patrol is allowed to do so, and the Border Patrol is not required to have “probable cause” before using their drug-detecting dog on a vehicle.  Moreover, the Border Patrol is allowed to establish checkpoints up to 100 miles inside the United States.

There is another exception allowed for checkpoints that applies to ordinary police.  That is the checkpoints set up to find drunk drivers, which was allowed by Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990.

Anderson was pulled from his car by officers of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, tasered and bloodied by the glass the police broke.  He was then jailed overnight.  Certainly he is startled that the rights he thought he had, the rights talked about on television and in classrooms are trumped by the reality of armed uniformed police who are on a mission to stamp out crime, and who are given more and more leeway by the courts.

Who cares?  No one, apparently.  The United States Supreme Court has continued over the years to chisel away at the rights of citizens so as to make things easier for police to act with impunity.  The Supreme Court has even mused about eliminating the exclusionary rule, the “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” doctrine, which requires suppression of evidence illegally obtained by the police.  You can imagine how illegal activity by police will flourish if that action is taken. The Congress has never given any indication it believes its citizens are at risk from police increasing intrusion.  It, like the press and most Americans, believes that American citizens are at risk from “crime,” not from the crime chasers.

Only the Bill of Rights limits the use of government power.  Police naturally push the boundaries of the permitted use of government power- always.  They think they are doing their jobs by impinging on the right of citizens whenever a criminal case might be made.  Once in a while police officers are caught red-handed lying, trumping up evidence or the like, just to make a case against a suspect the police “believes” really has it coming.  This corruption in the system is inherent where the word of police is taken and rarely can be challenged factually.  The more slack leash the United States Supreme Court gives them, the police will be able to make a few more criminal cases stick, of course, but the more diminished will be the rights of the American citizen.  The Bill of Rights becomes just a wall ornament.


Big Brother is collecting your DNA in the name of fighting Crime

February 19, 2009

The state of Washington is considering a bill that will require the collection of DNA samples from every person arrested of a felony or gross misdemeanor, before a conviction for anything, that is. The state of Washington joins more than twelve other states who have similar laws, while Indiana, Vermont and Texas are now considering such provisions. New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has made the same proposal for that city. In Texas, under a new proposal, which faces an uncertain future in the current budget-cutting climate, DNA would be taken from everyone who is arrested on suspicion of committing Class B misdemeanors up to the most serious felonies.

Currently in the state of Washington, DNA samples can be taken from anyone convicted of a felony and from those arrested for particularly violent crimes such as aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and murder. This is typical of most states, like Maryland.

Washington’s law provides that police would have to obtain a search warrant before forcing the arrested person to give a DNA sample via mouth swab, or the police could obtain a sample of they could obtain a person’s “voluntary permission” to do so. The law provides that the DNA information would be destroyed if the arrested person were found not guilty or not charged.

Where would the DNA information be sent before the state authorities destroyed it? Perhaps the FBI records? Of course, no one expects the federal authorities ever to disgorge any information, they have acquired. They never do.

The executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs, Don Pierce, says the DNA information is “good technology. It solves crimes. We take fingerprints at the time of arrest, which in many ways is more intrusive.” This may not be so, since DNA evidence is more easily tampered with, however, in that it may be more easily placed at a crime scene. Regardless, there is no doubt the more information about it citizens which the government possesses, the better it can fight crime. If the government could just put video cameras into every single household in the U.S.A., it could put a huge dent in crime. There would be no privacy whatsoever, but the police would be so happy to finally get their chance to really fight crime.

Jack King, staff attorney for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in Washington, D.C., said his organization has been fighting similar DNA-collection proposals since 2004. King said he believes that seizing biological evidence before conviction violates constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Shankar Narayan, legislative director of the ACLU of Washington, said the proposal pending in Washington “takes the presumption of innocence and turns it on its head.”

A Chicago study found that requiring DNA upon arrest could have prevented dozens of murders and rapes. In one case, a man who was arrested for felony theft went on to commit a murder and left DNA evidence at the scene six months later. If his DNA had been taken at the time of his theft arrest, Chris Asplen, a DNA consultant from Pennsylvania , said the man would have been caught after the first murder. Instead, he went on to kill 10 women.

So the perpetual ying and yang tension of crime fighting efficiency versus the privacy of the individual continues. Do Americans want their governments to have a storehouse of personal information on every citizen? Great Britain has this. Wouldn’t a national identity card make the job of the police easier? Wouldn’t implants in every citizen make monitoring of citizens easier for the police, like in the science fiction movies, like in 1984 dictatorships?

Law abiding citizens have nothing to fear, we are often told. The police are only going after the bad guys. This is comforting to those who have complete faith in police discretion and fidelity, to those who have not witnessed the short cuts taken, mistakes made, mistakes covered up, rules bent, oaths violated, and lies told by police for various reasons and with various intentions, including “getting the bad guys,” but including many more personal and self-promoting motivations as well.

Great Britain already has the world’s largest DNA database. Anyone arrested in England and Wales is compelled to submit to a DNA swab and the record is kept whether he is convicted or not. In Scotland this rule is restricted to violent and sex offenders, and then for only three years unless an extension is applied for. According the Daily Mail, Home Office Minister Tony McNulty is right to be cautious before treating the entire population as suspects. He and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith should take the same view of equally worrying plans for ID cards, and for intrusive surveillance on travelers to Europe. As the Daily Mail pointed out, “We are not all guilty, and we will lose much more than we gain if we submit ourselves to Big Brother.”

In these days of abuse of power, individuals who are charged with a crime or held as a suspect need to seek expert criminal legal advice. That’s why I urge anyone in that situation to visit my site at http://www.oklahomacriminallawoffice.com to learn how to choose the right lawyer to protect their rights.