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Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2000 10:41:56 -0800
From: "D. Paul Stanford" <stanford@crrh.org>
To: restore@crrh.org
Subject: NJ:: High Court Allows Police To Enter Our Private Lives
Message-ID: <>

Newshawk: Jo-D and Tom-E
Pubdate: Mon, 04 Dec 2000
Source: Cherry Hill Courier-Post (NJ)
Copyright: 2000 Cherry Hill Courier-Post
Contact: cpedit@courierpostonline.com
Address: P.O. Box 5300, Cherry Hill, N.J. 08034
Feedback: http://www.courierpostonline.com/about/edletter.html
Website: Latest South Jersey News - CourierPostOnline.com


Though the court was right to outlaw random drug searches, it was an
inconsistent ruling.

Life in general, and the Supreme Court in particular, is full of
inconsistencies. The high court went about halfway toward doing the right
thing last week when it struck down the legality of random roadblocks for
drug searches.

This is a victory for personal privacy, and is to be celebrated, as far as
that goes.

But if police aren't allowed random checkpoints for drugs, why are they
still allowed them for checking sobriety and even seat belts?

The court's argument against searches for drugs could certainly just as
well apply to other roadblock searches. As articulated by Justice Sandra
Day O'Connor, the checkpoints compromised the Fourth Amendment, which
protects against search and seizure.

Her point becomes clearer if we consider that, for many if not most people
who own one, a car is a kind of second home. We spend as much time in the
driver's seat as we do in our kitchens.

We also decorate a vehicle to suit ourselves, and organize things in the
interior in ways that reflect how we organize our bedrooms and offices.

It is our own little house on wheels. So imagine if police could knock on
doors at random in your neighborhood, enter your house, look under your
furniture and search your pockets.

You would find it to be a casual dismissal of your rights to privacy.

You also would feel as if you'd been presumed guilty without trial - even
though you had not done anything wrong, had done nothing to attract the
attention of authorities except to exist in a given time and place, and had
not even had any charges filed against you.

Still, the burden would be on you to prove yourself innocent, without even
knowing what you were innocent of.

Why, then, does this argument work for drug searches, but not roadside
sobriety checkpoints? In sobriety checks, police are invading our private
spaces despite having no justifiable cause; tying up traffic and forcing us
to prove our innocence when they have no cause to think us guilty.

Nonetheless, O'Connor stressed that this ruling would not affect border
checks and drunken driving roadblocks, which already have been ruled
constitutional. In those cases, justices have deemed the benefits to the
public to outweigh the inconvenience.

Weighing benefits versus inconvenience for any enforcement strategy always
will demand some kind of subjective ruling. O'Connor herself implied as
much when she said the court had to draw a line somewhere on "the
authorities' ability to construct roadblocks for almost any conceivable law
enforcement purpose."

Drawing that line - determining which crimes are dangerous enough for us to
compromise our constitutional protections - always will depend heavily on
judgment calls by the courts.

But we encourage the authorities to draw that line a little further back
from our property.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D