August 08, 2004

Spent the Night in Utah

Esteemed colleague Federalist No. 84 had a Bill of Rights drama in real life a few hours south of here, and I think he handled it as any decent dog-lover would. He's absolutely right, unfortunately, about how these days, standing on a Constitutional right can turn your own traffic stop into Anything Can Happen Day. It shouldn't be so hard to just say no to consent searches, but it is, and in Fed 84's case, it doesn't even seem that consent entered into the officer's checklist at all.

I talk to the local alternative high school's Street Law class every once in a while, and always stress correct answers to give when the patrolman asks, "you wouldn't mind if I have a look inside, would you?" At the same time, the kids also remember that the goal of any law enforcement contact for them is to finish it quickly and make it home safely. On the other side of the class divide, I'm on a panel once a year at the junior chamber of commerce, and discuss pretext stops and faux-consent searches, and hit on how we have no way of measuring how much time is taken out of the lives of people who are stopped, searched, and aren't found to be holding. Maybe it'd be better if law enforcement handed out free ice cream coupons (maybe not).

Thinking of such quick calculations we're forced to make about our rights and our freedom, I'm tempted to get all show-offy and Foucaultian about 'micropractices of power,' but I think it was E.M. Forster who said it best: "If I had to choose between betraying my right against unreasonable search and seizure and betraying my dog, I hope I should have the guts to betray my right against unreasonable search and seizure."

p.s.: Fed 84 is also right about how much more problematic the traffic stop gets when the officer adds DWB to the mix. I like to think that I struck my own little blow for happy motoring in Idaho with this case that I handled at the motion hearing and the remand, SAPD on the appeal. It will live on in Gem State jurisprudence for Judge Schwartzman's immortal footnote:

"I seriously doubt that the Clark W. Griswold family, on their way from Illinois to Walley-World in the borrowed family truckster (a reference to the hit comedy movie NATIONAL LAMPOON’S VACATION, with Chevy Chase, Warner Bros. 1983), would face such an array of police interest and interdiction, including “Gunnar” the drug dog."

1 Comment:

Mike said...

Thanks for the link. We'll get 'em next time. ;^>