If you’re in one of the twenty-four states we’ll reveal in a moment, hold onto your hat. Big Government’s cajones may’ve gotten a little heavier this week in your neck of the woods.
“On Monday,” the Wall Street Journal reports, “the Supreme Court further weakened the Fourth Amendment by making it even easier for law enforcement to evade its requirement that stops be based on reasonable suspicion. The justices ruled 5 to 3 that a police officer’s illegal stop of a man on the street did not prevent evidence obtained from a search connected to that stop to be used against him.”
If you haven’t heard of this heinous ruling, here’s the quick rundown…
It began with the case of Utah v. Strieff, where, the story goes, Salt Lake City police officers received an anonymous drug tip about a house with a lot of foot traffic.
Days later, citizen Edward Strieff left the suspected drug house on his way to a convenience store down the street. Along the way, he was stopped by narco-detective Douglass Fackrell and was asked for his identification. The “routine check” found that Strieff had a warrant for, said the report, a “small traffic ticket.”
Strieff was arrested for the warrant, and the cops, to Fackrell’s disappointment we’re sure, didn’t find a flake of drugs on him.
Although Strieff did have a warrant, was the stop illegal? Yes. Even the State of Utah said as much. It wasn’t based on any reasonable, individual suspicion that Strieff had committed any crimes.
In short, the cop broke the law.
But, the state argued, as soon as the cop found the warrant, everything changed. The stop all of a sudden became a retroactive loophole around Fourth Amendment.
Hmm. Sounds familiar.
Funny how that works.
In other words, if a police officer commits a crime, but ends up discovering a crime by a private citizen, his lawbreaking actions are justified.
Because you are, of course, guilty until proven innocent. And cops, well, they’re just above it all.
Justice Clarence Thomas shrugged the whole thing off. In his words, Striefel was merely a victim of “good-faith mistakes,” and the illegal stop was nothing more than “an isolated instance of negligence.”
Not impressed by the rhetoric, Justice Sonia Sotomayor shot back: “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language. This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.
“Two wrongs,” she said, “don’t make a right.”
As mentioned, twenty-four states will be most affected by the ruling. They are the states with what’s called “stop and identify” statutes.
The hallmark of a police state is when citizens are stopped arbitrarily and told to show their “papers.” In a free society, citizens aren’t required identify themselves to the police if they aren’t actively engaging in a crime. It’s none of the police officer’s business.
But oh, how the seasons change.
This ruling is simply part of the larger trend. And another small step for the totalitarian tip-toe.
It is, as Vince puts it on the Truth Axis blog, “a disappointing continuation of the country’s never ending descent into a police state. Vast sectors of the U.S. population, particularly those demographics and communities that are targeted by the police, are now further exposed to legitimized violations of their rights. It seems appropriate that this case involves a narcotics investigation, as the victimless crime of drug possession has long been used as a tool to target and criminalize enemies of the state.
“Perhaps,” he goes on, “it’s time to create a coalition against consensual crimes to combat the rise of the police state.”
It’s an idea worthy of consideration.
Laws criminalizing victimless behavior, as Keith Preston points out on the Attack the System blog, “are the primary reason why the U.S. police state has grown dramatically in recent decades, and are the primary reason why the U.S. prison population is so large.
“We need to begin organizing a political coalition of all those impacted negatively by consensual crime laws for the purpose of repealing all of these laws across the board and at every level of government.
“My recommendations,” Preston writes, “would be these:
-Repeal of all laws criminalizing the possession and/or sale of drugs by and for adults, an end to drug prosecutions and arrests, and the release of all drug war prisoners.
-Repeal of all laws barring consensual adult prostitution, an end to all consensual prostitution prosecutions and arrests, and the release of all prisoners incarcerated for consensual prostitution offenses.
-The same set of recommendations as above with regards to gambling.
-The same set of recommendations as above with regards to the illicit production of alcohol (“moonshining”).
-The repeal of all laws pertaining to vagrancy, panhandling, or sleeping in public where this does not involve obstructing traffic, undue harassment, or trespassing on other people’s property.
-The repeal of laws barring consensual assisted suicide.
-The repeal of all laws banning smoking on private property if the owner wishes to allow smoking.
-The repeal of all nanny state regulations pertaining to foods, beverages, seat belts, or motorcycle helmets.
-The repeal of all laws barring sexual relationships between consenting adults (to the degree that any of of these remain).
-The repeal of all laws barring voluntary, consensual practice of polygamy.
-The repeal of laws criminalizing underage drinking or smoking.
-The repeal of compulsory school attendance laws.
-The repeal of mandatory Selective Service Registration for eighteen year olds.
-The repeal of laws criminalizing or banning alternative food or medical practices such as the use of raw milk or midwifery.
-An end to state harassment of unconventional religious sects.
-An end to the involuntary psychiatric incarceration of persons labeled “mentally ill” but who have not been convicted of a crime.
-An end to mandatory minimum sentencing.
-Dismantling of police SWAT teams.
-Informing jurors of their nullification rights.
There’s the rub: Without the freedom to lock up people for victimless crimes, the Police State would quickly become impotent.
Victimless crimes make up more than 80% of the federal prison population. Destroy the State’s power to arrest people for such activities, and you dismantle the Police State.
But this depends upon, more than anything, the maturity of the people.
“A free man,” Laurence Vance writes on the Lew Rockwell blog, “must be able to endure it when his fellow men act and live otherwise than he considers proper. He must free himself from the habit, just as soon as something does not please him, of calling for the police.
“The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.
“Victimless crime legislation requires a nanny state to enforce it. A nanny state must of necessity be a police state and therefore hostile to liberty. Real crimes that violate personal or property rights should be enforced to the fullest extent of the law; victimless crimes should be opposed root and branch.”
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
P.S. Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.