How the Police State Mentality Ruins Even Good Ideas…

(Some of) the opponents of this particular example of the Police State of America are wrong. This is NOT a breach of the Fourth Amendment.
Although an obviously unreasonable and disproportionate method, it does not constitute “unreasonable search and seizure” in the legal sense, providing they have probable cause, which, in cases of DUI ought to be obvious…

It is, however, unquestionably, a blatant breach of the Fifth. They are forcing citizens to incriminate themselves despite their explicit refusal to consent. So, when these cases reach the Supremes, assuming that they haven’t all gone over to the dark side, the police assaults and forcible blood sampling will be struck down, as they obviously deserve to be.

The shame is that they were pursuing a worthy cause, but the bully instinct kicked in to ensure they fucked it up. This is what happens to a country when war criminal political leaders mandate torture and prolonged detention without trials and nothing happens to correct or even acknowledge those political crimes. If they can get away with it…

DUI is a vastly more serious and effective threat than terrorism.

More Americans are killed every year, by drunk drivers than all other violent causes. Just under ten thousand a year (pdf). Against 8874 homicides by gun. Terrorists, of course, haven’t managed to kill more than a few dozen American Citizens a year, (31.1 on average), since their peak year of 2001. Which is less than 10% of those Americans who die at the hands of their own Police Incidentally, the “War on Terror” is obviously working. Immediately after 2001 the Terrorist Kill Rate (against Americans) was reduced to about the same level as Whooping Cough, (which killed 26 Americans in 2010) where it has remained ever since. Imagine what they could achieve if they spent the same trillions on preventing road deaths. Or Global Hunger and preventable diseases…

They already make it a condition of the application for a Driving Licence, that if suspected of DUI, drivers MUST submit themselves to a breathalyzer test OR face a driving ban of 1 year. The opponents of that law argue a similar case to my objection to forced blood sampling: it is coercion intended to persuade citizens to incriminate themselves.

That is true. Like “plea bargaining”, it just looks better because there is no overt physical bullying involved. And if there is no prima facie evidence that an offence took place; i.e. no probable cause, then I would also favour refusal to comply.

The situation is dramatically different, however, in those cases where there is good reason to suspect DUI. Assuming the alleged high conviction rate of the (in my view, illegally) sampled victims was not merely another feature of the corruption in the American legal system, there obviously was reasonable evidence of DUI.

Now, in that situation, it is not dissimilar to having cctv footage of, say, a drug store hold up where the thief makes off with the contents of the till and is apprehended by the police as he tries to run away. No one, presumably, is going to argue that the police aren’t entitled to search the suspect for weapons and the stolen goods. Nor, if he refuses to comply, is anyone likely to object to his subsequent arrest and forcible search. All under the sensible terms of “probable cause”.

So what’s the difference, if the police dash-cam records a car swerving bizarrely as they follow it down the highway, and eventually record it smashing into a parked car? We have probable cause, better recorded, we hope, than the cctv, and an obvious offence.

In those circumstances – and it cannot be stressed too highly that it must be ONLY in those circumstances (not applicable, for example, for “random” stops or where the cop merely “claims” to have smelt alcohol in the vehicle) – we WANT the police to arrest the bugger. And, given the prima facie evidence, it is perfectly reasonable to suspect the involvement of alcohol and request a breathalyzer sample.

If the suspect refuses to comply in those circumstances, I would argue that the suspect is in precisely the same situation I regard the authorities to be in permanently. i.e. they are suspected of a crime with strong circumstantial evidence to sustain the suspicion. They now have the ability to prove themselves innocent, with the breathalyzer. If they choose not to take that opportunity, I have no problem assuming their guilt.

The key issue is the quality of evidence on which the “probable cause” is based. That is a matter for a jury to decide. If they see the video evidence and cannot figure out why the cop stopped the suspect, then the suspect walks free, regardless of refusal to comply. But if it’s bleedin’ obvious, from the evidence presented to the jury, why the suspect was stopped and that any reasonable person would have suspected DUI, then the jury can reasonably decide that refusal to comply amounts to a confession of guilt and convict accordingly.

Note the two protections: good quality evidence and, in the event of refused compliance, trial by jury. The good quality evidence is required to prevent abuse of power in the form of police harassment. Trial by jury is required to prevent abuse of power in the form of judicial collaboration with rogue police.

Put all that in place and we begin to have what looks like an effective and honest legal system. Don’t hold your breath…

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About Harry Stottle
Refugee from the Stumbleupon Blogicide of October 2011 Here you will find my "kneejerk" responses to the world and what I happen to bump into. For my more detailed considerations and proposals, please visit my website or my previous main blogging site.

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