Thursday, April 24, 2008

The United Police State of America

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Things are getting worse under our right-wing government here in Canada, to be sure, but what's going on south of the border, in "the land of free," the active rolling back of liberty, is truly appalling (and deeply worrying). And here's the latest, a SCOTUS-sanctioned expansion of police powers:

The Supreme Court offered unanimous support for police Wednesday by allowing drug evidence gathered after an arrest that violated state law to be used at trial, an important search-and-seizure case turning on the constitutional limits of "probable cause."

"When officers have probable cause to believe that a person has committed a crime in their presence, the Fourth Amendment permits them to make an arrest, and to search the suspect in order to safeguard evidence and ensure their own safety," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.

David Lee Moore was stopped by Portsmouth, Virginia, officers five years ago for driving his vehicle on a suspended license. Under state law in such incidents, only a summons is to be issued and the motorist is to be allowed to go. Instead, detectives detained Moore for almost an hour, arrested him, then searched him and found cocaine.

At trial, Moore's lawyers tried to suppress the evidence, but the state judge allowed it, even though the court noted the arrest violated state law. A police detective, asked why the man was arrested, replied, "Just our prerogative."

While some of the justices expressed concern about that level of discretion at oral arguments in January, their 9-0 ruling raised few such doubts.

A unanimous ruling. Even the so-called liberals went along with this.

Now, the ruling was technical insofar as the case involved the relationship of state law to the Fourth Amendment, a relationship that is muddled. Still, what is clear is that the Supreme Court has pushed the United States ever closer to being an authoritarian state in which the police, and those who rule, have the "prerogative" to search and seize as they please.

(For more, see DWT.)

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home