Sunday, July 17, 2011

DUI Checkpoints - A MADD, MADD, MADD, MADD World - of Oppression

With new block grant money funding the regime from afar, people need to prepare themselves again for those pesky DUI checkpoints, because those liberty infringement devices are increasingly the rage in local law enforcement.  It is ironic that the 4th of July weekend devoted to “liberty,” or at least to its superficialities and lip service, brought us governmental procedures that are the very antithesis of liberty.  Checkpoints are not popular among police agencies because they are effective, because statistically they are not.  They are popular because they are funded by grant funds from Sacramento, that come from Washington, DC, that had been taken from us back here; it is a big, costly circle that your and my money has traveled with which to then screw over you.  We hear the state and the feds are virtually broke, but they have money to invade your liberties with this repressive regime.
The grant system is one of the greatest evils in public policing, because grants are essentially a political bounty for pressing certain types of cases; the merit of the case does not matter; the filthy lucre funding its processing drives the affair.  And nowhere is the evil more manifest than in drunk driving, DUI, DWI, or whatever label.  One frequently visiting judge is so hysterically opposed to calling the crime “drunk driving” that he commands that the term not be used in his court, even though the courts of appeal and supreme court calls the subject matter “drunk driving,” as does the index labeling in the state published Vehicle Code
MADD, the lineal descendants of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of old, which gave us Prohibition and the 18th Amendment, are furious that the 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition, but their neo-Prohibitionism is even more dangerous than its ancestor oppression.  They have, with phony statistics and threats of placard-laced demonstrations, conned or intimidated legislators, judges, DAs, and cops into increasing harshness regarding drunk driving, and so they all lose their soul in the evil bargain, because much of what is pressed is based on fraud and victimization.
Now, we hear, that they have a booth erected at some of the checkpoints to make sure their vision of government oppression to serve their religio/political agenda is carried out faithfully.  I wonder if a booth of Constitution truth-tellers would be welcome at those sites too, or if we would be arrested for “obstructing” what passes for “justice” these days?
Of course, if the Framers’ will be done, civilian jurors would be protecting accusees from this sort of [and other] governmental overreaching, but jurors have increasingly lost their independence and have come to believe that their government is good, reliable, trustworthy, and to be heeded.  Yeah, idiotic as it sounds, people on juries cannot seem to see, or do not want to believe, the corruption in their very presence, and in their collective names.  Perhaps their own sense of security would be lessened if they came to understand how corrupt their government is in these things, but their lack of institutional skepticism has dangerously undermined the very foundation of our jury trial system.  At the same time that we see an emergence of lip service to Framers’ intents, such as with the Tea Party and other superficial “originalism”-advocating groups, we inconsistently see a diminishment in faithful attention to the standards undergirding the Republic.
The truth of the matter is that government makes a bundle from drunk driving, between the block grant moneys from DC, to the penalty assessments on the fines [now about 400% of the base fine, if not more, some of which goes to build and improve courtrooms to house the “neutral” judges handing out the fines!], to the various fees, to the costs of the rehabilitation programs, to the need for more DAs and judges to try the matters.  The fiscal corruption underlying DUI investigation and enforcement would make Bernie Madoff look like Mother Teresa in comparison.
“But what of the dangers of drunk driving?”  Garbage!  The system, at the insistence of the pushy harpies from MADD, have created the category of “alcohol-related [accidents, deaths, incidents, etc.]” in place of drunk-driver-caused [same],” because the incidence of those things being actually “caused” by drunk drivers is miniscule, and that truth would undermine their political agenda.  But something gets entered into the stats as being “alcohol-related” if a sober driver hits a drunk pedestrian; if a sober driver’s drunk uncle in the back seat is thrown out when the car flips over because its tire fell off; if a drunk driver is sitting lawfully at a light and a sober driver negligently or intentionally runs into him; etc.: that category, “alcohol-related,” has nothing to do with who caused what.  Yet those “alcohol-related” stats are the ones that supply the pneumatic numbers that make everyone go nuts about drunk driving.
Drunk driver caused accidents are in single digit %-ages, which would not help the MADD harpies, nor the block grant ghouls, nor the legions of government employees and private service-providers who profit from DUI enforcement and prosecution and conviction.
So, what of checkpoints – they are legal, are they not?  Well, it all depends on what you mean by “legal.”  Do you mean have politician judges said they are okay these days, or would the Framers have tolerated them?  The Framers would not have tolerated such a suspicionless invasion of privacy.  As Justice Clarence Thomas, a student of the Constitution whose scholarship on the subject is almost as faithful and pure as mine, has opined, “I rather doubt that the Framers of the Fourth Amendment would have considered ‘reasonable’ a program of indiscriminate stops of individuals not suspected of wrongdoing.”  But, you see, most judges, even up to the U.S. Supreme Court, are politicians; few are scholars, and even fewer are faithful to the founding principles.
And those politician judges have decreed that a “properly” erected and run[!] checkpoint is “legal,” just as other politicians have found it beneficial to set up the scheme in the first place, just as other judges in earlier times found “separate but equal,” and preemptive imprisonment based on race, and property ownership in human beings legal and constitutional.  But even the checkpoints that have passed constitutional muster have to be properly erected and executed; DUI checkpoints are not per se legal; warrantless liberty infringements are still per se illegal, absent justification being carried by the government.  On my recent, too brief appearance on a television news program, the anchor closed by asserting that the Supreme Court has ruled that checkpoints are lawful.  That is a gross overstatement; so gross in its overstating the issue as to constitute a misstatement.  A specific regime of conduct and standards must faithfully be adhered to, or they are flatly unconstitutional, as we have proven time and time again.
Then too, the fact that judges say something is okay to serve transient political interests is no more a guarantee of correctness than would the reading of the Bible by the late Osama Bin Laden make him a Methodist.  But, again, even in the result-oriented constructs by modern political judges, the checkpoints do have to be properly erected and run, and very few are, and hence the fruits of their operations are suppressible, if attacked by a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, even under the watered down constitutional standards of the neo-Prohibitionist judges.
But beware, if/when you go through them.  First off, watch, look, and listen, and if you see one ahead, turn off; that is legal, provided you don’t make an illegal u-turn or go up over a curb or something of the sort.  Don’t give the constabularial ghouls the opportunity to tell you to stop, tell you to wait, tell you to go, tell you to blow into their hands, command you to answer questions, etc.  And, you see, that is part of what is going on here.  Cops like the checkpoints, whether they get any arrests out of them or not, because they then have the chance to play “we’re the Man; we’re in charge of your freedom” to the citizens thus stopped and inconvenienced and harassed.  This is an exemplar of police statism, not public safety.
The fact of the matter is that communities that do not receive these grant funds do not do checkpoints on their own dime, because across-the-board dragneting of that sort gives miniscule results for the efforts expended.  There might be 500-800 citizens stopped at checkpoints while going about their business, and from that will come only 1-3 DUI arrests, if that many; a recent three checkpoints stopped 2500+ cars and got 6 DUI arrests out of them.  2500 cars could translate to 2500-10,000, or more, citizens arrested in their otherwise free movements to serve this political show.  Every police chief worth his stars [and some wear five, like General of the Army Douglas MacArthur!] will confess that saturation patrols are far, far more effective in apprehending the few true drunk drivers than are checkpoints.
So, first try to avoid it by turning off onto a side street, in a controlled fashion.  If you get stuck in one and get approached by the police, have your license, registration, and proof of insurance information readily available, and hand them over when asked [without fumbling], and say you do not want to talk, period.  You don’t have to talk; you don’t have to say where you are coming from or going to or whether you have had anything to drink, nor should you, ever.  Politely decline to say anything.  You do not have to be given your Miranda rights before you are free not to talk; and you do not need to be given them before what you blab about can be used against you, unless or until you are actually in custody – then they have to advise you of your right to remain silent.  I am advising you now: shut up.  It never, ever helps to talk to the cops.  They make money from arresting you; they make nothing from letting you go, and they will not.
If they then shunt you over to the investigation line, have controlled operation of your vehicle, be polite, but answer no questions, say nothing, and do not perform any objective symptoms [field sobriety] tests – you have a right to refuse, and politely do so, on advice of counsel, this counsel!  Those “objective symptoms” tests are not “objective” anyway; they are subjectively judged by the cop administering them, and once he decides to give them to you, he has decided to arrest you, with the tests merely used to ratify his fixed decision.  If anyone tries to suggest later that you did not perform those tests because you must have felt guilty, your position always must be that you did not do them solely because a knowledgeable attorney told you they are invalid, unreliable, and a trick to make innocent people look guilty; you know they have no validity, which is the only reason why you declined to participate. 
One of the field sobriety tests is the hand-held breath device.  They have to tell you of your right to refuse that test, and you always should refuse it: those junk meters are to blood alcohol percentages what tea leaf reading is to truth, and many of them can be manipulated by the operator to give false high readings.
If you are arrested, of course, you have to submit to a breath or blood test, upon demand of the officer.  Ask for breath, and then a back-up urine test, which is your right.  When they say you cannot have a back-up urine test, politely request that the officer record that you have requested it.  Then say nothing else.  Again, anything you say to the police can and will be used against you, either in the order you said it, or in any order that helps their case.  The cops are not there to help you.  They are there to put DUI cases together and to advance their power-expanding agenda.  They make money by putting cases together; they make no money by being nice to you and letting you go, so they will not.  Ever.
Checkpoints are tyranny, DUI arrests and convictions are the product of evil maneuvers by purposeful people, and all aspects of both the stop and of the prosecution are fightable.  Do not cave in, or else evil people will thereby be emboldened to harass others.
If you get arrested, the cop will give you a pink sheet of paper, which is your temporary license: the arrest has triggered a presumptive suspension, which will activate 30 days after the arrest, if you do not call DMV within 10 days of the arrest and ask for a hearing.  Do NOT wait for the criminal case to be filed; that ten days is a hard and fast rule, so unless you are going to immediately hire counsel, make the call yourself, or a four or twelve months suspension will be triggered automatically, and solely by your failure to call within ten days of your arrest.
If you do get snagged at the checkpoint and arrested, there are things to be done, if you have the right lawyers.  Call us.  Anybody who has passed the Bar exam can represent people accused of drunk driving, which is no guarantee that they are competent, and most charlatans will convince you to plead guilty; few of us are skilled enough and motivated enough and gutsy enough to stand with you against the drunk driving political combine [police, DAs, judges, legislators, rahabilitationists, probation officers].  Getting the right lawyer can be costly, but not as costly, in the long run, as all of the manifold downsides of a drunk driving conviction.
If you need brain surgery, submit not to a mere physical therapist just because the latter is superficially cheaper.  We are the brain surgeons in this [and other criminal] matter.
One troubling side note here is the recent penchant for high-profile people [actors, politicians, sports figures] to plead guilty to drunk driving, even on low BACs, on advice of counsel who have no knowledge of DUI law and facts, because that sends a message to motorists that the allegations cannot be fought and won, and to jurors that anyone with a BAC over .08% in government-created evidence should just fall on their sword and plead guilty.  There are all sorts of fightable issues in drunk driving, not the least of which is that a governmentally maintained and possessed breath device that reads .08% or .19%  does not mean that is an accurate BAC at any time, nor that it reflects what the BAC was at time of driving.
The biggest fight for liberty here is against the politically manufactured prejudice in the public about the subject, not against the highly suspect and manipulated and concocted evidence.
The 4th of July needed to be about more than parades and flags and fireworks [which were too costly for some communities to fund this year, but there was your money to fund checkpoints!]; it needed to be about liberty, and the current anti-DUI mania and actions of government is quite the opposite of the legacy the Framers thought they were leaving us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

What Happened to Judicial Neutrality?

One of the fundamental propositions of constitutional propriety in this Republic is that the judiciary is supposed to be neutral, which is a different notion from "independence of the judiciary." The doctrine of independence surrounded the founding query of whether the judiciary was to be a part of the legislative branch or of the executive branch, and, as we know, the question was resolved that it would be its own "independent" branch. But that does not, in and of itself, speak to neutrality.
Neutrality implicates the expectation that the judges will start their analysis of matters coming before them without a leaning in any direction - that what comes from the judicial effort is based on the evidence introduced in the respective proceeding. The one caveat of that is the framing notion, most clearly laid out in Federalist 78, that one of the prime functions of the judiciary is to protect individuals from overweening government. So, to the extent there is non-neutrality, it is in favor of the individual and disfavor of the government.

But that founding notion has been shifting over the past decades, maybe since the mid-70's and the appointment of the Nixon supreme court justices [Burger was already there, then Rehnquist, Blackmun, and Powell], in criminal law matters, such that now most judges at all levels are police groupies.  Most judges have never seen a cop they don't like or trust, while simultaneously they aggressively distrust witnesses brought in by the defense.  

Many years ago, one of our courts appeal had the guts to write that there cannot be a presumption of credibility on the part of police witnesses, because policeman have a clear stake in the outcome of the cases they put together and investigate and present.   And that is, of course, self-evident.   And the case that pointed out that credibility undermined stake in the outcome of cases was cited by two supreme court justices, in dissent but without contradiction by even the most pro-cop justice, as evidence of the "prevalence of police perjury" in criminal investigations.   PREVALENCE!

And yet, you will look hard and long before you find a judge these days who will voice skepticism of a police witness.   However, you do not need to look far to find judges who mistrust defense witnesses and exhibit disdain for them.

Just today, the government put on their version of a serious criminal matter at a preliminary hearing, and then one of the defendants' sweet Dad got up and gently and honestly made two critical statements that potentially undermined the government's case, and in argument afterwards the judge opined that he was not sure he believed the sweet old man!   Having faithfully and deeply and earnestly studied the Constitution for decades [some believe for centuries!], I lost it with that aggressive dismantlement of my fundamental charter!!  And that is flatly rude to boot: to tell a man you don't trust him because he is subpoenaed by the defendant's side is disrespectfuly of the dignity of the man.  Ironically, the judge was taken aback because I would suggest he was being prejudiced; he cared not about the human dignity of the man whom he tarred as a liar because he was called by the defense!  The judge's own words defined his leaning; I needed not manufacture it.

I am sick and tired of the judiciary here acting like the investigating magistrates of, say, Italy, where they lead the prosecution in its task.   Judges who do not want to subscribe to and embrace and serve their intended, indeed mandated, role of neutrality need to get the hell off of the bench and go into [or for so many of them BACK into] prosecution or police work. The pro-prosecution bent of the judiciary is patently palpable and it has to stop here and now.

Many of us have sworn to uphold the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, but I can assure you there are far, far more domestic enemies of my Constitution than foreign ones.   I have little to fear from distant mullahs; we all have a great deal to fear from pro-prosecution judges who voice distrust against witnesses who undermine government cases, all the while piously pretending neutrality, balance, and presumption of innocence for the defendants.

It is known by professional tiger trainers that no matter how well they have bonded with their charges, when a tiger's eyes turn green, everybody needs to haul out of the cage, because the tiger is set to commence a period of blind rage that cannot be quenched by even all the king's horses and all the king's men. He needs to be let alone, lest limbs be let loose from the most convenient bodies. When it comes to me Constitution, my eyes are always green.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ruminations On Law: The Anthony Verdict; It is as it Should Be

Ruminations On Law: The Anthony Verdict; It is as it Should Be: "There are many messages communicated by the Casey Anthony trial and its outcome, but the most importent one is that the hue and cry erupting..."

The Anthony Verdict; It is as it Should Be

There are many messages communicated by the Casey Anthony trial and its outcome, but the most important one is that the hue and cry erupting from the acquittals reveals that the Framers’ notion that freedom would lie with civilian juries interposed between government and a person’s liberty is in peril. Convictions were intended to be few and far between and difficult to obtain, as evidenced from the presumption of innocence, with the burden of proof on the government, and with an accused’s entitlement to an acquittal if the government did not carry their burden beyond a reasonable doubt, while never an entitlement of government to receive a conviction even if there was enough evidence, and with a strict rule that none of the burden could be carried by compelling evidence from the lips of the defendant. The final protection of the populace is the power of the jury to disregard everything that the judge says about the law and to deem technically guilty people not guilty, a power that the courts vigorously and jealously refuse to tell the jury about, but one which preceded the very framing of the Constitution and still exists.
Juries were to be skeptical of government [and government includes judges!], and the default was to be with liberty. But in our growing “Sieg Heil!” society, where citizens and judges alike are increasingly groupies of cops and of The Man, we have turned on its head the greatest protection we all had against tyranny, that the default position in the Republic is with the individual and against government, with liberty and against power.
The outcome of this trial is precisely what it should have been, where the government concedes that it does not know the cause of death and that it cannot rule out accident. In retort by the reactionary mob, much is sought to be made of the fact that Anthony is a liar and of a suggestion she is a slut. Interesting thing about lying in the public sphere: cops, DAs, judges, criminalists and other experts, and politicians at all levels from president on down, can lie, and they do, with nary a downside, but if an accused is found to lie about stuff, that signals his or her death warrant. Wow, that’s a curious and dangerous coda. Yeah, yeah, she was a party girl too. Being a party girl and slut and liar does not add up to the requisite proof that she is a murderer, nowhere nearly. It shows she is a liar, and verdicts went against her on that score.
We know that something obviously happened to little Caylee, but what, and by whom, and exactly when we know not. And that is why a highly political DA’s office would try to highlight the claimed lowlifeness of the defendant, as a substitute for evidence. If you can stir up the passions and prejudices of the jury, even though you are ordered not to do so, then maybe they will be hoodwinked and infuriated into voting guilty, which happens more than people would want to know; it happens all the time, across this Fruited Plain.
Thank God! we had a jury that was not of the government groupie outlook on life, but one that instead displayed the “prove it; show me” animus that was intended to be part of the jury’s duty, but which is sorely missing these “law and order” days.
Being an armchair juror is kind of fun, because you see much more than the real jury sees, and you can bloviate and tisk-tisk endlessly, without having to concern yourselves with the downside of poor judgment. The jurors were told they had to have an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge, based on what they saw in the courtroom, or the defendant was entitled to an acquittal. And she got it.
Does this mean Casey is innocent? None of us is innocent. The criminal justice system does not deal with “innocence,” but rather either with the default and baseline of not guilty, or with the heavy-carried guilty. This is a case in which guilt was not sufficiently proven; it is not one in which innocence was at all proven. And that is the rule of the game, that is the law, a more powerful and fundamental rule and law than the definition and punishment for murder, so “law and order” types should celebrate, not berate.
Was Justice done? What is Justice? If its definition as a constitutional construct encompasses the notion that we all remain free unless or until the government proves properly and sufficiently to our peers that our freedom is not deserved, based on found facts, then Justice surely was done. If your definition of Justice is roughly that of the self-righteous inquisitors in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, maybe Justice was not done. Only your soul, or its absence, can define that for you.