Audio Clips

09 December 2011

Book to Read: The Rights of the People

I just reviewed a book by Tim Sandefur and today read a review he wrote about another book I'm going to have to read. Sounds like I'll need to take my blood pressure meds before I read it though. Here is an excerpt from Tim's review:

The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberties
By: David K. Shipler
Times Books, $27.95, 400 pages

Shipler surveys — with exceptional accuracy for a nonlawyer — the sad state of the law regarding searches and seizures, interrogations, and confessions; he also reports from the scene, riding the rough neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., with police officers who are quite conscious of what pressures they can exert, and what half-truths they can employ, to circumvent the spirit, while staying within the letter, of the law. In fact, by exploiting Fourth Amendment precedents, police officers can now search more or less at will. In Atwater v. City of Lago Vista (532 U.S. 318 (2001)), for example, the Supreme Court held the Constitution was not violated when a police officer handcuffed and arrested a Texas mother who was driving without wearing a seat belt. Because officers can search an arrested suspect and anyone in her immediate vicinity, the Atwater ruling gives police almost unlimited search powers. As then — Justice Janice Rogers Brown observed in People v. McKay (27 Cal. 4th 601, 632633 (2002) (concurring opn.)): "In the pervasively regulatory state, police are authorized to arrest for thousands of petty malum prohibitum 'crimes' — many too trivial even to be honestly labeled infractions.... Since this indiscriminate power to arrest brings with it a virtually limitless power to search, the result is the inevitable recrudescence of the general warrant."

Worse, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that warrants are not required when prosecutors seek to obtain information from third parties to whom a defendant voluntarily yields it. Since many people do not realize what information they are giving away — location information automatically beamed to their cell phone companies, for instance — they are far more vulnerable to snooping than they realize....

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