Bill of Rights Revisited

Now would be a magnificent time to revisit a document that helped make this country the free and, in theory at least, the honorable nation it is. This pinnacle of human achievement is called the Bill of Rights. With these words, our founders gave the American citizen powers and protections never before dreamed of in history. Why would I want to reexamine such an old and, supposedly, well known document? Because it is under attack as never before in our history.

As Benjamin Franklin stated so persuasively, "He who is willing to sacrifice a little freedom for a little security deserves neither." Nevertheless, we are allowing our elected representatives to subvert this wonderful body of laws to make us imagine we are acquiring some false sense of security.

The so-called "War on Drugs" is being used to remove certain protections the Bill of Rights have guaranteed us for over two centuries. The first is the Sixth Amendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

We have allowed our government to pass statutes called "No-Knock" and "No Warrant" laws which enable the police to break into our homes merely because of "suspicion" of illegal activity, completely without prior approval of the courts. All the officer has to later show is a "reasonable suspicion", with the officer empowered to decide what is "reasonable".

A recent occurrence in Miami demonstrates just how dangerous this new and fascist mind set can be. A plain-clothes officer shot and killed a woman in her own apartment after the patrolman kicked in the door, without verbally alerting the occupants of his identity, looking for a man who had just entered. The woman grabbed a licensed gun from a drawer and was killed when she shot at what she assumed was an armed intruder. What had aroused the officer's suspicion about the man he was following? He was a well dressed black, driving an expensive vehicle in a poor neighborhood and was known to be carrying cash. Obviously a drug dealer? Nope, an attorney visiting his sister. Another casualty of our obsession with ignoring the rights of the people in order to enforce unenforceable laws. Was the officer in any way censored for this murder? No, in fact he was supported by both the department and his union and never charged with any crime.

Next up is the Seventh Amendment:
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

In Astoria, Oregon a few years back, a fishing boat was seized after a Fish and Game officer noticed a 1/4" butt of a marijuana cigarette in an ashtray while inspecting the boat's catch. No additional drugs were found aboard. The courts never attempted to determine the joint's ownership nor did they file charges against anyone involved, they just seized the boat as a drug site, sold the boat at auction and put the proceeds in the local coffers.

Last year a man was arrested for soliciting an undercover policewoman in a prostitution sting. The car he was driving was taken and, again, sold at auction. The car, however, was his wife's. She not only did not know of his activities on that evening but, without the vehicle, was forced to quit her job and go on Welfare to support herself and children while her husband served his sentence.

These are but a few examples of our legal system gone crazy. We have, apparently, been convinced that any action the government embraces to force compliance with laws that cannot be enforced and has no visible victims, is okay. Of course, we also believe that these injustices can never happen to us, as well. We are the good guys, aren't we? The owner of the boat thought so, since he had not been on board but had hired the crew to run the boat and do the work. He lost his boat, though. The wife thought so, too, obviously.

Legally, if you hire someone to mow your lawn and they leave a small part of a joint beneath your bushes when they leave, which is then discovered by the local police, you can and probably will forfeit your home. If your mechanic drops a marijuana seed out of his pocket onto the floor of your car, you will be walking where ever you go. Pretty neat law, huh? You encouraged this stupidity by not fighting for your rights, you know? Enjoy the consequences!

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