Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard the case of a man who was arrested and fined $250 for failing to provide his name to a police officer. The reason Mr. Hiibel was expected to identify himself was that the officer was “investigating an investigation.” Maybe the officer was absent from the police academy on the day they discussed probable cause. [Disclaimer: I’ve had the unpleasant experience of being unjustly handcuffed. Thankfully, judges tend to be better versed in the law than rent-a-cops.]
The National Archives has an excellent site on the Declaration, the Constitution, and - especially important here - the Bill of Rights. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments protect the relevant rights in this case: the freedom from unreasonable searches, the requirement of probable cause before a search, and the prohibition against being compelled to be a witness against oneself.
Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the USSR was justifiably pilloried by the demand-couched-as-a-request "Papers, please" as a recognition that personal freedom and public anonymity were nonexistent under their totalitarian government. Is our freedom of travel now subject to demands to produce our ID? Are we now presumed guilty rather than innocent? Is the darkness [see below] of police-state tactics we once mockingly disdained now closing in upon us? [The phrase "police state," by the way, is not meant derogatorily toward any individual law enforcement officers, but rather toward the totalitarian mentality that fosters these Ashcroftian abuses of power.]
Thanks for reading.
Quote of the Day:
"As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of darkness."
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas (addressing the Young Lawyers Section of the Washington State Bar Association, 10 September 1976)