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Vandalizing the 4th Amendment

Posted By Joel Miller On 10/13/2000 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Richard Kimble, call your office

The Fourth Amendment vandals are at it again.


As Patrick Poole reported Wednesday
in WorldNetDaily, a new bill threatens to make the American people insecure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Apparently, the U.S. Marshall Service — the federal agency that stars Tommy Lee Jones — wants to expand its search powers in fugitive cases to more efficiently nab the Richard Kimbles of the world. The proposed “Fugitive Apprehension Act” would allow government agents to seize documents such as bank and credit records, Internet Service Provider records and notes scribbled on Macy’s receipts without constitutionally required search warrants or subpoenas from a court; instead, agents will be able to get subpoenas directly from the attorney general or her subordinates (I hope that doesn’t include office janitors).

Worse still, one provision of the bill allows agents to nab these documents and never let suspects know about the heist. “In other words,” explained David Kopel in a

National Review
article
on the new bill, “if your wife’s second cousin never showed up in court for his drunk-driving trial, the government could look at your bank records, telephone records and Internet records — without a court order and without ever telling you about most of the searches.”

So much for privacy.

What’s more, “There is absolutely no reason for this provision, because any agency pursuing a fugitive can go to court and get the search warrants they need almost immediately,” said Kopel in a WND interview. “What this provision does is cut the court out of the process, which is a very dangerous precedent. The Fourth Amendment envisions courts issuing warrants, not unaccountable bureaucrats.”

If you would like to sound off to your representative and senator about this dangerous measure, visit our

legislative action
center.

Your tax dollars a work
As columnist Thom Marshall sat in court waiting for a jury’s decision on the competency of a drug defendant, he wondered how much cash was being sucked up by the enterprise of justice that day. Using the low-end salary numbers he provides in his Sept. 22 Huston Chronicle column for the various officials involved, let’s work it out:

 

  • According to Marshall, the court-appointed attorney will get, at the outside, $1,100 for the case; we’ll drop it down to 1,000 for something even, then figure that with seven pre-trial appearances before even getting to the competency hearing, he probably scored no more than $125 per day on the job.

     

  • An assistant district attorney makes about $47,100 per year, so with 260 working days in a trip around the sun, that works out to about $181 a day.

     

  • At $33,800, the expert witness for the prosecution (a psychologist) makes about $130.

     

  • The expert witness for the defense (psychologist No. 2) expected to earn $750 for his contribution.

     

  • Our heaviest earner is, of course, the judge at $111,000, which makes his daily serving around $426.

     

  • Making a little less than half the impact on the ledger than the judge, the court reporter, at $52,020 a year, takes about $200 a day.

     

  • The court clerk sees his yearly $19,164 divvied daily down to $73.

     

  • As for bailiffs, assuming there’s only one, at $28,104 that figures out to roughly $108 for a rough day’s work.

     

  • The on-case mental health worker (for the defendant, of course) scores around $22,048 a year, making her daily draw total about $84.

     

  • And don’t forget our dutiful jurors; for 12 peers, each scoring a 6-buck per diem, the court shells out $72 per day.

     

So, totaling all of those numbers, for just the people mentioned, the court shelled out $1,949 that day on the competency hearing — not counting things like the overhead (gas, electric, etc.). Almost two thousand dollars.

What was the defendant accused of? Marshall provides a tidy list: “Did she kill or injure or threaten to hurt someone? Did she rob, burgle, cheat, forge checks or steal?” No, as it turned out, the charge leveled against the woman had more to do with going with a man — who later turned out to be an undercover cop — to purchase all of $10 worth of crack cocaine. Two grand for 10 bucks.

Oh, and it turns out, she’s mentally incompetent — can’t stand trial, anyway.

Selling dope to get stone
Not that going after harmless types isn’t a hallmark of the drug war. Along with all the bullet-drooling street thugs that get clotheslined by the long blue arm of the law, a good number of innocuous people get caught up in all of the hubbub, too.

Take George Edwards, 74-year-old pensioner in New Zealand. When the local housing authority refused his request to extend his driveway so he didn’t have to walk in the mud, he took the matter into his own hands.

To raise the funds needed to purchase the cement for the project, according to the Oct. 12 New Zealand Herald, Edwards turned his green thumb to raising and selling marijuana. He earned enough to finish the job, but police arrested him before the drive was completed. Sentenced this week to a suspended jail term, Edwards was, all things considered, happy. “Who is going to put an old fellow like me away?” he asked.

“I got a rap on the fingers for being naughty boy,” he added, saying that, “I just put it down to another experience in life.”

How come the drug warriors aren’t half so forgiving?

St. Smack
Some people take their drug trafficking fairly seriously — much more than George Edwards. Some even take it religiously, according to Lowell Bergman, series reporter for PBS’ fabulous Frontline documentary,

“Drug
Wars,”
which ran Monday and Tuesday of this week.

How religious? “Well, when you travel to a place like Culiacan, Mexico,” says Bergman, “it’s a shock to find the drug industry so ingrained in the popular culture that there’s a patron saint of drug smuggling — Jesus Malverde.”

I wonder what you pray to a saint like that:

 

    Our heroin, which art in balloons
    Swallowed be thy game
    Thy delivery come, thy sale be done
    On corner as it is in street …

I’m curious about how that plays in Sunday School.


Other ‘Straight dope’ columns:


“Look out for Big Narc”


“Gen. McCaffrey’s checkmate”

 



Joel Miller’s entire drug war archive


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