• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

A little bit violated

Police are going to be out in force to make the roads safer over the Thanksgiving season, and they're just going to violate the Constitution a little tiny bit to do it:

In an effort to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on Indiana roadways during the 2008 Thanksgiving holidays, the Rensselaer Police Department will join with thousands of law enforcement officers representing more than 250 state and local law enforcement agencies to promote safe family travel. This statewide campaign will take place from Nov. 14 to Nov. 30.

Through high-visibility patrols, sobriety checkpoints and other enforcement efforts designed to deter impaired driving particularly during the high-risk nighttime hours, law enforcement officers across the state will be on the look out for those who drive while impaired or intoxicated during this high-risk time.

But the constitutional violation has been endorsed by the Supreme Court, so it must be OK. The Fourth Amedment prohibits search or seizure without reasonable suspicion, and sobriety checkpoints by definition target people at random. The checkpoints do come under the Fourth's provisions -- that's what Chief Justice William Rehnquist said in a 1990 case as his court voted 6-3 in favor of the checkpoints. After all, it's just a small violation of the Constitution (a "minimal intrustion in individual liberties" is the way Rehnquist put it, which sounds a whole lot like "a little bit pregnant" to me), and that must be weighed against the need for and effectiveness of the DUI roadblocks.

The end justifies the means, don't you know, so let's just ignore the Constitution or make its requirements up as we go along -- never mind, as one dissenter pointed out, that a careful review of statistics on DUI checkpoints found their net effect was minimal and perhaps even negative (if the drunks know where the checkpoints are -- and word does get around -- that encourages the most reckless among them to stay on the road and just drive elsewhere).

And this was the Rehnquist court deciding what policy should be and starting from there instead of using the Constitution as a guide. By such little steps do we start accepting the erosion of liberty as the Constitution loses its meaning. And Barack Obama has vowed to appoint justices who will turn the erosion into a landslide.


Jim Wetzel
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 10:19am

"And Barack Obama has vowed to appoint justices who will turn the erosion into a landslide."

Mr. Obama has vowed that? Really? That's not good.

Do you have a link to a source for that vow?

Bob G.
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 10:29am

Well, it is called REASONABLE SUSPICION...for a reason.
(I would refer everyone to J. Shane Creamer's book: The law of Arrest, Search and Seizure...any edition)

I'd just like to see the police patrol my area at specific times and dates JUST SO they could find a lot more of that "reasonable suspicion" the Constitution talks about.
They'd get this city out of the potential hole it's about to dig (financially-speaking) in NO time!

Then again, I always also did like juvenile curfews.

But we really wouldn't need that OR sobriety "checkpoints" IF people practiced a tad more self-control and took a little more personal responsibility (there's THAT phrase again).

We're sure not in Kansas anymore, right Toto?


Leo Morris
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 11:07am

Jim -- I can only refer you to Proverbs 12:16.

tim zank
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 1:23pm

Bartleby...I think in the editorial sense, the line Leo used "And Barack Obama has vowed to appoint justices who will turn the erosion into a landslide." might be termed an "OPINION".


Go poke your stick in someone elses's eye.

Jim Wetzel
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 2:08pm

Well, Tim, when I read that John Doe or Barack Obama or Joe the Plumber or Leo the Editor has said (or "vowed," or whatever) something, that doesn't sound like an opinion to me. That sounds like a declarative statement. Maybe it's an interpretation of Obama's words, but some words must have been said. I just wondered what those words were. I was hoping to read them for myself. I thought it was a reasonable question, particularly when asked of an allegedly professional journalist. I still think so.

As for you: go poke your stick up your ass.

tim zank
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 9:31pm

Ok Jim, now read this very slowly, Leo's post consistes of two things, one is the copy of the article Leo refers too, it's kind of in the center of the post and is indented a little and the font looks a little different.

The larger font before and after is Leo's OPINION. I'm no journalist, but me thinks an opinion requires no links or "citations".

Perhps if we preface every post for you with: In my opinion, would that help ya out Bart??? Ain't exactly rocket science is it?

Jane Lawrence
Thu, 11/13/2008 - 9:47pm

Gee, Jim, you don't show up very often, but when you do, you sure add a touch a class.