The average person has plenty to occupy them, from work, family obligations, entertainment and so on. The last thing most of us want is any sort of entanglement with the government, in any guise. Even commonplace interactions, as benign as they may be, nonetheless may cause us some level of discomfort. Whether it is jury duty, renewing a driver license or some other mundane episode involving officialdom, we usually feel relief once past it.
Cops, of course, can ratchet up the sense of unease, whether we are behind the wheel, in a store or just sitting at home minding our own business. Sadly, too many have learned the hard way that we aren’t necessarily safe even in our own homes. Thankfully that is fairly rare when compared to other incidents, the much more common being a traffic stop.
What happens during such a stop can be controversial, to say the least. We have a basic understanding that the legislative body makes laws and the executive branch enforces them. That takes slightly different forms depending on the government, e.g. at the federal or state (or municipal) level. But, the basics are similar, including the third arm being there to settle disputes and clarify issues, aside from administering justice.
How well that works out is debatable. Just one example is what the courts have said regarding contacts between police and those they stop. Specifically, regarding searches. One might argue that, in some ways, the courts themselves have a hand in making law, simply because they shape the laws. They tell us what the laws actually mean, what a police officer may do, what rights we may or may not have.With a trend of ever more deference given law enforcement by the courts, conversely, we the people have suffered greater loss of freedoms. A review of some highlighted cases can help us get a better idea of how this has happened. Click To Tweet
Legal Highway Robbery
We should also note that this is an ongoing process. A judge or panel of judges will rely on precedent, previous cases, to craft their response in the current case. So, one thing leads to another. Sometimes, this can yield a change in direction, based on different interpretations or a changed legal, political or social environment. More often, we just get the same thing but more of it.
So, with a trend of ever more deference given law enforcement by the courts, it should be no surprise that, conversely, we the people have suffered greater loss of freedoms. A review of some highlighted cases can help us get a better idea of how this has happened.
According to SCOTUS, it is more realistic for an untrained civilian to know their rights, which are apparently subject to constant change, than it is for professional police officers to inform drivers of their rights to refuse a search.
Beginning with the traditional “probable cause” protection of the Fourth Amendment, we see that chipped away at in 1968 with the “stop-and-frisk” rule of Terry v. Ohio. Sixteen years later, in 1984, The DEA launched Operation Pipeline, relying on the less restrictive “reasonable suspicion” criteria.
Other cases followed: Florida v. Bostick in 1991, Whren v. United States in 1996, Atwater v. Lago Vista in 2001 and Illinois v. Caballes in 2004. With each one, our rights have been further curtailed, stripped by the courts, essentially sanctioning highway robbery by government.
Read more on this at Federal Judges Are Waging War on the Fourth Amendment.