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More reasons to worry in Bush's new Amerikkka (especially if black):

From the Associated Press for April 24, 2001:

"Clarifying the extent of police power in roadside stops, the Supreme Court held that officers can arrest and handcuff people even for minor offenses punishable by a fine. The justices ruled against a driver who was arrested and handcuffed for failing to wear a seat belt.

Such arrests do not violate the constitutional protection against unreasonable search, the court declared Monday. In the 5-4 ruling, which could affect anyone who drives a car, the justices said such an arrest does not violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable seizures.

Police generally can arrest anyone they see breaking the law, the court said as it barred a Texas woman from suing the officer who handcuffed her and took her to jail.

The Fourth Amendment protects "the right of the people to be secure ... against unreasonable searches and seizures." A lower court had ruled that Gail Atwater could not sue over her arrest because the officer did not violate her constitutional rights."

What was that about living in a police state? Oh, so you wanna complain about your civil rights being violated? You wanna complain about racial profiling? How would you like to spend the night in jail for not buckeling up? We're not talking about drunk driving, people, were talking about minor offenses.

If you want me, I'll be building a cabin in Montana.

Typically, misdemeanor crimes do not involve an arrest, and they do not involve a "breach of the peace," meaning nobody is injured or disturbed in any malicious way. There are some exceptions... in many states, possession of small amounts of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor offense, where you generally won't spend time in jail, but may be officially "arrested" for the record. Minor traffic crimes have long been considered unarrestable offenses, but a 5-4 decision by the United States Supreme Court has set the precedent for which law enforcement can decide whether or not to arrest somebody.

The case involved a woman who was driving without her seat belt (along with her two unbuckled kids). She was pulled over and didn't have her driver's license and proof of insurance (her purse had been stolen the day before), so she was arrested and released on bail for $310. David Souter, one of the most liberal members of the court, was on the side of the state, as were the four Conservatives -- Clarence Thomas, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, and Anthony Kennedy.

In general, a crime must involve a "breach of the peace" in order to be an arrestable offense. This has long been considered common law meaning that unless violence of some sort is involved, law enforcement will tread lightly. In refuting this common law idea, Souter pointed out the fact that British Parliament (before the founding of the US) allowed arrests for many simple offenses, such as "night walking", cursing, and negligent carriage driving. How this is supposed to make it clear why America should allow such arrests is beyond me.

The director of The Cato Institute (a Libertarian think tank), Timothy Lynch, had the best comment on the situation that I've found so far: "The Framers of our Constitution would frankly be startled by the Supreme Court's cavalier treatment of the legal threshold by which citizens can be deprived of their liberty and thrown in jail."

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