Presumption of Guilt

In the best example of how dangerously conservative the Supreme Court has become, they just ruled that you can be strip searched if you are arrested for ANY reason. This includes traffic tickets, jay walking, anything. If you are taken in and booked into jail, they are allowed to strip search you. The rationalization given by the justices is that because someone MIGHT be trying to smuggle things into jails, everyone should be strip searched. This is about as far from the presumption of innocence as you can get. It’s also a license for abuse, since the police no longer have to worry that a case might get thrown out because they decide to repeatedly strip search a suspect.

It is kind of frightening how far to the right the Court has moved. Apparently, many of these justices stopped reading the Constitution after the 2nd Amendment. Over the past 30 years police have been granted powers that could easily be abused. While we haven’t heard of widespread abuse of these powers, history has shown, repeatedly, how quickly that can change. You may now be arrested simply for refusing to identify yourself. After arrest, you can be strip searched, no matter how insignificant the crime. When you talk to the District Attorney, he or she can threaten you with life in prison if you refuse to make a deal. This little trick has put hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people in jail. Then, once you’ve served your time, you can be denied employment, housing, and the right to vote. Even worse, if you are declared a terrorist by the Executive branch of our government, you can be imprisoned indefinitely. (The law says you can only be imprisoned until the end of hostilities, but how do you figure out when a ‘War on Terror’ is over?)

These kinds of changes to our system are dangerous, not just because of the powers they grant to the police, but because they call into question the social contract that is the basis for our system of justice. As a nation, we have always believed that it is better to let a guilty man go free than it is to imprison a free man unjustly. This was written into our constitution because we fought for our independence from exactly such oppression: searches, arrests, and imprisonment without due process.

Much of what has been done makes no sense. The Justices act as if the country is under siege and we are being attacked at every turn. While there are people who are trying to hurt America, and while every life lost fighting our enemies is a tragedy, in terms of actual numbers, more people die because of drunk driving than because of terrorist attacks. You are more likely to come into contact with the police than a terrorist. You should not be treated like an enemy of the state when you are pulled over for speeding.

What worries me the most is that it no longer seems like the justices on the Supreme Court are acting in the best interest of the country. I used to understand the decisions they made, even when I disagreed with them. That changed when Chief Justice Rehnquist chose to appoint George W. Bush the winner of the 2000 election, despite the fact that the vote showed that Al Gore actually won. I now believe that at least four of the justices are more concerned with having their team win than what effect their decisions have on our country.

It’s my hope that Barak Obama is re-elected and gets the opportunity to appoint more judges. If so, I hope he chooses wisely and selects jurists based on ability and not a political litmus test. If any branch of government needs to be non-partisan, it’s the Supreme Court.

About rben13

I'm a writer/programmer/QA Analyst living near Boston with my beautiful wife, Heather, and our two cats, Aran and Sam.
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