I had court today in the northern part of the county, where for the past two weeks there has been a massive search for Eric Frein, our own home-bred American terrorist. I expected road blocks and car searches, having heard from friends (and lawyers) who have been subjected to them, but there wasn’t much of anything. I guess the search has narrowed.
The judge and DA wanted to talk about this lawyer in the area who put up ads telling people who had been inconvenienced by the police to contact him so he could bring a big class action lawsuit. We all agreed that this kind of ambulance-chasing was terrible and made all lawyers look bad.
I pointed out though that he had a point. Most of these police stops were done without a warrant of any kind. While searching for this killer, they were asking people to open their trunks, asking for IDs, and even preventing people from getting to their own homes. I haven’t heard of anyone who did not comply (after all, everyone wants the police to get this guy) but what if someone had? What if the police looked into the car and found marijuana or something?
You see the dilemma — the police do not have the right to stop every vehicle absent judicial approval, and only after justifying it with probable cause. The people who were stopped were not suspects in any way.
You can’t look at the severity of the crime investigation to justify ignoring Constitutional requirements. After all, we could really fight crime if we allowed the police to stop every car without cause or search through our homes without reason. Military Law works great in China were there is only a fraction of the crime we have here — but there’s also a fraction of our freedom.
We have to say “no” at the more serious violations before they start using the same tactics for the menial crimes.