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The Fourth Article in Cyberspace

April 28, 2014

To be clear, the title is not a reference to how many postings I have found or written along any topical lines.  It is about the Fourth Article of the U. S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights (almost always erroneously called the Fourth Amendment, even by law scholars, despite the fact none of the first ten articles in the Bill of Rights were ever amendments and none are after they are ratified) and the Article’s implementation in cyberspace.  The short version of that is: search and seizure of digital memory by arresting police officers of accused criminals.  The Supreme Court is reviewing appeals concerning exactly this- and this, I cannot stress enough, is crucial in its ramifications for any and all future criminal prosecution.  As tethered as our society is to such things, it is only going to become more important.  The link is here: <http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/supreme-court-takes-police-power-search-cell-phones-n90046&gt;

It is enough to say the Supreme Court is going to decide whether or not police have the legal right to search (known as pilfering when a civilian does it) peoples’ cell phones, smart phones, or miscellaneous digital devices at the time of arrest.  This may seem minor and justified, but as in the case of any infringement on freedom, it is all in how this is done.  Even if it is done, it cannot be allowed to expand into greater infringements.  If history is any teacher, it surely is going to anyway…

The motivation to search peoples’ phone when arrested for comparably minor offenses is not unreasonable, and not even in contradiction with normal procedure.  I can’t say the police, or federal agents, would never have good cause to do so.  If that is the case, and it can be proven later, no enforcement officer should be prohibited from searching anything if the public good is sacrificed by the restriction; the guidelines for that would be complex, though, so be aware of that.  Barring such cases, search of anyone’s phone or other device while under arrest cannot be justified, especially when anything sought could be easily found by legal means or it is unlikely to produce evidence related to the cause of arrest.  If it is important enough to scan through a contact list or text message inbox, you can get a karking warrant.

Why is it dangerous not to require a warrant?  The first red flag could be the Obama administration wants more liberty with searching the private digital possessions during a citizen’s arrest.  Note the phrasing and how the executive branch wants more liberty.  Naturally, the citizen is left with less.  This desire for less control over executive authority comes from the same administration using drones to murder foreign nationals without any attempt to invoke international law to detain or try them in a legal manner; it is the same administration having asked for ambiguous language in a Congressional bill, in the past, so it could indefinitely detain Americans without any legal recourse; it ignored the spirit of the First Article by enacting a health care law which is Communist by definition- argue that if you want, you’ll lose; and the Chief Executive who permits at least three major figures in leadership to utterly fail without any punishment for criminal incompetency or gross neglect (Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, and Kathleen Sebelius, in case you wanted to know- Benghazi, Fast and Furious, and implementation of the ACA, respectively).

If the Obama administration leans for the police, and by extension federal agents, to have more power in arrest it shall be used unfairly by this administration and anyone else who wants to later.  It’s bad enough the police can take DNA samples without a warrant.  That screams of tyranny if only because it lets police use evidence otherwise inadmissible for court to link people to crimes not associated with known facts at the time of arrest.  That’s a bit long-winded, granted, but what I mean is the police are stretching to find guilt if they even want a DNA sample without some reason to think a person has one on file for a different crime than one is detained for.  My car was once pulled over for no reason except the state police dispatch misread the license plate and thought it was stolen- and at the time the plate was run, it was a residential street when there was no cause for reporting the plate in the first place, where the state police had no legal right to be on duty at all.  You see what I mean about unchecked executive power?

Another reason this search and seizure should be restricted is because it gives access to all sorts of information, and access to people known by the arrested person, having no bearing on the crime at hand.  If you are pulled over for a minor crime, no enforcement officer should have the right to see everything about your life and possibly all important records simply because they want to.  If it is pertinent and not liable to be tampered with by the arrested person, the warrant is enough.

Pay attention, people.  This is the spirit of your government at all levels.  Decisions like this Supreme Court case matter to us and our children.

 

** Another link gone… This is infuriating… **

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From → commentary, politics

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