Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Public Safety Exception

The Public Safety Exception

We’re hearing a lot of talk lately about the so-called public safety exception. And it should come as no surprise to us that, once again, the federal government wants to interpret (i.e., distort the meaning of) the law in its favor.

In the name of the (unending) Global War on Terror, of course.

It seems that the Obama administration now wants to be able to arrest and detain U. S. citizens suspected in acts of terrorism without first reading them their Miranda rights and without producing them in court, promptly, for arraignment.

Once again, our rights are disappearing. But I suppose that most Americans look at it this way: “Hey, if you’re not doing anything wrong, then you don’t have anything to worry about do you? . . . Can you please stop bothering me? I’m trying to watch the game . . .”

The so-called public exception clause to Miranda v. Arizona, the case which gave us the protection of being informed of our rights upon our being arrested, comes from the U. S. Supreme Court case of New York v. Quarles, in which the court stated that, in certain circumstances, in which public safety is a concern, evidence that is obtained by police officers before the suspect is read his Miranda rights can be allowed as evidence at the suspect’s trial. In particular, the evidence that was obtained, in this case, was a gun; a suspect with an empty shoulder holster having been asked by police “Where is the gun?” This is somewhat reasonable, because the police officer was concerned with his own safety at that moment. Once the suspect told police where the gun was, he was arrested and read his Miranda rights. The gun was allowed as evidence in court.

Perhaps, technically, the gun should not have been allowed as evidence. But then people who commit crimes should know not to tell the police anything, especially the location of the evidence of their crimes.

This public safety exception to Miranda allows only for a very small window of time before the suspect is read his rights, and not the indefinite window of time the Obama administration is now seeking.

Once again, the federal government is seeking new ways to rid us of our rights. No doubt the public exception will now be expanded, in the name of the (unending) Global War on Terror, to include an indefinite amount of time between the time of a suspect’s arrest and their arraignment before a judge in order to allow sufficient time for interrogation and interrogation methods.

But this was precisely what Miranda v. Arizona is supposed to prevent: a suspect being interrogated without being told first that they have the right to remain silent, that anything they say can and will be used against them in court, that they have the right to an attorney to be present before questioning, and that if they cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for them.

In short, the federal government now wants to get rid of these rights.

But hey, the Obama administration has already decided that it can assassinate U. S. citizens anyway. So who cares, right?

“Please be quiet . . . I’m trying to watch the game . . .”

Perhaps you don’t fear being arrested, or what may happen to you if you are. But you should.

It’s not always “the bad guys” who get arrested you know. Sometimes innocent people get arrested too.

These days, the bad guys are being defined rather nebulously as “terror suspects”. But what do those words mean anyway? Terror? Suspects?

In America, suspects have rights. And terror can, eventually, be defined-down to fit practically anyone (e.g., political activists, dissidents, agitators, reporters, journalists, sympathizers, printers, bloggers).

Perhaps even a fourteen year old autistic kid who draws a picture of a gun.

Governments always begin by first removing these rights from those of whom we might not approve (Jews, communists, criminals, terrorists), but we will, eventually, find that everyone has lost their rights. Which is why we should be concerned about terror suspects losing theirs. If they do, then we’ve really lost ours.

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