Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What the Ninth Circuit Court Doesn't Know

Did you know...

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway - and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements.
Neither did I. While I wasn't a stellar student during Civics class, I don't remember the government having this power.

Do you?

Was I misinformed in that aforementioned civics class? Granted, we didn't spend a lot of time on criminal law, but we did cover the Constitution. Or at least, what used to be the Constitution.

Oh, and where did I find this article that sounds like the drug-fueled rantings of some crazed conspiracy theorist?

I thought you'd never ask.

How about Time Magazine via Yahoo?

I don't know about you, but there's something that's just not right with this story.

This case began in 2007, when Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle's underside.
While it's great that the DEA agents were hot on the trail of a suspected drug dealer, they forgot one teensy, tiny little detail: what they did, all without a warrant, was blatantly illegal and unconstitutional. These agents should be in a jail cell.

What is clear to you and me somehow escapes the fine legal minds of the Ninth Circuit bench. If the agents had a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, they were required by the Constitution to obtain a search warrant from a judge. If they failed to do that, then any and all actions that followed would not be allowed as evidence in court and would open up the agents to prosecution for violating someone's civil rights.

Or, at least that's the way it used to be.

Without a good foundation in Constitutional law (not Constitutional case law, as has been taught for generations), we can expect more of these types of clear abuses. If you've read our Constitution, you may have noticed the absence of obscure legal language. It was written so as to be readily understood by anyone.

All laws should be clear and unambiguous.


And it is, for the most part. But what has happened in the years since is a travesty. You need look no further than the recent Health Care bill to see what is wrong with our country's legal system today. Thousands of pages of this:

‘(ii) AGGREGATION- In the case of persons treated as 1 employer under subparagraph (C)(i), only 1 reduction under subclause (I) or (II) shall be allowed with respect to such persons and such reduction shall be allocated among such persons ratably on the basis of the number of full-time employees employed by each such person.’.
Does that look like anything related to the plain language in the Constitution? How are we supposed to abide by a law that is nearly incomprehensible?

Moreover, how are judges to interpret a law that's purposefully vague and open to a wide latitude of interpretation? If those who are charged with enacting our laws don't even bother to read them, how is anyone able to be a good citizen, uphold our end of the bargain and live by those laws?

But the larger problem that we face is now presented by rogue judges who merely think they know the law. If these judges were at all versed in the principles of the Constitution, this decision would never have been reached at all. It's painfully clear that something needs to be done in this case. While I'm not sure that judges are subject to recall, our own Supreme Court must surely have something to say in  this most egregious abuse of civil rights and can inform them of the error of their ways.

From the article -

The court went on to make a second terrible decision about privacy: that once a GPS device has been planted, the government is free to use it to track people without getting a warrant. There is a major battle under way in the federal and state courts over this issue, and the stakes are high. After all, if government agents can track people with secretly planted GPS devices virtually anytime they want, without having to go to a court for a warrant, we are one step closer to a classic police state - with technology taking on the role of the KGB or the East German Stasi.

As for the "reasonable expectation of privacy", I'd think that most people would disagree with the court on this issue also. We have a reasonable expectation of privacy so long as we have not knowingly violated any law, regardless of where we are. However, our courts are increasingly ruling that we have fewer and fewer expectations of privacy, primarily because they can't find a section of the Constitution that clearly outlines the legal framework of privacy.

This is why it's becoming increasingly important to appoint judges with a firm understanding of our Constitution and what it plainly states. Some kind of competency test should be considered to make sure that judges know what everyone else knows.

If we can read and understand the Constitution, why can't the Ninth Circuit Court?

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