When Do You Have Rights?

It appears the United States has slid so far to the left that you may be considered “a right-wing extremist” if you believe you have unalienable rights. At the rate we’re going, even reading this column may put you in that category in the next year or so. If your unalienable rights have been alienated–who’s responsible?

Since unalienable rights–those mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and later explained to some degree in the United States Constitution–are given to humans by their Creator, nobody–except their Creator–can take them away.

That doesn’t mean you’ll always be able to enjoy your rights. People can infringe your rights by undermining your free exercise of them, and you can lose them another way. You can forsake them–willingly give them up–but heed this warning: once surrendered, rights can only be regained at great cost.

Since our founding fathers are long since gone, they can’t be asked how much it cost them to regain our rights, those who haven’t already done so will have to read a history book to find the answer–while that’s still legal. If you’re curious about what those rights are, you can read the two sacred documents mentioned above–until that act is eventually outlawed.

Okay, since we have just celebrated the 4th of July, I’ll include some of it here:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Wonderful words. Who could argue with them?

Wouldn’t the Nazis? Well, sure–but we defeated them decades ago.

Wouldn’t the Communists? Definitely, but we won the Cold War.

What about your local police? Say it ain’t so!

Remember hurricane Katrina–the storm that struck New Orleans in 2005? Much attention was given by the mainstream news services about the federal governments inability to make up for the state’s inadequacy and the city’s corrupt ineptness when it come to protecting the people. A little attention was given to the roving street gangs and the heavy crime and looting that followed the natural disaster. But there was another story that received almost no scrutiny.

Once the local police finally went into action, they spent a lot of time collecting guns from the citizens. The stated goal was to disarm everyone. However, it proved easier for the roving bands of police to collect guns from the people trying to live in what was left of their homes than it was to hunt down the more illusive street gangs.

That was some time ago and you might not have paid much attention to it them. If you want to see videos of the police tackling old ladies in their homes and taking their self-protection pistols–take a look at this YouTube video.

It seems unbelievable.

All of us would like to brush-off the Katrina aftermath circus as one-time exception to the American experience. But the problem isn’t constrained to New Orleans and there are more recent examples that should concern most Americans.

Last weekend statements made by a Louisiana elected-politician, shocked me into connecting a few isolated events. You can read the entire transcript here, but here’s a quick summary:

A middle-aged man with a montage of pro-gun bumper stickers on his pick-up truck’s back window was pulled-over for “failure to use a turn signal” and questioned while standing in the street next to the truck in Shreveport, Louisiana. The officer first question was if he had a firearm, which the driver admitted. The officer then entered the vehicle, without warrant or permission, searched for, and confiscated the citizen’s firearm.

Robert Baillio, the truck’s owner and driver, later complained to Mayor Cedric Glover that his second Amendment right to bear arms had been violated. However, it seems to me it was more like an unreasonable search and seizure, which is a violation of his fourth Amendment rights.

Article IV. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, support by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Even if the officer had sought a warrant, I have difficulty understanding what the probable cause associated with “failure to use a turn signal” that permits an officer to search and seize things from a citizen’s vehicle?

Mayor Glover explained to Mr. Baillio that once he was stopped by the officer he no longer had rights–they had been suspended. He went on to explain that “Upon graduation from the police academy, every officer is told they have the power to suspend [a citizen’s] rights.”

Where does that power come from? Is there a local ordinance, state law, or federal law that overrides the Constitution? If so, how can any law usurp the “supreme law” of the land?

The officer returned the firearm to Mr. Baillio, and did not issue him a citation for anything. The video showed the officer to be basically respectful of the driver, except for the unreasonable search and seizure, which can be viewed here.

Then there was the recent case of a Louisiana state trooper being arrested for aggravated assault, simple battery and false imprisonment of District Judge Lewis Sams after a traffic stop outside the courthouse.

The trooper saw the judge driving without a seatbelt, which has recently been legislated to be a crime. So he pulled in behind the judge with his lights on. After checking the standard license, registration, proof of insurance he told the judge of the violation. The judge told him to write the ticket. Then the officer asked him where he was employed.

According to the transcript of the Mayor Glover’s conversation with Mr. Baillio, “citizens must answer all of an officer’s questions truthfully–or they’re committing a crime.” I guess that old “you have the right to remain silent” only applies to actual criminals and terrorists captured on the battlefield in the war on terror–no wait, that’s called ‘overseas contingencies’ now.

The judge told him, but when asked to show further identification he refused. An argument ensued, the officer drew his Taser, threats were issued, and the judge was eventually bounced off the hood of the patrol car during his arrest.

Yes, there were witnesses.

But this seems a little confusing. If an officer has the power to suspend the rights of a citizen, how could the state trooper be guilty of any crime? After all, people with no rights, have no rights. Right? Evidently, the answer is, “Wrong.”

The judge disagreed. It turned out the judge was proficient in using the law to defend his rights. The trooper was arrested and is reported to be on paid administrative leave. Was this just an isolated incident? Would this have turned out differently if the judge hadn’t been a judge? What if he were … you? Or one of your children?

My grandpa once told me that we should learn from the mistakes of others.

So far we’ve learned not to put pro-gun stickers on our trucks and if you’re a judge you can stand up for your rights, but if you do, you can expect to be roughed up and bounced off a patrol car’s hood during your arrest (a.k.a false imprisonment).

A few years ago during a Mardi Gras parade in Shreveport, someone put up a huge US flag, which blocked the view of many citizens. Because of complaints, an ordinance was issued to ban such large banners and flags during parades. However, officers wound up being briefed to ban all US flags. Thus the police, wearing their badges and guns ordered people to take down flags (even the little ones on sticks), put away chairs with Americana decorations, and even change tee-shirts that had pictures of US flags.

So many complaints were made in the days following the parade that the city reported there had been a miscommunication and it wouldn’t happen again.

But think about it.

If the citizens had refused to remove their small flags, what would have happened to them? Would they have been tased, pepper-sprayed, beaten, and/or arrested?

If so, for what crime?

Maybe for failure to comply with an officer’s instructions–an officer who has been told he has the power to suspend your rights. Do citizens really have to do everything an officer tells them to do? Really? Something is very wrong with a society that allows even the lowest qualified law-enforcement officials to single-handedly, suspend the rights of citizens.

Maybe you don’t own a firearm. Maybe you don’t display the flag or wear teeshirts with red, white, and blue colors. Maybe you and your family don’t go to parades. Maybe you think you’re safe. Think again.

Let’s suppose all officers actually had the power to regulate the rights of citizens–just like they’re told they can in Shreveport as they graduate from the police academy. What if they stopped your car because you didn’t use a turn signal or you have a bumper sticker that expresses an opinion they didn’t like?

What if they took your cell phone? Since some people send porn pictures over their cell phones, it is possible that you could have obscene pictures on your phone. The police could just flip through your files and make sure you’re not breaking the law. He could also check to see if you were talking or texting while driving–that is a crime in some places. After all, your rights have been suspended. Right?

Why should the police have to wait for you to get in your car? They could stop you in stores and shopping malls, maybe even in the theater to check your phone. Have you been recording some of the movie–that’s a copyright violation. Better check. Just to make sure.

Why stop there? Why not just a simple pat-down of people as they’re walking around? After all, they can suspend your rights, and some people may be carrying drugs, guns, or stolen material.

Don’t worry, you can have your phone back when you bring your purchase-receipt down to the station. You saved it, didn’t you?

Let me see your papers!

Come to think of it, why should the police have to wait for you to leave your home? A lot of people might have porn on their home computers, or guns in their attics–guns they don’t have receipts for. Maybe a few old guns have been passed down for generations in your family–why should you have those? You might use them for a crime. Maybe they need to be inspected to make sure they’re safe. What’s wrong with that?

While they’re there, they probably need to go through your files to make sure you’re not cheating on your taxes. They could check your computer to see if you’ve been dealing in interstate commerce via Ebay or Craig’s list and then they could check your 1040 to make sure you claimed the income. Wouldn’t want to let tax-evaders get away. While they’re at it, they could sniff around to see what else you’ve been up to. Law abiding citizens should have nothing to worry about. Right?

Imagine the crimes they could catch you and your neighbors doing if they just suspended your rights and searched your homes. You wouldn’t want to stand in the way of law enforcement would you?

After all. They’re there to protect you.

I’ve always had high regard for police officers. They do a vital, tough, and often times dangerous job. Unfortunately, young police officers, like young soldiers, tend to do what their superiors tell them to do–even in America.

And in a police state, the police do what ever they want to do.

“…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Young police officers, like young soldiers, need competent leaders telling them what to do. Those leaders need to know they only have power from the consent of the governed. They also need to know the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. The electoral process is the best way to ensure our government is filled with elected-officials who will remain true and faithful to protecting the Constitution against all enemies–foreign and domestic.

Americans have rights all the time.

It just makes sense.

2 Responses to “When Do You Have Rights?”

  1. baidu says:

    Loved this

    Very well said.

  2. Anonymous says:

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