Monday, September 14, 2009
Helot on Wheels
What an unalloyed blessing it is to live under a government describing itself as a constitutional republic!
Unlike undisguised tyrannies of various flavors, the government ruling us often -- but not always -- briefly pretends to defer to the written document from which it derives a set of limited, revocable powers, before its enforcement and judicial personnel dispense with those limitations altogether and inflict whatever atrocities they choose on the rest of us.
Sure, the outcome isn't materially different from what we'd experience if we lived under an absolute monarchy, or any of a number of dictatorships. But ours is the singular privilege of knowing the specific constitutionally protected "unalienable" rights that are being violated by the government that blights our society.
Cue Lee Greenwood: "I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free" -- a phrase that must qualify as one of the most puerile, "clap for Tinkerbell"-style acts of self-delusion ever recorded.
The U.S. Constitution and the constitutions of the various states purportedly offer ironclad, black-letter protection against unreasonable searches and compelled self-incrimination. Yet any American who operates an automobile may be stopped at any time by a uniformed tax-feeder and compelled to undergo a blood test -- if the donut-grazer in question affects to believe that the driver is intoxicated, whether or not there is evidence to support that belief.
Witness the case of Jamie Lockard, a 53-year-old resident of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, who was stopped last March on suspicion of driving while intoxicated (DWI). A roadside Breathalyzer test determined that Lockard's blood alcohol was under the legal limit.
Since incriminating Breathalyzer results are regarded as infallibly conclusive for the purpose of securing a conviction, a negative result offers immediate exoneration -- correct?
One would think so. And one would be wrong.
You see, Officer Brian Miller, being not only a hero (they're all heroes, don't you know) but something of an oracle, just knew Lockard was drunk, despite the reading on his otherwise infallible device. So Miller obtained a "warrant" from a complaisant judge (a warrant being a permission slip from one government agent to another authorizing the violation of a citizen's rights) that authorized the kidnapping of Lockard for the purpose of forcibly extracting bodily fluids -- blood and urine. The former was drawn by a needle. The latter was siphoned from Lockard's body through the forced insertion of a catheter.
Those tests both confirmed what the initial roadside test had demonstrated: Lockard was, for purposes of the law, as sober as Carrie Nation. So the matter ended here -- correct?
Of course it didn't. Because Lockard had, in some unspecified and ineffective way, protested Officer Miller's actions, the uniformed pest vindictively charged him with "obstruction of justice" -- meaning that Lockard had the temerity to be legally sober and to maintain his innocence while undergoing the criminal indignities inflicted on him by Miller and his partners in official crime.
"He [Miller] took it too far," complained Lockard after filing a lawsuit in protest of his treatment. "He thought he could do whatever to me... that he wanted to."
Unfortunately, under what our rulers are pleased to call the "law," Miller is objectively right, even if the Constitution says otherwise. The prevailing assumption, as recently expressed in a Washington state supreme court ruling, is that by obtaining a driver's license an individual gives "implied consent" to searches of both his vehicle and person, and that refusal to do so constitutes revocation of the "privilege" of driving.
A year and a half ago, Dallas-area police announced that the Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays would be "no refusal weekends," during which officers would deal with "a suspect who is arrested on suspicion of drunk driving does not voluntarily submit to a breathalyzer or blood test" by asking a county judge "to immediately approve a search warrant to draw blood...."
Texas state law supposedly prohibits police from forcibly extracting a blood sample except in cases where an accident has occurred involving serious bodily injury. However, the most recent Texas state appeals court ruling on this subject pronounces, with the smug, hypocritical piety of a philandering priest, that this provision doesn't really recognize the right of an individual to refuse a blood sample.
This is because the implied consent law actually permits the taking of blood without a warrant or explicit consent, because this is "another method of conducting a constitutionally valid search.... It gives officers an additional weapon in their investigative arsenal, enabling them to draw blood in certain limited circumstances even without a search warrant." In substance, that statement means that any invasion of an individual's person is "constitutionally valid" if the government says so.
Naturally, a search warrant nullifies the protests of the victim of a compelled blood test, since it would be issued based "on `the informed and deliberate determinations' of a neutral and detached magistrate'" -- for instance, the officious gavel-fondlers who rubber-stamp every warrant request, sight unseen, made by a cop during a "no refusal weekend."
All of this is the noxious fruit of a diseased tree -- namely, the whole system of licensure governing the "privilege" of operating a motor vehicle. This is among the nastiest versions of the familiar trick in which government redefines a right -- in this case, freedom to travel, which is recognized in Anglo-Saxon Common Law at least as far back as Runnymede -- into a revocable "privilege."
What this means in practice is that traffic police are distant but unmistakable kindred to the Krypteia, a cadre of bully-boy secret police who were authorized to lurk at roadside to prey on the enslaved Helots, plundering and killing them at will.
Accordingly, the moment any of us steers a car onto a public street or highway, he becomes a Helot on Wheels, as it were.
An increasing number of police are permitted to draw blood themselves, rather than suborning competent medical professionals into criminal assaults on citizens under clinical conditions. With the support of money extracted at the gas pump, the federal government is actively abetting this practice -- which began in Arizona and Texas about a decade and a half ago -- through a special program training policemen to act as "officer phlebotomists."
Nampa, Idaho, an otherwise pleasant and attractive community of about 80,000 people, is afflicted with a federally subsidized pilot program in which ten officers have been authorized to draw blood from motorists who refuse a breath test. Not surprisingly, this program -- through which several dozen people have been assaulted so far -- is abetting unhealthy appetites on the part of the "elite" officers who have gone through the training.
When he pulls up alongside a driver, Officer Daryll Dowell admitted, he finds himself "looking at people's arms and hands, thinking, `I could draw from that.'"
The advertised purpose of the phleboto-officer program is to induce unwilling people to submit to breathalyzer tests -- which, as we've noted, are not considered definitive if they provide an exculpatory result. And as with every other policy that involves the violent imposition of force by police on citizens, the primary concern here is officer safety, not the well-being of the victim.
According to Nicole Watson, an instructor from the College of Western Idaho who trained Nampa's "officer phlebotomists," police "will draw blood of any suspected drunk driver who refuses a breath test. They'll use force if they have to, such as getting help from another officer to pin down a suspect and potentially strap them down...."
A helot displays the Krypteia's handiwork: Arizona resident Brian Sewell, who resisted when ordered to undergo a roadside blood test, displays some of the injuries he received when the police assaulted him with a Taser.
If all else fails to subdue an individual who refuses to permit this bodily violation, police can always deploy their preferred implement of punitive torture, the Portable Electro-Shock Torture device (PEST, more commonly called a Taser). That's what happened to Arizona resident Brian Sewell in May 2007. Officers demanded a blood draw after the motorist failed a field sobriety test. They didn't even deign to offer Sewell the option of a breath or urine test. When Sewell, who has a deathly fear of needles, refused to cooperate, he was repeatedly shot with a Taser, leaving scars that were visible weeks after the attack.
James Green, a resident of Pinal County, Arizona, was forced to undergo a needle stick by an inept Sheriff's deputy despite the fact that the traffic stop occurred within walking distance of a hospital. Two maladroitly administered needle sticks later, the officer had claimed his sample -- and left Green with an infection that lasted for months, causing him to miss work.
"Protected"? Nope -- infected: James Green, who fell into the hands of a particularly inept and sadistic cop, displays the infection he received from a needless roadside blood test.
This isn't surprising: Traffic enforcement officers are not medical personnel. While they are given rudimentary first aid training, they are not competent to conduct blood exams and aren't bound by Hippocratic ethics.
In fact, their primary mission is not to protect the public, but rather to extract revenue from it: Police-generated revenue is how, in the words of one prominent law enforcement contractor, the governments that hire police officers get a "return on investment."
After many decades of metaphorically bleeding the public, police are now permitted to do so literally. At some point, one can hope, the public is going to start returning the favor.
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Dum spiro, pugno!