Resisting arrest is not a crime. It is a common-law right, the exercise of which is treated as if it were a crime.
The act of resistance was transmuted into a criminal offense chiefly through judicial activism, rather than legislation. Courts that seek to criminalize resistance have generally made the pragmatic argument that resistance is more dangerous than submission. We’ve long since reached the point where the reverse is often the case.
Until 1942, when the Interstate Commission on Crime published the Uniform Arrest Act, every state recognized and protected the right to resist. Under the still-controlling U.S. Supreme Court precedent, John Bad Elk vs. US, a citizen faced with the prospect of unlawful arrest – that is, an armed abduction – has a legally protected right to use any appropriate means, including lethal force, to defend himself.
The Bad Elk ruling came in 1900. Thirteen years later, the New Mexico State Supreme Court, in Territory v. Lynch, tried out a line of sophistry that would become part of the standard refrain in judicial rulings six decades later:
“The law … calls upon the citizen to exercise patience, if illegally arrested, because he knows he will be brought before a magistrate, and will, if improperly arrested, suffer only a temporary deprivation of his liberty.”
In other words: If a cop seeks to abduct you without legal justification, you should submit in the serene confidence that your deprivation of liberty will be temporary and trivial. I have referred to this as the "Rapist Doctrine," since rapists and police officers are the only assailants whose victims are encouraged to submit.
One hundred years after the New Mexico State Supreme Court published that ruling, the case of New Mexico resident Stephen Slevin demonstrates that this assurance is a cynical lie.
In 2005, Slevin – who was battling depression and driving a car lent to him by a friend -- was stopped for driving under the influence. He was put into a special cell reserved for people suspected of being suicidal. After three days, he was transferred to solitary confinement --- where he remained for two years.
Although some may regard the traffic stop to be considered justified, and the initial arrest to be defensible, what happened to Slevin offers a stark and compelling demonstration of what can happen to anyone who finds himself immured in one of the Regime’s penal facilities. What was done to him is indistinguishable from the kind of criminal abuse associated in the public mind with prison facilities in Cuba and North Korea. More importantly, it is entirely typical of what happens in jails and prisons here in the putative Land of the Free.
Prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture. In Slevin’s case, isolation was compounded with aggressive neglect as he literally rotted in his cell.
Despite repeated pleas for medical attention, Slevin developed skin fungus and bedsores. Deprived of dental care, Slevin was eventually forced to extract a tooth by himself. His toenails grew so long that they curled under his feet, his hair and beard grew to be long and unkempt, and he lost fifty pounds.
As his body decayed, Slevin’s mind degenerated. Already depressed at the time of his imprisonment, Slevin fell prey to hallucinations.
“I have not slept in days,”Slevin wrote to a nurse a couple of weeks into his solitary confinement. “I’m in a deep depression.” He also mentioned a lack of appetite, and that he was being afflicted with “weird and bizarre” dreams.
“I’m afraid to close my eyes,” he wrote in a plaintive letter to the jail’s “nurse practitioner,” an official with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and no medical credentials or experience. The “nurse” responded by prescribing a dose of sedatives.
The habeas corpus guarantee requires that anyone arrested by the police be quickly brought before a judge and either formally charged or released. Slevin, who was sent to solitary after failing to post $40,000 in bail, was never given a judicial hearing. If it weren’t for the intervention of his sister, who became concerned after Slevin stopped replying to her letters, Slevin would have died in jail without ever being charged with a crime.
Once he was released, Slevin filed a lawsuit against Dona Ana County. After a five-year legal struggle, Slevin was awarded $22 million by a federal court– one million dollars for every month he had been unlawfully incarcerated.
The county, which refused to discipline anybody responsible for Slevin’s imprisonment and torture, and refuses to answer questions about the crime committed against that man, protested that the civil judgment was excessive, and eventually agreed to a $15.5 million tax-funded civil settlement. This may still seem like an extravagant amount until it’s understood that the 59-year-old victim suffers from terminal lung cancer.
“The law cannot restore an arm, an eye, or a life; it can and does restore freedom,” wrote Ralph D. Smith of the University of New Mexico School of Law in a 1967 law school journal essay. His point was that “self-help” by citizens confronted with the prospect of unlawful arrest is impermissible, because they are dealing with people – that is, police officers – who have legal sanction to kill them if they resist.
“Life and liberty, though equally precious, cannot be viewed on the same plane where self-help is concerned,” Smith continues. “Liberty can be secured by a resort to law, life cannot.” A good case can be made for the proposition that Slevin’s illegal incarceration was terminal. Furthermore, unjust deprivation of liberty for any length of time is a grave and ineffaceable injury.
“If one is unlawfully arrested today, his period of confinement is likely to be brief,” wrote Smith, offering a glib assurance of the kind that comes easily to those who are paid well to defend the indefensible. “In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries” – that is, the period in which British courts handed down rulings explicitly recognizing the common law right to resist arrest – “bail was usually unattainable. Today, it is freely granted for most offenses.
Requirements of a prompt hearing and arraignment before a magistrate also serve to protect today’s citizen from a lengthy unjustified detention.”
None of that was true in the case of Stephen Slevin, who suffered the theft of two years that were stolen from a life that was further abbreviated by the unpunished abuse of those who illegally imprisoned him.
During the less-enlightened times in which courts recognized that citizens had the right to avoid illegal arrest and detention, Smith continues, an improperly detained individual could be confined for months, and then “re-incarcerated until he had paid certain fees demanded by the jailer, the clerk of the assize, clerks of the peace, and the like.” What he describes is exactly the same arrangement that prevails today in a probation and parole system that encourages probation and parole officers to find excuses to “violate” their charges as often as possible in order to recycle them through the mechanism.
“Seventeenth and eighteenth century prison conditions might well induce resistance to arrest, if only to keep out of jail,” observes Smith. The same was true not only in the case of Stephen Slevin, but also that of California resident Daniel Chong, who was held, handcuffed, in isolation and darkness, for five days without being charged with a crime in April of last year.
Chong was deprived of food, water, and bathroom facilities. When he was finally released, Chong – who had begun to suffer from hallucinations -- asked his captors to kill him. He was hospitalized with severe dehydration and renal failure. The officials responsible for this crime have never been punished, nor have they so much as apologized to Chong.
The late Nick Christie likewise had every reason to put up resistance when he was taken into “protective” custody by Lee County, Florida sheriff’s deputies in 2009. Christie, a resident of Cleveland, had gone to visit a brother in Florida. His wife was concerned that the 62-year-old man, who had been diagnosed with psychological problems, had left his medications behind. She made the familiar and reliably fatal mistake of calling the police for “help.”
Christie, who was detained on a spurious “trespassing” change, was shackled for nearly two full days in a restraint chair. His captors hooded the victim and repeatedly attacked him with military-grade pepper spray. Christie begged for the jailers to remove the “spit mask” from his face, complaining that he couldn’t breathe. When medical personnel were finally permitted to see Christie, they were overwhelmed by the pepper spray. When they attempted to treat him, the corrosive chemical residue was so potent it ate through their latex medical gloves.
This innocent man, who suffered from respiratory and heart disease, was tortured to death. His death was ruled a homicide. The State Attorney’s office refused to indict the officials who kidnapped and fatally tortured Christie, insisting that there was no evidence of “criminal wrongdoing.” (That prosecutor, Assistant State Attorney Dean R. Plattner, had a long history of indifference regarding criminal violence by police officers.)
Writing more than four decades ago, as efforts to repudiate the right to resist arrest were gaining momentum, Arthur Smith insisted: “Because of the evolution in criminal procedures, jail conditions, and the increased danger from resistance, an individual is less likely to be provoked at what he considers an unlawful arrest in 1967 than he would have been in 1767.”
By 2013, it should be obvious to all honest and observant people that the only material difference between the medieval system Smith described and the one that confronts us now is the fact that British subjects had a legally recognized right to resist unlawful arrest.
Resistance may be dangerous, but submission is frequently fatal.
Dum spiro, pugno!
I've lost track of how many times I've been called a "moron" for claiming America is now a police state. But these kinds of articles keep providing evidence that it is.
This piece sums up the current situation. Good work.
Not only do we, that is everyone, have the right to resist unlawful arrest, we have the duty to so even if it means (almost always) that we must use lethal force in our resistance.
One should always keep in mind that you cannot successfully arrest a cop without consequence, so that one you engage a cop, you must sanction him with maximum force.
Perhaps you will enlighten us as to why Chong did not sue?
( Anonymous Anonymous said...
Perhaps you will enlighten us as to why Chong did not sue?
March 24, 2013 at 6:12 PM)
Maybe we could look back to the USSR, Africa or Nazi Germany for a possible answer. 1)FEAR of the whole situation being repeated. 2)If the DEA would do this maybe they would make him disappear. Perhaps he feels keeping quiet will keep him safe.
Do you know why?
Mr. Anonymous. Seems Chong is suing for multiple millions. I'm assuming you already read the article and your rhetorical question is just for effect. He clearly went to a party to "get high" but who in their right mind simply forgets a caged man for five days and ignores their cries except on purpose? While the DEA issued an apology you've got to ask yourself what kind of a sick bastard except your typical cop, and a DEA one at that, who gets their rocks off punishing people "just because they can".
The State Attorney’s office refused to indict the officials who kidnapped and fatally tortured Christie, insisting that there was no evidence of “criminal wrongdoing.”
To state the obvious, this is not justice. People are being tortured and murdered, and their torturers and murderers are walking away scot-free, if they're not actually being promoted for their "service to society".
When official justice refuses to deliver justice, it appears to me inevitable that new institutions will arise to address the problem. These new institutions will of course be branded "terrorist organizations" by the criminal thugs who deliver injustice in the name of "justice", but those of us who know the truth will likely have a different reaction.
Yes. These acts are "official" under the Code, color of law, fraud, treason "of", subject to, the none 'government", of the US CORPORATION, Democracy, against the "united states of America, Republic, Under God, of We the People, the Government, Sovereigns. "kings", Free Men , in their own Lawful, God given Rights. A CORPORATION in none exent, except, as INK on PAPER. A straw man, impostor, imotator of the real think. The 1787 Law of the Land, or the usA, republic, UNDEr God, not "men", re: the 1776 Illuminati Zionist Jews qand Free Masons. Masters over the "one world government" or NWO and NATO UN. There is no longer a "LAND OF THE FREE and HOME OF THE BRAVE. FREE MEN. THE WORLD is in the boondage of the Jews and Free Masons. NWO.
This is horrible.
The people who defend these acts are worse than horrible.
America IS being turned into Iraq.
Is it wrong to think that whenever a policeman or other alphabet goon in costume approaches a person that advance and contact should be considered attempted rape, kidnapping, torture and murder, all sanctioned from the very top with support of The People?
How can Americans in general be viewed as 'good people' while these types of actions continue?
Bad, is now good?
It's true then, This way there be monsters?
Witness the symptoms of a sick world...
Day by day I find myself remembering the haunting monologue of Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. The part about horror in particular.
Horror. If one does not consider these occurrences to constitute the very epitome of horror than I don't know what to consider horrible anymore.
Honest, innocent men deprived of decency and in some cases ultimately sentenced to a slow death, and nothing is done, no one is punished, life continues on in it's own superficial manner.
The above anon is completely correct. This is horror. It happens, in this nation, and to completely innocent human beings, people deserving of dignity, of love, of respect. And it seems to be happening with alarming frequency over the past few years.
It is terrifying, coming face to face with such a reality. Kurtz' reaction to the brutality of VC cadres is appropriate in this context. "...I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out; I didn't know what I wanted to do."
Horror. No other word so perfectly encapsulates what this is.
I hope and pray that there will come a day where we have found an antidote to this malady, this sickness, but I fear that ultimately it will require that a terribly high pain threshold be broken.
My apologies for such...somber rambling. But frankly none of this can be seen in a good light. Decency dictates that we see such things as they truly are: objectively heinous, symptomatic of a depraved and fetid soul.
What more can we expect...the indiscriminate shooting at the women's truck by police when they were crapping their pants in fear of Donner...These new recruits are almost entirely returned vets, desensitized and trigger happy, full of unprocessed guilt that makes their wives, girlfriends and mothers the fodder for regular abuse.
Things can only get worse when everyone perpetuates a war cry but believes that it won;t personally affect then here, a few thousand miles from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The current rape epidemic in India is a consequence of 50 years of indiscriminate child rape and gang rapes by Indian Security Forces in Kashmir...well document by the red cross and other welfare organizations.
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