by Leon Felkins
An Associated Press article by Jack Elliot, Jr., published 6 Feb. 1998 in the Vicksburg Post, relates how the Mississippi Supreme Court, reversed itself and has now decided that it is NOT double jeopardy to allow the arresting policeman to take a suspect's drivers license in a DUI arrest and then later allowing additional punishments in a trial by judge or jury.
Attorney General Mike Moore states that the court's reversal, "ends a real threat to the safety of motorists in Mississippi". I am reminded of the famous quote by Benjamin Franklin (1759):
"They that give up an essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Like most politicians, the concept of Liberty, as well as Fairness and Integrity, has never crossed Mr. Moore's mind for to do so would interfere with his job.
I understand that almost all the states now have laws that allows the thwarting of the legal process by the taking of the driver's license (and possibly the forfeiture of other assets such as the automobile) at the moment of arrest. The justification of this abandonment of one of our most basic rights -- the right for a trial before being declared guilty -- is convenience and safety. (Such an approach was tried once before with mixed results in Mississippi, when they used to lynch any convenient person with a black skin when a white person had been murdered or raped.) But the Constitution makes no mention that the Bill of Rights can be suspended for "convenience and safety" of the citizens.
While the citizens now eagerly support this law, as it only applies to the nuisance of drunk drivers, they will find that its scope will expand -- just as the RICO law has been expanded from its original stated purpose of prosecuting Organized Crime to the prosecution of the slightest infringements of the citizens. The first step is to get the citizens to accept that it is alright to suspend the legal process for "convenience and safety". Once the citizens accept that principle, further suppression of rights and freedom will be a piece of cake. Apparently we are at that point now.
The Mississippi Supreme Court in an earlier but fleeting fit of integrity had decided that allowing the Highway Patrol to seize the licenses of alleged drunken drivers was unconstitutional. But they quickly got over it with just a little nudging from the law enforcement agencies. Mr. Moore is quoted as saying, "Prosecutors didn't like it. Judges didn't like it. Police officers didn't like it." No mention of how the citizens felt about it.
The court has now said, "...the suspension of a license during a DUI arrest and the suspension after a conviction are separate actions and do not constitute double jeopardy." While I understand that such clear and logical thinking is common to the current graduates of our educational system, it is surprising to hear it from judges that are graduates from a time when we had fairly high quality education. That "1 and 1" still adds up to only "1" is a bit strange but could be useful for those students with the ambition of someday acquiring wealth, automobiles, wives, and perpetual youth.
Justice Fred Banks further elaborated: "...while the seizure of a license imposes a great inconvenience, it carries little of the stigma attached to traditional criminal punishments." I see. I think. Punishment in which there is no abuse of the stigma is OK? Are you saying that it is alright to have the hell beat out of you by the police as long as no one sees it and there are no visible bruises? Got it.
He goes on, "We conclude that the double jeopardy clause of the Constitutions do not preclude criminal prosecution subsequent to ADMINISTRATION LICENSE SUSPENSION." (Emphasis added). An interesting new legal interpretation. The government can do anything it wants to alleged violators of the law as long as it is "administrative". Would "administering" head blows with a night stick fall in that category?
As Bob Dylan so insightfully stated, "The times, they are a changing". We of the USA for some years now have had to contend with Civil Asset Forfeitures in which inanimate objects are arrested (but not the owners!) and seized. And now we are subject to being "inconvenienced" twice for the same crime since one of the "inconveniences" is simply "administrative".
As Ben Franklin says, we who seek safety deserve no better. After all, jail is the just about the safest place on earth!
Originally posted by Leon Felkins, February 8, 1998 to the FEAR-List. More of Leon Felkins' essays may be found on his home page, A Rational Life. Leon's other pissedOff rants can be found here.