Sunday, March 14, 2010

Acting swiftly? Sounds like an argument for "pre-crime detention" to me...

So once again, me and cousin Billiam were rehashing the same old debate the other night, and he tells me there's no such thing as a "victimless" crime. It started with a discussion about a slashed budget at a county sheriff's department, in which I remarked that they should stop wasting time arresting people for victimless crimes like smoking marijuana.

He goes on to inform me that there's no such thing as a "victimless crime", to which I asked him who the "victim" was in a case of a man sitting in the living room he pays for via his wages that smokes a marijuana cigarette that he pays for with his wages. His argument, typical of statists, reverted back to the old standby: "what if...?"

He rattled off a laundry list of possible things a man could do revolving around marijuana, and I had to correct him by informing him that the things he listed were already crimes in and of themselves, without the illegality of marijuana even being considered...but the act of one man smoking a joint in the privacy of his own home harmed NO ONE.

The reason I bring this up is because the entire rationale for the criminalization of marijuana use/possession revolves solely around the possibility of the commission of other crimes while under the influence. Yes, some people drive under its influence. Some people steal things and sell them to buy marijuana. Some people have even been murdered as a result of marijuana deals gone bad. However, ABSOLUTELY NONE OF THESE THINGS are an inevitable act associated with the use of marijuana. Thousands of Americans, according to US Gov't Statistics, are sparking up RIGHT NOW in America...and will not drive, steal, or kill anyone while smoking marijuana.

However, to criminalize this is tantamount to criminalizing one action because another MAY occur. In an attempt to explain this to Billiam, I pointed at his new pistol, and asked him why he feels that it should be legal for him to own one since the possibility exists for him to murder others with it. Obviously, he's not going to, but he most certainly could. He couldn't provide a straight answer, nor did I expect him to, other than to say "you're comparing apples and oranges". In reality, it is exactly the same thing, because the possession of one thing (be it marijuana or a semi-automatic handgun) does not automatically equate to murder, robbery, or assault. The basis of criminalization remains the notion of "it could happen", which is no different than being punished without having actually done anything to anyone.

And here's where that becomes a problem. When you begin interfering with the liberties of others, you eventually slide down that slippery slope toward arresting people for LAWFUL activities based upon a "hunch" that they may commit a crime in the future. And yes, it has already started happening.

In Oregon, Mr. David Pyle was awakened by SWAT negotiators in the early morning hours after police had staked out his house overnight. He was "detained for mental health evaluation". Law Enforcement personnel claim he surrendered himself voluntarily, but Mr. Pyle claims he surrendered under implied threat of force due to being surrounded by heavily-armed SWAT team members. What was his crime? HAVING A BAD ATTITUDE AFTER BEING PLACED ON ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE FROM HIS JOB.

Yes, you read that correctly. He was led from his home in handcuffs, and several of his privately-owned firearms were seized from him. There was no evidence of any crime, nor was there any reasonable suspicion to believe he was about to commit a crime. Police were acting on nothing more than reports that he was "disgruntled" (read: "very pissed off about losing his job"), and he had recently purchased three new firearms.

The police claim he was not "arrested", therefore they did not violate his rights, because he surrendered himself and his weapons "voluntarily"...however, they did cause him immense emotional distress and public embarrassment. I don't know about you, but coming out of a house after some guy on the phone tells me the SWAT Team is going to come and take me out if I don't do it on my own doesn't exactly sound like "voluntary" compliance any more than not moving after a cop puts a gun to your head and tells you to freeze. If you're threatened with death for non-compliance, that's not a voluntary action...that's compulsory action perpetrated due to the threat of lethal force. On top of this, he was told that he would not be handcuffed or arrested if he walked himself out...and yet, he was handcuffed and taken to a secure medical facility for a "mental evaluation" against his will.

Keep this in mind. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that, even if you are not "officially" under arrest, it is still a de facto arrest if you are being detained by an agent of the government and are not free to leave on your own volition without probable cause or reasonable suspicion. Yes, I learned this via research done after a very heated debate between me and the Lake Jackson, TX chief of police, when one of his officers illegally detained me.

In the case of most marijuana charges, the police are arresting people for "crimes" that have no victim. In this particular case, the police are now arresting people who have committed no crime!