Saturday, January 29, 2005

A drug war exemption to the bill of rights

Radley Balko (of the Cato Institute and The Agitator) has a fine article posted 1-27 on the Fox News site arguing that the drug war is undermining the Constitution:

Thanks to mandatory minimum sentencing laws, a judge in Utah recently had no choice but to sentence a first-time marijuana dealer to 55 years in prison (he had a pistol strapped to his ankle during the one-time deal, though he never brandished it). Frustrated but hamstrung by drug laws, the judge in the case noted that just hours earlier, he had sentenced a convicted murderer to just 22 years for beating an elderly woman to death with a log. Courts have carved out a "drug war exemption" in the Bill of Rights for multiple search and seizure scenarios, privacy, wiretapping, opening your mail, highway profiling, and posse comitatus — the forbidden use of the U.S. military for domestic policing.

The other area where criminal protections are withering in the face of substance-abuse hysteria is in Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated cases.

Balko rightly cites the Caballes case as part of broader pattern of eroding the Bill of Rights to combat drugs. (I'd be remiss not to point out that, in addition to the precedents Balko cites, the DUI Blog routinely documents what it calls the DUI exception to the Constitution.) Good stuff -- wish we saw more such conservative defenses of the Constitution under the Fox News logo.

Via Russ.

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