Sunday, August 08, 2004

Fourth Amendment Watch
After taking His Majesty (aka my dad) to the airport on Saturday, DOB and I sat in a McDonald's parking lot while I fed D1. At the motel next door the police had pulled over a car, arrested the driver, and proceeded to search and impound the car. We initially parked on the far side of McDonald's, but then a few cars obstructed our view, plus it looked like the situation was well under control, so we drove over to the near side of the parking lot. (Shameless gawkers that we are. We tried to gaze only intermittently, though.) The female passenger was standing against the motel wall, watching with a passive-resistant demeanor, and finally made some calls on her cell phone, presumably for other arrangements. Meanwhile the police took a dog and rubber gloves and dug everything out of the car--pillows, clothes, etc.--and strewed it around the ground.

Studying criminal procedure tends to take the blood out of it. (Law can make any subject boring. One could read the Supreme Court case Jones v. Clinton cover to cover without finding anything to appeal to the prurient interest.) Watching the thing live and imagining the same thing happening to me on my next vacation makes the Fourth Amendment a vividly important string of words. Even just a search is a huge infringement on personal freedom. The Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments aren't just about protecting the rights of criminals (as an occasional law-and-order conservative seems to think)--they're about protecting all of us from the dangers of an overzealous state.

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