Gallery H
Arresting Without Cause
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America The Police State


By James Donahue


A 2004 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court makes it legal for police officers to arrest citizens without expressed cause.


The justices voted 8-0 to throw out a case against a Washington state police officer who stopped a motorist and arrested him after he began tape recording statements made by the officer at the scene.


While the court found that the man was legally justified to have made the recording, they also ruled that the arrest was valid because the officers might have charged the motorist for impersonating a police officer.


Details of the incident were not included in the report.


In his opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia said the police were not required to provide a reason for arresting the man as long as they had probable cause to do it.


“While it is assuredly good police practice to inform a person of the reason for his arrest at the time he is taken into custody, we have never held that to be constitutionally required,” Scalia wrote.


The ruling clearly puts more power than ever into the hands of police and thus becomes a shield against false-arrest lawsuits.


While the constitutional amendments included in the Bill of Rights protect against illegal and improper search and seizure, Justice Scalia is technically correct in stating that the Sixth Amendment does not require a police officer to give a reason at the time a person is taken into custody.


The amendment states that anyone accused of a crime must be “informed of the nature and cause of the accusation” prior to his or her appearance before a judge. It implies that it is the duty of the arresting officer to explain, but does not specifically put the burden on the officer.


 That the court declined to clarify this issue and, instead, supported what most citizens might consider an improper police arrest, leaves the door open for excessive police harassment of citizenry without legal recourse. It raises still higher the specter of a people ruled by the iron fist of an authoritative government.


That our courts have been ruling in favor of unwarranted searches and bugging of homes and offices in the interest of Homeland Security, anti-terrorism and the war on drugs has already eroded our constitutional freedoms to a startling level.


This action by a court that chose to put the former Republican administration in power in 2000, moved us another step closer to a totalitarian state. It is our hope that President Barack Obama can put more balance on the scales of justice during his term. We believe his appointment of Sonia Sotomayor may be a step in the right direction.