Sunday, April 04, 2010

Abolish Licensure, Prohibition, Checkpoints and Chases

I had to shake my head in sadness and anger at the front-page headline and article, "Police Chase Tragedy". Of course Darryl Harris bears primary responsibility for Mr. Taylor's death. Harris will have to live with his actions for the rest of his life.

But as a Libertarian, I cannot overlook the role government had in creating the conditions that caused Harris to run. Until Harris began endangering others with his driving, all of his actions -- from his suspended license, to the marijuana + gun possession, even to departing from the checkpoint -- were victimless crimes. Unfortunately, in our society, the *discovery* of victimless crimes result in a ruined life -- and it was fear of being discovered that made Harris run.

So let's examine the state's role in Taylor's loss.

First, there's government licensure. Harris' license was apparently suspended. That's a victimless crime.

Travel is a right, not a "privilege", as the 'authorities' continually claim. A license is a 'grant of privilege'; and thus cannot coexist with something that is a right, free and open to all, such as the right of the citizen to ride and drive over the streets of the city without charge, and without toll, provided he does so in a reasonable manner. I agree with the Supreme Court of Illinois, which, in the twenties, stated that while a government can legitimately regulate commercial activities, "no reason exists why [licensing] should apply to the owners of private vehicles used for their own individual use exclusively, in their own business, or for their own pleasure, as a means of locomotion."

Licensure would not be an issue if the government would simply get out of the business of building and owning roads. Some of our major roads in the area today, such as Brook Road, were originally developed in the 1800's by the private sector. Were our roads privately held, individuals who refuse to use them wisely would then be committing the real crime of criminal trespass.

Then there are those "stop and confess" parties that the police call "checkpoints". Checkpoints are unconstitutional and un-American. They belong in third-world dictatorships - not in a nation that thinks of itself as "the land of the free". Yes, the Supreme Court has 'deemed' checkpoints to be constitutional, but that's because we have too many lawyers who make it to the federal bench who can't read plain English. Check out the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

"Effects" simply means "property"; and your car is property. Police searches of you or your property are unconstitutional unless they have a warrant based on sworn evidence. During a police checkpoint, police routinely demand your papers, they reach into your vehicle with electronic surveillance devices hidden in their flashlights (Google the "preliminary alcohol sensory device"), among other activities. No one should be forced to comply with a checkpoint. They are clearly unconstitutional, and no matter what kind of lipstick and hair spray the Supremes put on them, they will remain unconstitutional.

In the end, however, the events that led to Taylor's death can be laid at the feet of Drug Prohibition.

Prohibition itself is a constitutional and moral abomination. It has ruined tens of millions of lives and has cost hundreds of thousands of other lives -- millions, if you count a half-century of war, terror and aggression by global narcotics-funded religious and ideological extremist movements, along with decades of drug-related violent crime. Prohibition's toxic stew includes an aggressive and arrogant drug warrior law enforcement culture that by itself has killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocents in "collateral damage". And worse, drug warriors largely don't care about the damage their war causes.

Repeal Prohibition, end the "papers, please" roadblocks, and call an immediate end to all chases except where the suspect is known to pose an immediate violent threat to others. The cost of doing otherwise is simply too high, and no spin by the Henrico PD or its 'defenders' can change that fact.

Concerned citizens across America have repeatedly warned police bureaucracies that chases are too dangerous and result in innocent deaths, to no avail. Henrico PD's statement that the chase "complied with written guidelines" is insulting and meaningless. Most people who study American policing are aware that police bureaucracies' statements that an action "followed policy" is simply code-phrasing, acknowledging "yeah, we messed up, but we're not going to do anything about it, and neither are you."

Had a private individual conducted a similar chase that ended in disaster, that person would end up facing jail time. For instance, if a security guard attempted to arrest someone at the entrance of his private, gated neighborhood, and that individual then fled with the security guard in pursuit and crashed into a park bench of children, the government police would then quickly and gleefully arrest the guard for contributing to the slaughter.

No cowboy logic justifies high-speed chases. They are stupid and dangerous in the best of conditions. They should be banned except in cases of violent individuals who present an immediate threat to additional potential victims.

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Marc Montoni is a Libertarian and a technician who resides in Henrico County. To request more information about Libertarian ideas, email or visit http://www.LP.org

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1 comment:

  1. Nice piece and clearly written. Ever been over to Fr33 Agents dot com? We would enjoy your input over there. I live on the ESVA so your blog title caught my eye. Thanks, Tim

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