Friday, December 5, 2008

One down. Five to go.

Congratulations are in order, because Aaron has now received one sixth of his juris doctorate. (Even though I was in the math club in high school, I'm still not positive that is correct. Fractions are my Achilles heel.) Law exams start Monday and continue through December 18, so you can imagine what the next two weeks are going to look like in the Rice house. Jake and I are going to be hanging out a lot just the two of us. We'll probably throw the ball a few times, I'll take him for some walks around the hood, and then we'll fall asleep to whatever E True Hollywood Story is on tv because Aaron permanently lost our remote control and there is no way I would get out of bed to turn it off. This has become a typical routine as of late, but I don't mind, and I don't think little Jake does either.

My energy level has seen an astronomical decline since I started my job. As it turns out, being a receptionist at the only gastroenterologists office in north Mississippi is quite exhausting. Getting fussed at 500 times a day by disgruntled patients takes a toll on me, physically and mentally. I am still working out every day after work, and my workouts are getting much better, meaning I'm not blacking out as much anymore. I downloaded the Rocky theme song to my mp3 player and ran like a champion tonight. I just needed a sweat band on my forehead and I would have been Mr. Balboa himself. On my way home from the gym, I stopped by Zaxby's and ordered fried chicken, fried mushrooms, and french fries. I was so tempted to order a coke, but I didn't want to be unhealthy.

For the past couple of nights, I have been lucky enough to have Aaron educate me on my civil liberties and what my rights are. For example, if I get pulled over by a police, all I have to do is give them my license and my insurance card. I do not have to answer one single question or get out of my car or anything unless I am being detained or arrested.

I think every single time I have ever been pulled over by a cop, and I would estimate I have been pulled over more than 30 times in my driving history, cops have asked me where I was going and why I was in such a hurry. Next time I am stopped by a police, and I'm confident there will be a next time, it is my constitutional right to not answer his or her questions. Unless I am being detained or arrested, I literally donot have to answer one question. This is a great example of what I am talking about. I will be doing a lot of driving over my Christmas break, so maybe I will get pulled over for some stupid reason and get to put my new learnings into practice. Unfortunately it is illegal to record police encounters in Mississippi, but I will most certainly blog about it, even if it is from a jail cell. Aaron is the expert in this subject, so if you are curious what your rights are, go ahead and give him a ring. But please wait until after his finals because he is so easily distracted and turned on by civil liberties, and he really has some pressing issues on his plate right now, such as passing his first semester of law school.

I am so looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow and not having to hear about people's bodily functions gone bad, although there is a good chance I'll have to hear Aaron's bodily functions. And tomorrow night is my office's crazy Christmas party, so rock on. It'll be great. I also plan on going to Walmart and purchasing a vacuum cleaner because we have been in this house since August 1 and never vacuumed. That was a random, disgusting fact. It is now time to end this jibberish post because Aaron is watching YouTube videos about things related to civil liberties and not studying. I am about to be the bad guy and kick him out of the house. Five more semesters of this...I just don't know.


Aaron Rice said...

I'd like to make a few points of clarification.

First, while I am honored that Kelly considers me an expert on civil liberties, I should point out that I have not yet taken Constitutional Law or any classes pertaining to civil liberties in law school. I did take a constitutional law class and a civil liberties class in undergrad, and I have done alot of my own independent research on the topics, but I do not have any legal expertise in them as of yet. Moreover, even if I did, I would not be able to give any legal advice to anyone concerning such matters because I am not a licensed attorney in Mississippi (yet), so I could get in big trouble for offering legal advice and holding myself out as a legal expert.

Second, Kelly said she would not have to answer any questions or obey any orders unless she was detained or arrested. It is true that she would have to obey lawful orders if she were detained or arrested, but she STILL would not have to answer any questions, ESPECIALLY if she were arrested, because that is when her Miranda Rights would kick in. Before an arrest or detention, she would have the right not to answer any questions because of her 5th Amendment right not to incriminate herself (which also applies during arrest, along with other Miranda rights that only apply during arrest). Its important to note that often times a police officer will say something like, "go ahead and step out of the car." If you wish to assert your rights, your answer should be "am I being detained?" If the officer says no, ask "then I am free to leave, correct?" If you are not being detained, you do not have to consent to any police requests, because that's all they are, requests, not orders. Police often disguise their requests as orders so that you will obey them, but by clarifying that you are not being detained, you have also clarified that "step out of the car" was a request, not an order, and that you are under no legal duty to comply with it.

Also, the link Kelly displayed showed a man asserting his rights at an immigration checkpoint. I want to point out that this immigration checkpoint was NOT at the border - it was an INTERNAL checkpoint 40 miles north of the U.S. - Mexico border. I do not have any problems with immigration checkpoints at the border, and in fact, your constitutional rights do not apply when you are crossing into another country, but I do have a problem with any checkpoint within the U.S. borders that stops travelers without any suspicion of wrongdoing (internal immigration checkpoints, sobriety checkpoints, vehicle registration checkpoints, drug enforcement checkpoints, ect...). The constitutionality of these suspicionless checkpoints was decided in a controversial U.S. Supreme Court case in the 1970s by a split 5-4 vote. I believe the court ruled incorrectly, and so I believe it is my civic duty to protest these checkpoints through non-cooperation [ ie: asserting all of my rights by not answering any police questions and not consenting to a search of my person or vehicle, and not consenting to any other requests, such as a field sobriety test, unless the officer tells me I am being detained or arrested, which if he detained or arrested me without probable cause (and my assertion of my rights is not probable cause) I could sue him for wrongful arrest.] The reason I believe these stops are wrong is that the U.S. Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the same court that authorized these checkpoints admitted that any checkpoint that stops travelers without suspicion is by definition "seizing" them unreasonably. I also just believe in general that police have moved past their intended role as "peace officers" (like Andy Griffith) and have become law enforcement officers who see it as their primary function to enforce mostly victimless crimes, rather than to focus on protecting citizens from those who would harm or defraud them against their will. I have decided to begin asserting every right I have during police encounters, not because I may be guilty of anything, but in protest to this unnecessary use of force by police.

I realize this is not a common view, and most people subscribe to the "if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about" mindset. I think this is dangerous because when most of us continue to waive or rights, we begin to lose them. Most people don't realize the large number of rights we have that are not recognized by the authorities anymore simply because people stopped using them and common custom became the law of the land. For example, one hundred years ago, if I had walked into a public place openly wearing a pistol on my hip, nobody would have raised an eyebrow. Today, although the open-carry of firearms is protected by law in over 30 states, (including Mississippi) I guarantee you that I could not open carry in any of them without being detained and/or arrested by a police officer. Why? Simply because people stopped utilizing this right. How many more rights do we want to lose simply by failing to exercise them?

Thats the end of my rant. I just wanted to explain that I have philosophical reasons for the "lesson" Kelly discussed on her blog - and that I am not engaging in any unlawful activity that I am seeking to avoid prosecution for.

Aaron Rice said...

Oh, I should also point out that you should not attempt to assert your rights during a police encounter (especially in Mississippi) unless you are willing to go to jail. Sadly, the police also subscribe to the "if you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about" mindset, and since most law-abiding citizens quickly waive every right they have when requested to do so by an officer, they have become accustomed to the idea that only criminals have a desire for rights and privacy. In many cases, an officer will wrongfully arrest you, assuming that he will find evidence to justify the arrest AFTERWARDS (they can search your car "for weapons" once they have placed you in custody). So, consider yourself warned, exercising your rights often results in a night in the slammer. That's the sad state of affairs today. For me, I consider the night in jail worth the chance to make a small impact on the system (at least one officer learning that some law abiding citizens expect the right to travel freely and the right of privacy - not merely criminals). It also doesn't hurt my feelings that I will not be convicted of any crime, and I will have the opportunity to file a civil suit for wrongful arrest, if I so choose.