Thursday, September 27, 2007

DUI Checkpoint...Charlie.

At considerable taxpayer expense, local law enforcement routinely sets up checkpoints to combat the DUI problem. The "DUI problem" is best defined as the problem of people drinking (and/or drugging) to the point where they cannot safely drive a motor vehicle such that they will more likely than sober drivers cause traffic accidents; which, as everyone understands, are a huge nuisance, and worst of all, can cause serious injuries and fatalities. Accordingly, there's no argument in favor of DUI whatsoever. The legitimate criticism of checkpoints is that they stand at odds with the notion that we live in a free society. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that we should be free from warrantless intrusions by the Government into our private lives. "Your papers please!" is the classic charicature of the agent of a fascist/police state (presumably from another land, and perhaps, another time). It conjures up images of the Soviet Union's 70 year oppressive fascist autocracy, present day North Korea, and the list goes on. The irony of the "request" is that isn't really a request at all. Does anyone who is asked for their papers by a police officer, anywhere, really feel free to say, "Uh, thanks, but no, I'm not going to hand over my papers"?? Try it. This is why checkpoints are, to some, objectionable. It is where mostly law abiding people are essentially ordered to submit to some form of inspection (of their drivers license, eyes, breath, etc.) For every DUI arrest a checkpoint produces, there are perhaps 100 or more warrantless intrusions into the private lives of law abiding citizens. Maybe it's worth 100 intrusions if that DUI arrest really saved a life, but even the CHP will tell you that many people at .08 or more can drive home without causing a traffic fatality. Simply put, not every DUI arrest saves a life. Does the public nature of a checkpoint send the right message to the public such that the overall awareness of the problem will increase, causing people to be more cautious? Perhaps. However, there is no hard data to support this. The sad part is, in spite of the California Supreme Court's ruling in Ingersoll v. Palmer (which allows checkpoints if certain conditions are met), checkpoints erode the most cherished attribute of the United States of America; our freedom. This erosion should be allowed, if ever, out of dire necessity, and never with casual acceptance. So, while law enforcement might define this intrusion as a "no brainer", don't be so sure. To be so sure, plain and simple, is un-American.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Well, not exactly...

The Daily Nexus just published an article where I was quoted and conferred various titles. First of all, yes, I am a "self-proclaimed" Isla Vista Lawyer: which means that I am letting the Isla Vista community know that I am available for free consultations concerning criminal law problems arising in Isla Vista; just as I have been for years. I am not, however, a public defender, as is made obvious in the body of the article, not the title. I am a former public defender. In any event, those aren't the inaccuracies that merit further discussion. While the article was generally accurate and informative, it did not quote me accurately in one critical respect. I did say that a police officer does not have any more right to touch people than a non-police officer; and that is generally true. However, I said some other things that are not, for reasons unknown, included in the article. This is the rest of that quote:

1. A police officer may touch you if he does so...

(1) in self-defense*
(2) in defense of another*
(3) pursuant to probable cause to arrest (e.g., you broke a law in his presence* or if he believes you are a felon who has yet to be arrested)
(4) to effect a citizen's arrest on behalf of another (where the crime was not committed in his presence).
(5) pursuant to an arrest warrant
(6) to prevent your injury (if say you are passed out on the street)*

2. It is NEVER, and I mean NEVER, a good idea to physically resist a police officer. If you believe that they have no right to touch you, but are doing so anyway, just tell them politely that you do not consent to be touched and go along with the program. Submit to the arrest. Whatever they did wrong can be dealt with in one or more courts of law after the fact. Don't exacerbate the problem by pulling away or, even worse, physically assaulting the officer. Doing so can get you:

(1) Injured
(2) Tased (even if you say, "don't tase me bro'")
(3) Charged with additional and more serious crimes (even felonies) and/or
(4) Killed (possibly)

Having said all of that, go ahead assert your rights VERBALLY, and only within reason (in other words you don't need to repeat yourself again and again, nor shout, to preserve your rights), and just be polite. As the old saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than vinegar. IVFP aren't flies, and you aren't wanting to attract them, but you get my point.

* These are rights that all people have, not just cops.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Fall in Isla Vista - Arrest Season

Yes, it's that time of year again: Isla Vista Arrest Season. While the rest of the Northern Hemisphere may look forward to cooler temperatures, shorter afternoons, football games, and raking leaves, Isla Vista can expect an increase in arrests as the Foot Patrol is now out in force issuing citations for MIP, Drunk In Public, Open Containers, Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, and myriad other disorderly conduct law violations; and the UCSB students haven't even returned from Summer Vacation yet. Responsive to the up-tick in arrests, I am introducing a new website This site, although new and still developing, is intended to provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ's) by those arrested and cited for the above law violations, and to provide an easy means to contact me (24/7) concerning such problems. It might even prevent an arrest or two by passing on some insights on arrest avoidance; although with the numbers of police now patrolling I.V. with newly printed citebooks, and an ever-present mandate by the local community and the University to "get tough" on rowdy behavior in I.V., don't count on it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The truth about upside-down beer cups

My first Sierra Mountain blog (delivered at approximately 8,000 feet) is to disabuse the Daily Nexus readership of the IV urban myth that walking with a drinking cup upside-down will prevent your arrest for open container, minor in possession and/or drunk in public. This myth is perpetuated by the Daily Nexus which states, among other things, that mouthing off to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol is a bad idea. Ya' think? Walking down an Isla Vista street with anything other than a nun's habit is enough to put you at high risk of being detained by a bored member of the Foot Patrol. Having an upside-down beer cup puts you in an even higher risk category. The moral of the story is: don't walk down the street in IV expecting that the cop who spots you in an 'I'm looking for my next beer' pose will not likely detain you for a sniff and an age and ID check at the very least. Oh, but I agree that mouthing off is a bad idea - and it's no urban myth.