Sunday, March 30, 2008

You wanna see something really scary?

The U.S. Constitution set up a federal government with very limited powers. Among the most limited were police powers, which were almost exclusively left to the states. Nine out of ten federal law enforcement agencies exist via the most loopholeish of invisible penumbras (a polite way of stating that they're pretty much completely unconstitutional in anything approaching a strict reading.) Even the FBI is the Federal Bureau of Investigation and not the Federal Bureau of Enforcement because, as originally envisioned, it did the legwork and relied on locals to effect the busts.

A view of how far we've strayed from this was illustrated in an otherwise innocuous line from Breda's St. Paddy's Day post which has been itching at me ever since, such that I finally had to write about it.
Determined to find a sunny spot, we headed to the parade route. But before we turned the corner onto Superior Avenue, I noticed quite a few police cars - federal police cars. They read "Department of Homeland Security" on the side. Officers in what appeared to be riot gear were patrolling nearby.

"Uh-oh...is something happening?" I wondered. I realized then that we were outside of the U.S. Court House, right next to my first cousin. In a crowd of thousands, I found myself standing next to family. I was the flowergirl at his wedding and now he's as white haired as my father used to be...we laughed, both surprised at seeing the other. We both said "eejit" as we watched a man get ticketed by the Feds for drinking Guinness on the street.
Ponder that for a moment: The might and majesty of the Federal Government of the United States of America being used to bust a guy for violating an open container law. The Tenth Amendment might as well not exist these days.

Regardless of your view of open container laws, if this was anybody's business, it was that of the City of Cleveland or the State of Ohio, not the United States Department of Homeland Security. And the scary part is that we don't even bat an eye at it anymore.

10 comments:

Jeffro said...

Plus the Homeland Security types have to be in ninja gear to arrest the beer drinker. Yep, it's beer drinkers that are responsible for upsetting our security.

Alan said...

All law enforcement must be local, otherwise it becomes a faceless, soulless bureaucracy that too easily becomes the instrument of tyranny.

If federal "agents" are required, they must at the very least have no powers of arrest and must not ever be armed.

That things are otherwise shows just how far down the wrong road we have traveled.

doubletrouble said...

Good catch lass.

I had read that post & had a faint uneasy feeling about the whole (fed) thing, but let it go w/out any thought.

You nailed it; kudos.

Don Meaker said...

I just finished Jonah's book 'Liberal Fascism'.

I decided it needed a Volume 2, to recommend actions to restore freedom, and neuter the fascists to keep them from breeding new problems.

kbarrett said...

Infractions ( as opposed to misdemeanors and felonies ) have to be witnessed by the cop writing the ticket, and the cop has to have jurisdiction.

The charge won't stand up in court for a second.

They were hoping the person getting the ticket would just sign "guilty", and send in the bail amount.

Fight it.

staghounds said...

Not necessarily.

And even if they do, few people know it's a Federal crime to commit a local offense (even public intoxication or indecent exposure while having a roll in the back seat) on Federal property.

That's why you get a U. S. speeding ticket if you drive too fast through Yellowstone, and why I almost tried a rape that happened on a tiny battlefield park in U. S. District Court.

Many U. S. government installations have their own enforcement agencies, and I suppose that courthouse is one of them.

Jim Sullivan said...

You think that's scary, read this NY Times article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/29/business/29regulate.html?_r=1&hp=&oref=slogin&pagewanted=print

kbarrett said...

Missed that. Yea, if the state crime happens on federal property, the fed goon has jurisdiction ... and can issue a citation for an infraction.

Forest Service personnel with police training can also issue speed citations, etc, on Forest service land ... although they generally prefer to have state cops do it if possible.

It still has to go to the local court, however.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, in the Air Farce, we had two completely different traffic ticket books. One for military members, and one for civilians.

Completely different systems, UCMJ vs. Federal and local courts.

Bob Hawkins said...

When I lived in DC, there were seven police jurisdictions within easy walking distance of the Capitol. (Six federal, one DC itself.) If DHS has a jurisdiction in that area, it would go up to 8. If DC gets statehood and adds state police, it would be 9!

(The seven are: Capitol Police in the Capitol, Park Police on the National Mall, Secret Service at the White House and Treasury buildings, US Marshals at the Supreme Court, Library of Congress Police at guess where, FBI at remaining Federal property, and DC Metro at non-Federal property. No one expects the Library Police!)