Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pocket Knives and the Bill of Rights

Guess I will get stopped tomorrow by Mister Law but here goes anyway.

There is a stipulation in the Bill of Rights which is part of the Constitution of the United States, by the way, that protects citizens from having law enforcement walk up and say I'm going to search you. All you were doing was going out to spend your hard earned money anyway.

I remember when men used to pass the time comparing the pocket knives they carried. Often, they would trade and bargain between themselves. You let a bunch of men pull out pocket knives in public nowadays and the National Guard would be called in to put down a terrorist attack. Really! On the farm, a pocket knife was a necessity. Maybe you couldn't afford a toothbrush and had to use baking soda and a clean cloth, but you had to have a pocket knife. There were feed sacks to open, splinters to get out, fishing poles to cut down...lots of important stuff. If you reached into your pocket and could not find your pocket knife, well, the kids were called together for a detailed search and they better find it. "I didn't loose it there, look over there."

Well, I hope I have established the importance attached to carrying a pocket knife back then. Many of us carry on the tradition which is as American as 'hog-killing-time'.

(Insert: I believe a society must have law enforcement to protect us. I also believe that a society should have safeguards to protect us from over zealous law enforcement. There you go.)

Now to the nullification of that part of the Constitution that protects us from illegal, unnecessary and down right rude searching of our home and person by law enforcement...... (next paragraph)

.... A very important tool that law enforcement uses these days (or nowadays) is to ask a person if they have a knife on them. Dah! I'm a guy, of course I have a knife. They know that. 'Okay, I'm going to have to find that knife and hold it while we talk.' The justification is that the officers life could be in danger if the person has a knife while they talk. This practice opens the door for the officer to pat down a person all over until they find the knife. Of course, they know that about any of us country boys carries the knife in the left pocket because our right hand is busy holding the 'pig by the ear' or something else. Anyway, they pat the person down all over, whoops! then something illegal is found, then they go to the knife and arrest the person.

The problem with this procedure is that number one they did not have reason to suspect the person, they were just looking for the knife in a round-about-way and came across something else. Now they can say, 'probable cause'. The only problem is the 'poison tree' case way back at that lumber company. They went in and found evidence then came back and got a search warrant after the fact. No. No. That is against the Constitution. Another problem is, there are few constitutional lawyers in small towns who will go to bat for the little guy. Guess most people say, 'Well they was guilty anyway.' No wait a minute, you can't have one side of the 'coin' going by the Constitution and the other side making it up as they go along.

Okay, so the officer feels he could be in danger. He ought to know that when he pens on his badge. He has a dangerous job. A military man knows he stands between the bad guys bullets to protect citizens. Law enforcement bare the same burden. I don't go for unnecessary danger for those guys. But when they are out there protecting the very document that allows them to enforce the law, they can't go bending it around just for their benefit.

That reminds me of a joke I will not tell about the guy who pulled a knife on someone. The someone pulled out a gun and told the guy with the knife: 'just like you to bring a knife to a gun fight'. Well I almost told it but that's the point. An officer standing at a proper distance with a gun is pretty much safe even if they other guy pulls a knife.

It's okay in the movies where we can see inside walls and want the hero to smash down the wall to rescue someone. In real life, the Constitution must be protected or we are all lost to the whims of everyone else.

Maybe if we call our pocket knives, splinter getters (put a nice sticker on it saying so), we could tell the officer honestly: 'No I don't have a knife.' thus protected our rights against those unnecessary intrusions into our private life and persons. Otherwise if a bad cop wants to run up his numbers, he can visit the evidence room, pull out some stuff and palm it while doing his search. 'Hey, look what I found.'

(Insert: By the way, I despise illegal drugs and those who produce and transport them. I have more compassion for those who are addicted, even if they are not a movie star with a high priced lawyer. On that note: Why is it a sickness for those with money and a crime for those who have to use a public defender? Huuh?)

Thanks Tom and crew for a fine piece of literature, hope we don't end up ignoring it altogether.

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