Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, or be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.--Amendment V, The Constitution of the United States

This amendment has been through the wringer.  Badly.

First up: compelling someone to be a witness against herself.  Yes, the judge may well have given the police a warrant to search Fricosu's computer for the incriminating evidence that the prosecuting attorneys were sure was there.  Yes, that gave the police and the prosecuting attorney the right to look at the files and read through the woman's life.  However, when they opened up the laptop and found it encrypted, what they should have done was find an expert that could decrypt it.  Forcing Fricosu to turn over her password was forcing her to give evidence against herself. 

Next: depriving people of property on a bare suspicion.  I'd recently heard about a case, in this instance, in Wisconsin, where a police department told the family to bring in cash for bail, had a drug dog sniff it, and stole the entire amount from the family in a "legal" move called asset forfeiture.  It took me a minute to find that particular story, because I searched the terms "cops" "bail money" and "confiscated", and came up with several other stories--this one is notable because the victim of legalized theft is getting his money back.

Asset forfeiture is a dirty move in which anything suspected of being connected to drugs--cash, jewelry, land, cars, or anything--can be confiscated.  In a quick internet search, I found several million results discussing this move.  And most of the time, even when someone is able to prove their innocence, their property is not returned, nor are they reimbursed.  Often, the asset seized is large amounts of cash, despite studies that have shown that the majority of cash in circulation is contaminated by enough cocaine to cause a drug dog to alert. 

Last: private property wrongly seized under eminent domain.  Kelo v. New London.  Need I say more?


  1. I would like to think that this is a felony versus a misdemeanor issue.......

    Cops fall into 3 categories (Thanks, Clint!), THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY!

    1. It's not. It's a "how much can they seize from finding any trace of any kind of drugs to sell to fund their departments" issue.


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