Friday, July 10, 2015

Damaged Goods

What is a moderate interpretation of the text? Halfway between what it really means and what you’d like it to mean?
– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

The Oregon Supreme Court, in an obviously immoderate effort to raise the daftness bar in their state, has determined that an officer who asks someone who is lawfully detained "Are you armed?" violates their constitution. It is possible, theoretically anyway, to find a more disreputable misreading of the real world ebbing and flowing outside of their cloistered halls. I am getting up early tomorrow to spend the day with friends, and need my rest. So I will conclude, reasonably I think, that of the thousands of cases I have read (trust me, I read this one), I have never seen so many vacuous sentences masquerading as legal argument collected under one heading.

When one boils out all of the polysyllabic nonsense, one is left with the legal proposition that, at least in the state of Oregon, a police officer may not engage another human being in conversation. Other states have tried this approach (Colorado, sadly, is one of them) but this is the first time a court has ruled that their version of the 4th Amendment protects someone lawfully detained from being asked a question unrelated to the reason a citizen is stopped.

The concurrence (concurrence?!) surmised that it unlawfully extended the length of the contact. This is, of course, what really happens on a ped contact not confined to chambers in Salem. Let's play, shall we?

Officer (speaking to dispatch): Clear person, last name Saggypants, first Banger. DOB zero one, zero one, ninety."
Dispatch: Stand by.
Officer: So, do you have any weapons on you?
Saggy: Well...yeah, a gun.
Dispatch: Are you clear for info?

It took you longer to read than it takes to experience. Pretend you have not arisen to the exhalted position of Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. Pretend you are a citizen of average intelligence who knows the following about the law: Don't break it. Would the above lead you to conclude that the question was an unconstitutional intrusion? Do you think police officers are prevented by anything related to the real world from asking it?

We have entered an era where officers are reduced to being spectators at a melodrama. The losers are, among others, a thirty-two year old woman walking in the moonlight with her dad, shot down for no reason by some piece of shit asshole with a gun I can't ask if he has.

Obviously, the Oregon bar exam isn't hard enough.

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