Amending the Amendments

Lawline Staff | July 10, 2013

With millions of views, one young Tennessee college student has successfully called attention to an incident that at the least raises into question the ethics and training of one state highway patrol battalion. At the most, the Tennessee post-teen "volunteered" to act as the guinea pig in a investigatory piece examining whether our fundamental principles of constitutionalism are adhered to or even recognized. This has "Episode of Nashville season 2 written all over it!"


When I watch this video I see a kid, camera open and ready, seizing an opportunity to make one (bad) cop look bad and perhaps launch hisself up the Reddit rankings to the heights of internet stardom seen prior only by the likes of Amanda Bynes and teen mom Farrah Abraham (see front cover, good parenting, August issue... and yes, there is no forum inappropriate for jabs at MTV's Teen Mom sitcom).

"Come on, kid," I says with reckless (not negligent) abandon!!!

Yes, the sneaky little video brings to light a major issue: do cops feel the need to or even understand how to fulfill their roles WITHOUT side-stepping the confines of constitutionality? But, beneath the surface, this video (in my admittedly law-school corrupted light) underscores a paradox that in today's society, could literally tear a police or enforcement bureau apart at the trow seams like no "just baked krispy kreme" ever could!

To understand my point, imagine the other ways in which this could have played out. Person approaches police check point (highway, airport, customs, etc.,) and instantly acts difficultly. The cop, uneducated in the parameters of constitutionalism recognizes that his badge and pension are on the line and in order to avoid pers and/or prosecution, shies away from the challenging brat and lets the instigator pass. Moments later, bombs go off and the cops are pointed to for giving in to a troublemaker because that troublemaker was slightly more educated on the subject of police investigation limitations.

That cop would forever be a social pariah here in good 'ole America and would without a doubt be targeted by official and governmental authorities around the country as evidence for the need of stricter scrutiny in escalating investigations.

Of course, here, the cop went beyond his bounds; he even admitted to doing so at one point in the video. But if a person rolls up to a checkpoint, at night, and we assume that checkpoint has been set up to alleviate a tangible public and moral problem, and the policed makes it difficult for the cop to do his job (refuses to roll down window, refuses to open a bag, refuses to answer a few simple questions, refuses to produce identification, etc.,) do we not want that cop, perhaps, expanding upon his initially planned intervention - even if it means bending or reinterpreting a few rules? Isn't the value of every public utility the product of a balancing test in where we weigh the weight of the violation against the perpetrator vs. the utility to the public body? Isn't a DUI stop meant to check for DUI's, and thus when a person creates a to-do to avoid interrogation, an officer correct to exert elevated caution??

I think so.

"But what about the right to privacy???"

Ahhhh, that relic of a pre-internet age during which drones didn't eavesdrop on your most intimate of sexts, detect your indoor growing operations, and deliver you Sushi and Hamburgers ( See, a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century. Specifically, privacy disappeared. Those who crave it move to Appalachia where roadkill may be safely consumed out of the public eye. Those who recognize its absence live in Manhattan and those naive complain about a cop getting a little "frisky" at a DUI checkpoint. Privacy is dead... Long Live invasiveness!!!

To reiterate, I do agree that cops should be trained to abide by the law in every way feasible. But as my polish grandmother taught me "Amazeacht Gafintme!!," or, "if you look for it, you're going to find it." Clearly, with camera open before even approaching the rest-stop (and no background suggesting prior, unfortunate incidents), this little bugger approached the check point looking for a party and in the end, we KNOW who let the dogs out.

Were the cops wrong? Were they wrong in theory but right in practice? Or, were they just doing what we really always want them to do which is pry when prying seems warranted?

We leave it up to you, loyal reader. But remember, a car is a weapon in the same regard as a shady suitcase on a plane. Where compliance is easy, signs of resistance should perhaps be excuse for a heightened level of consideration, even from Sheriff What's-his-face from Middle Tennessee!

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