What was touted as an effort to make sure gun enthusiasts at an Arizona public shooting site pick up their shells after they finished shooting actually turned into a federal checkpoint where people’s cars were searched to substantiate arrests. Drivers were stopped and told before they entered that they could shoot as long as they picked up their empty bullet casings. Upon their departure, about 250 cars were stopped, and the drivers had to provide evidence that they picked up their empty shells.
But these Forest and National Park Rangers also used these stops as opportunities to search people’s cars and potentially issue citations and make arrests on unrelated charges. Infowars.com reports:
“The officials also searched vehicles for other illegal items, including marijuana, alcohol and in one case an illegally killed deer. Four people were arrested on outstanding warrants and officers issued 11 citations, including one for underage drinking.”
It’s clear that this checkpoint had little to do with cracking down on the litter problem. That was just their excuse. Whether or not people picked up after themselves is not probable cause for their cars to be searched. It’s as if these park rangers are saying, “Ah ha. This guy didn’t pick up his shell casings. I bet he’s a marijuana smoker.” Of course it’s a non sequitur, but it doesn’t matter anymore. These officials seem to do whatever they want these days.
Some may argue that if you’re innocent, then you should have nothing to hide, and good thing those people got arrested and ticketed because they must have been bad after all. But, remember these kind of warrantless searches were a main catalyst that threw our nation into the War for Independence.
Back then, general warrants were called writs of assistance. And in those days, the colonists used to smuggle goods to avoid British taxes. The English depended on this tax revenue, so they “cracked down” on these smugglers by assuming everybody was guilty. British officials were given writs of assistance that allowed them to search anyone’s house, person and possessions based on mere suspicion, and any damage they incurred was not their responsibility.
James Otis, Jr. was a prominent lawyer at the time who represented 63 Boston merchants pro bono. They challenged the legality of these writs of assistance. In his five- hour speech before the court, he said:
“Now, one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.”
His speech against such general warrants inspired the Fourth Amendment.
Cops today are modern day British soldiers. Searching people’s property “just in case” only has the purpose of generating revenue for the government. The people who were arrested and ticketed at this shooting site for completely unrelated charges should have their cases thrown out by the judge. But that’s not likely to happen when most judges think the Fourth Amendment is null and void.