Tampering with Protected Activity

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2011-03-23 Print this article Print

On a practical matter, the disclosure of police checkpoints not only isn't illegal, it has a legitimate purpose in letting potential drunk drivers know that they won't make it without getting arrested and that it's best to stay put. And it's also useful for people who aren't drinking at all. Getting forced to submit to police questioning after being stuck in a line of traffic for a long period of time and then treated like you're guilty until you prove through an invasive test that you aren't is reason enough to avoid a checkpoint.

Worse, once you're stopped, there's nothing to keep the police from searching you, your car and the people traveling with you for real or imagined contraband. While I realize that these activities aren't necessarily legal, they're also very common. Should law abiding citizens be denied the right to avoid such treatment? If so, on what grounds? How can this possibly be legal?

In reality, it's not legal. Unless police have probable cause to search you or your car, they aren't supposed to do it. But that doesn't mean they don't. Sometimes this is caused by well-meaning public servants who simply aren't clear on what's legal and what's not. But these four senators aren't police walking a beat. They are supposed to know the Constitution, and they have sworn an oath to uphold it.

But for far too many legislators, upholding the Constitution has a silent gotcha in which what they really mean is that they'll uphold the Constitution as long as they like what you're doing. If what you're doing, however, is politically incorrect or something else they don't like, then damn the Constitution, and it's full speed ahead on doing what they want regardless of your rights.

So far, only RIM has knuckled under to the demands of the senators. Perhaps it's because they're a Canadian company and they're trying to be polite. But it's a sad day nonetheless. The senators, meanwhile, should spend their energies doing something useful like helping to fix the economy or maybe helping create jobs. But thinking of new and creative ways to deny Americans their basic Constitutional rights, even if it's their right to find out about a checkpoint, is outside of their job description. 

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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