Sunday, May 12, 2013

Star Tribune's Columnist Satire Raises Serious Issue of Unconstututional Police Behavior

Star Tribune Columnist James Lilek had a satirical (imagine that) piece in Sunday's paper paper regarding the decision by some news outlets to tweet the sex and age of suspects caught by the DWI crackdown that went into effect preceding Minnesota's Fishing Opener.  Lileks, tongue firmly in cheek, suggests it would be far more effective for the police to force a suspect to divulge his twitter handle in order to humiliate the suspect, if such shame based deterrent is to have any effect.

Well life is always stranger than fiction and as a criminal defense attorney for over a quarter of a century, I have learned never to be surprised by how low a lazy cop is willing to go to cut corners and the U.S. and State Constitutions in order to get an arrest and enhance their personal stats.  That said, I give my obligatory disclaimer that the men and women of law enforcement who do their jobs honestly, are respectful of all citizens and their constitutional rights are absolute heroes and have my utmost respect.  By the same token I have no patience and utter disdain for the buillies in blue who lie in their reports, trample the rights of citizens and view their job as somehow making up for the fact that they were picked on losers in high school.

Lilek's article reminded me of some complaints I started getting from clients shortly after the no texting while driving law went into effect.  Apparently some officers and/or departments thought it would be a good thing to ask all persons pulled over for routine traffic offenses such as speeding to see their cell phones.  The officer would then walk back to his squad with it and if he saw that you had been on your device and texting shortly before the time of the stop, you might find yourself getting issued a second ticket for a violation of Minn. Stat. Section 169.475 Subd. 2:  

"Prohibition on use.

No person may operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device to compose, read, or send an electronic message, when the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic."

The above law does not give law enforcement the right to embark on a fishing expedition to raise further revenue for cash strapped local governments by violating the constitutional rights of citizen.  Now before one of my astute colleagues points it out, yes, I am fully aware that many courts have ruled that you do not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in some forms of electronic communication but I believe such rulings are not only wrong but incredibly short-sighted and potentially dangerous.  My advice to drivers faced with such a request is to "Just say NO!"

To read the Star Tribune column go to the link below and/or read my comment in response which I include below.  The P.S. refers to a New Years Eve party hosted by the columnist which my former college roommate and I crashed, probably circa mid 80's, it's a little hazy as we drank him out of his best booze.

May. 12, 13 8:57 AM
Since good parody, and humor in general, is based upon reality, your snarky little ditty brings up a bone of contention with me. Shortly after the no texting law went into effect, I started receiving calls from clients asking whether the police could ask to see their cell phone when pulled over for routine traffic matters. The sad fact of the matter is that a good percentage of cops push the envelope and often go over the edge of what is constitutional. 

Unless you are under investigation for something more serious that a routine traffic violation, the police have no right to see your cell phone or any other electronic gear for that matter. If you are under investigation for something more serious, the ONLY thing you should be doing or saying is to refuse such requests and ask to speak with a lawyer. 

Newshound and criminal defense attorney. 

P.S. Frank and I enjoyed your bottle of Black Label many many New Years ago.

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