Pubdate: Tue, 04 Nov 2003
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2003 Las Vegas Review-Journal


A case out of Baltimore illustrates one more way the pervasive "War on
Drugs" continues to erode Americans' Fourth Amendment guarantee that they
shall remain "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against
unreasonable searches and seizures."

When none of the three people traveling in Donte Partlow's car would own up
to owning the bags of cocaine found under the rear-seat armrest, a suburban
Baltimore police officer arrested all three, in hopes of getting the guilty
party to confess.

Joseph Pringle, one of the passengers, finally said the drugs were his.

Many would doubtless conclude that result justified the police tactics
involved -- stopping and searching a vehicle, arresting everyone who might
have been in arm's reach of the contraband until someone confessed.

But if such tactics are allowed, where will they lead? To "dragnet" arrests
of every occupant of a bus, ferry boat, or airplane? How about everyone
dining in a restaurant or working in the same business office? If that's
allowed, "The Fourth Amendment means nothing," argues one of Mr. Pringle's
attorneys, who brought the case to the U.S. Supreme Court Monday.

The court may be tempted, here, to "balance" our Fourth Amendment rights
against the government's purported "compelling interest" in enforcing drug
prohibitions. But try as we may, we can't locate any such exemption or
"balancing" test in the Constitution -- let alone anything that could
"compel" such infringements.

If the "War on Drugs" cannot be successfully waged while our Bill of Rights
remains in force, the problem is not with the Bill of Rights -- it's with
the War on Drugs.
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