Over more years than I care to admit, I’ve watched the gradual erosion of constitutional rights in this country. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the unending “War on Drunk Driving” — that politically expedient phenomena I’ve repeatedly referred to as the “DUI Exception to the Constitution”. The examples are legion: roadblocks, double jeopardy, denial of counsel, destruction of evidence, self-incrimination, presumptions of guilt, denial of due process…ad nauseum.
OK, you say, but they’re just drunk drivers, right? Think about that for a moment. And think about tommorrow: If the Supreme Court waives the Fourth Amendment for “sobriety checkpoints” today, what are they prepared to do tommorrow? If that same Court can sanction the routine destruction by police of critical evidence in DUI cases today…
It is interesting that many of the Court’s actions have reversed attempts by the state courts to protect their citizens’ freedoms. In Michigan v. Sitz, for example, the Michigan Supreme Court held that DUI roadblocks were a violation of the Fourth Amendment — and the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. (On remand, the Michigan court resinstated their original result by relying upon their own state constitution.) In South Dakota v. Neville, that state’s Supreme Court held that offering evidence of a refusal to submit to breath alcohol testing was a violation of the Fifth Amendment — and, again, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed. (And, again, on remand that state’s court thumbed their noses at Washington by relying upon their state constitution to protect their citizens.)
Thomas Jefferson saw it coming quite clearly nearly two centuries ago:
It has long been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression,… that the germ of dissolution of our Federal Government is in the constitution of the Federal Judiciary–an irresponsible body (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow), working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief over the field of jurisdiction until all shall be usurped from the States and the government be consolidated into one. To this I am opposed.
(Thanks for the quote to Charley Hardman.)