My day off
Didn't feel like doing much blogging today, so instead I surfed the web for legal stories, and this is what I came up with:
The War on Liquor? I've blogged on numerous occasions about how the War on Drugs has largely involved a War on the Fourth Amendment as well, as demonstrated most recently by the 9th District's decision I discussed on Tuesday, in which the court essentially repealed the requirement that police obtain a warrant in cases in which they "reasonably believe" that a meth lab is located in a house. Upon further reflection, that's not limited to drugs; there are just as many bogus and pretextual traffic stops upheld in drunk driving cases as in drug cases. And, at least according to this blog by a former prosecutor, the claims that this is necessitated by the carnage caused by drunk drivers on our nation's highways is pretty much of a crock.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving routinely points to the 17,000 "alcohol-related fatalities" that supposedly result annually from drunk driving. Turns out that this is based on stats compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, which cautions that "the term alcohol related does not indicate that a crash or fatality was caused by the presence of alcohol." For good reason; essentially, it's counted as an "alcohol-related fatality" if anyone involved in the accident has a BAC of .01 or above. A drunk stumbles out of a bar and into the path of a car? Alcohol-related. Your buddy has a beer at the game, and on the way home he's killed when you're broadsided by someone running a red light? Alcohol-related. The blog's author crunches the numbers, and while I might disagree on some of the fine points, it's fairly obvious that the number of true "drunk-driving deaths" is nowhere close to the stat that's being peddled.
A fool for a client. Ken Lammers over at CrimLaw has a fun post about the perils of opposing a pro se litigant: you'll wind up arguing about the applicability of Wyoming's rules of criminal procedure because he read something about that on the Internet, and everything takes three times as long as it should. I did an appeal recently for a guy who wound up representing himself. He filed 73 pro se motions, including ones arguing that the Ohio Revised Code hadn't been legally enacted, that criminal law was part of US admiralty jurisdiction, and that since the indictment had his name in all caps and he spelled it in initial caps, it couldn't be him.
What happened to federalism? I know that the Feds have taken over prosecution of various drug and gun crimes, because of the heavier sentences available there, but the legal blogosphere is abuzz over a 6th Circuit decision on Tuesday upholding a conviction under the Hobbs Act, which prohibits "interfering with commerce by robbery." The crime in that case? The lone defendant robbed a Little Caesar's pizza shop here in Cleveland of $538. Howard Bashman over at How Appealing picked it up first. Although the Hobbs Act requires only a "de minimis" connection with interstate commerce, the defense argued that two Supreme Court decisions have changed that. Back in 1990, the Court had struck down the Gun-Free School Zones Act, finding that possession of a gun in a local school zone is "in no sense an economic activity that might, through repetition elsewhere, substantially affect any sort of interstate commerce." Ten years later, the Court struck down the Violence Against Women Act, holding that "the suppression of violent crime and vindication of its victims" was a matter traditionally reserved to the states.
The 6th Circuit wasn't buying, and neither has any other circuit; as the concurring opinion noted, "the effect of our Court's rulings is that every local robbery of a business in the United States is a federal crime." (This was a concurrence?) A Stitch in Haste notes helpfully that, according to the Department of Justice manual, "The robbery offense in [the Hobbs Act] is to be utilized only in instances involving organized crime, gang activity, or wide-ranging schemes."
Yeah, well, so much for that.