In a queer American place called “Liberty” of all names, gun toting officers of Authority in blue uniforms were out in force brazenly stopping, harassing and robbing hapless innocent motorists just minding their own business by peacefully driving through the town.
That’s right; I’m talking about the tiny statist hamlet of Liberty Kentucky where the city fathers dreamed up a bright shiny new way to fleece the townsfolk of their hard-earned cash.
They actually passed a law requiring all of the town’s 1850 residents and anyone else working within the city limits to purchase a sticker for $10 and display it on their automobile.
Later, when these unabashed highway thieves learned that a few of their citizens; some teachers at the local school, weren’t obeying their law, they ordered the city police to set up roadblocks for the sole purpose of harassing motorists and issuing tickets for failure to display the stickers.
Cars displaying a sticker were allowed to pass through the checkpoint, while all other drivers were interrogated about where they lived and where they worked. And while they were at it, they searched some of the cars and in at least one instance found a small amount of pot for which they eagerly charged their helpless victim with illegal possession.
Joseph A. Singleton was stopped at a checkpoint and police decided for no good reason to search his car. In doing so, they found a small amount of marijuana. Singleton moved to suppress the evidence on the grounds that police had stopped and searched him without probable cause or reasonable suspicion in violation of the United States Constitution Fourth Amendment.
The local circuit court judge ruled that the town can’t do that, but the Kentucky State Court of Appeals thought it was a fine idea. Last week, though, in the case of Singleton v. Kentucky, (4/25/2012), a unanimous Kentucky Supreme Court struck down the infamous sticker roadblock scheme as an unconstitutional revenue raising exercise
Liberty may not set up roadblocks for the purpose of issuing tickets for failure to display a city sticker on an automobile said the Court. Liberty, they ruled, lacked a substantial reason to detain motorists.
Their decision cited the fact that the US Supreme Court has already ignored the Fourth Amendment in a series of cases authorizing the stopping of cars at roadblocks without probable cause or reasonable suspicion that the motorist has committed a crime.
Such roadblocks have been found constitutional for the purpose of finding illegal aliens up to 100 miles from the border; verifying drivers' licenses and registrations; looking for drunk drivers; and responding to a specific crime that took place on the same highway as the roadblock.
So we know that if the US Supreme Court wants to ignore the Fourth Amendment – or any other liberty safeguard provision of the Bill of Rights for that matter – they simply ignore it and there is nothing any of us freedom lovers can do about it. Fuck Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. They can spin in their graves for all our current Supreme Court cares.
But the Supreme Court has not yet got around to allowing police roadblocks for enforcing city revenue raising schemes. So the Kentucky Supreme Court decided they couldn’t go that far either. Finding that none of the exceptions to the Fourth Amendment mandate applied, they had no choice but to strike down the scheme.
"The checkpoint's only purpose was to enforce a revenue-raising tax upon vehicles in the city," said the court. "Thus, the checkpoint to enforce the sticker ordinance comports with none of the purposes which the United States Supreme Court has found to be important enough to override the individual liberty interests secured by the Fourth Amendment."
You see, individual liberty interests can easily be overridden if the US Supreme Court decides to simply ignore the Bill of Rights. But the Kentucky courts don’t yet have that authority.
"We also recall that the initial concern that sparked the need for the checkpoint was the report that some teachers had failed to pay the sticker fee," noted the court. "That concern could have been addressed by means far less intrusive than a traffic checkpoint. For example, police officers could have simply walked through the school parking lot and cited cars without a sticker."
There you are. The Kentucky Supreme Court, while chastising the town for selecting the most intrusive means possible to achieve its stated goal, has given them the green light to enforce their highway robbery scheme by other simpler ways.
Just have the cops walk through the parking lots and ticket all cars without a sticker, declares the highest court of justice in the State of Kentucky.
Just change the law a little bit. Just tweak it a tad and the Authority can get away with anything.
Just do that, and there will still be plenty of highway robbery schemes in Liberty.