Monday, July 23, 2012

Privileges and Immunities

Conservatives have recently discovered the 14th Amendment's clause protecting "privileges and immunities." The attempt to use it in attacking Washington D.C.'s gun prohibition was rebuffed, but it won't be the last we hear of it. Columnist George Will wrote that one question he would ask Elena Kagan during her Supreme Court nomination hearings was exactly what she would consider the privileges and immunities protected by the 14th Amendment. Here's my list. So (drum roll), the envelope, please.

  • You have the right to freedom from criminal attacks on your person, property, family, wealth, and freedom. This of course includes freedom from cybercrime. All crime is a civil rights violation.
  • You have the right to defend yourself, your property, and other people and their property against criminal attack.
  • You have the right to complete compensation for damages from criminal attack. (Ideally from the offender)
  • You have the right to complete compensation for all costs arising from any legal or administrative procedure for which you are found not guilty or the case is dropped. This includes false or wrongful arrest, wrongful prosecution, defending against investigations, and costs of civil suits. (Loser pays in civil suits, the prosecution or regulatory agency in all other cases. And it comes from their base budget.)
  • You have the right to presumption of innocence in all cases, civil and criminal, and all administrative procedures.
  • You have a right to a jury trial in all cases where you may suffer any loss of liberty or property; civil, criminal, and regulatory cases.
  • Innocence shall be an absolute bar to imprisonment or any other punishment.
  • You have the right to use any argument whatsoever in court in your defense. Prosecutors shall have no right to object in court.
  • You have the right to urge jury nullification.
  • You have the right to argue in court that charges brought against you violate your immunities and privileges, and charges shall be dismissed if the claim is upheld.
  • You have the right not to be arrested or prosecuted for any action if you can show it does not present a danger to anyone else. (so much for speed traps on empty roads at 3 AM)
  • You have the right to resist wrongful arrest and to flee from wrongful confinement.
  • You have the right to self defense against force applied by law enforcement. (That taser won't be quite so attractive if the guy being tased can legally fight back)
  • You have the absolute right to document wrongdoing by law enforcement and government officials using electronic or other means.
  • You have the right to be left alone. You have the right not to be regulated in any activity that does not infringe on the rights of others.
  • You have immunity from having to report any of your activities to any government agency provided your activities do not infringe on the rights of others.
  • You have the right to be free of surveillance in public places.
  • You have the right to maintain only whatever records you deem necessary to your own purposes. There shall be no laws requiring anyone to keep records solely for the convenience of the government.
  • There shall be no laws that infringe on personal liberty solely for the convenience of the government or ease of enforcement. (True story: California once tried to ban open beverage containers of any kind in motor vehicles because the CHP was embarrassed at stopping so many soda drinkers.)
  • You shall not be required to keep records to demonstrate your compliance with the law or your innocence if charged with an offense.
  • Government agencies shall charge fees only for services that directly benefit the payer. Fees shall not be charged for defraying the cost of administering regulations that restrict the liberty of the payer or provide no perceptible benefit. (True story: Black Hills National Forest charges educational institutions for using National Forest lands. Their justification is that the money is needed to "administer regulatory activities.") Licensing and inspection shall never incur fees.
  • You have the right to compensation for all regulatory or other actions that impose expenses or reduce the utility of your property to you.
  • There shall be no retroactive legislation or regulation of any kind.
  • Any action not explicitly forbidden by law is permissible, and requires neither permission from nor notification to the government.
The point of all these proposals is to make the Government more burdensome to Government than it is to individual citizens. Of course, loads of people in government will be quick to point out they won't be able to do their jobs under these restrictions. My response is, if you can't do your job, resign. Repeat after me: "Do you want fries with that?"

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