Bloomberg Says, "Fourth Amendment, I piss on you."I read this today.
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No."
Fervently, absolutely, unapologetically. No.
Submitted for your consideration, a memory:
During my senior year of college, several items of paraphenalia and about one gram of marijuana were confiscated from my bedroom. I lived in what was called a "Living/Learning Housing Unit" on campus. My school did not, thankfully, have a Greek system. However, different campus organizations could petition to have a house on campus independent from the dormitories. In return, we had to host "cultural" events periodically.
I lived in the Asian-American Students Association (ASA) house. More stories on that later.
During holiday breaks, I often stayed on campus since flying home to Maine from Michigan did not always fit into my budget. On Christmas break of my senior year, I was the only one left in my seven bedroom dilapidated house. It was winter, and my breath hung like poofs of white laundry in the air. I was to fly home the next day for Christmas, but in the meantime, I had stayed on campus to work at my catering job for Marriott. For $5.50 an hour, I donned a fake tuxedo and created banquet tables out of white tablecloths and baby carrots.
That morning, I was loosening my bow tie and climbing the stairs to the house when I noticed the front door was ajar. At first I figured I had just forgotten to lock the door and the wind pushed it open, but as I pushed the door open, I heard voices murmuring over my head. My first reaction was to run, but to where? The campus encompassed about one city block and my options beyond the red brick streets of academia were limited to the Munchie Mart gas station.
Then it hit me.
You know how your guts constrict when your anxieties catch up with your reality and you suddenly realize you are in for a shit storm? Like when you get pulled over while driving and you know you have had enough to drink that your sobriety is questionable?
I knew that the open door had everything to do with a little plastic, single-chambered water paraphernalia perched in my windowsill.
The bong was a gift from a beautiful boy. S. embodied everything I thought I wanted: charming, cute, pants that hung just so off his ass. He was a wonderful flirt and he lived with the campus drug dealer. It was an ideal partnership for a teenage college romance.
A few weeks into our courtship, he showed up on my doorstep with his two foot, plastic purple, single gauge water bong. Sheepishly, he told me that he already had too much paraphenalia in his tiny dorm room and maybe, since he spent so much time smoking in my comparatively spacious cooperative housing bedroom, I would like to have it. He acted like it was not a big deal, but, he knew what it would mean to the heart of that 20 year-old cynical girl.
It was a grand romantic gesture, and I gladly accepted. I may have even swooned a bit. Defiantly, I left the water bong out on my nightstand in a window that faced the main street of our private liberal arts college.
As I walked into the house that December day, I knew I would soon be punished for my cockiness. I saw congregated on the stairs various campus authority figures wearing heavy coats and grim expressions. Their disappointment carried inevitable sentences like heavy boats into the harbor of my ears and I knew from that day, my life would be altered inexorably.
They had turned over what they confiscated to the local police department and told me that I would have to face a student commission hearing after we returned from the break.
Nothing happened to me, and here is why.
You see, at that time, I actually sat on the Board of the Student Commission, which was comprised of faculty and students. I smoked pot with two of the four other students on the board. When campus reconvened and the small student body heard about what happened to me, it caused a little stir. One of my professors sent me a letter in my support and told me that she still smoked once in a while. Nothing was going to happen to me.
Yes, I had to face the commission and was sentenced to 40 hours of "community service" which I served out smoking joints with the head of the campus recycling facilities manager. He was on old hippie who I followed around a few days while he "ran his errands." The charge held little merit on our liberal little school campus.
However, I was terrified of what would happen with the local police. The Dean of Student Housing told me I would have to go down to the station and deal with the consquences.
Nothing happened to me. Here's why:
After doing a little research, I found a lawyer through the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). He practiced in the town where I went to school and even taught at my college at one point years earlier. Initially, after I explained to him what happened, he laughed.
"Sorry. I don't mean to laugh at you, but I usually deal with clients who get caught with hundreds of pounds, not one gram."
He told me that if that police contacted me, which he said they very well probably would not, all I had to say was, "I spoke with a lawyer and I do not wish to comment on this situation." Or something to that affect.
He said, "If they pressure you to confess to something, just call me and I will send them a letter. They'll leave you alone. The only way that could press charges against you is if you go down there and admit guilt. Otherwise, they have no case."
What happened to me was an illegal search and seizure. I was not present when they searched my room and I did not consent to a search. It was against my constitutional rights.
Sure enough, I got a phone call one day from the police department. I stammered out what I was told to say and that was the end of it.
Anytime I read about marijuana seizures now, I still get upset. We at Miss Hag. are not about condoning. This is not a "Do As I Say And As I Do" kind of blog. Yes, I have been a pot smoker for 15 years (half) of my life. I believe in decriminalizing marijuana laws, but I do not insist you do the same. I am not saying I was not guilty of smoking and possessing marijuana and paraphenalia.
But, that does not justify what happened to me. And what will potentially happen to non-violent lawbreakers in New York.
For those of you outside of the city, next year is an election year for the Mayor's office. Bloomberg is coming under a lot of pressure (namely from Senator Hillary Clinton) regarding the lack of surveillance cameras in NYC subways and other technology to combat terrorist attacks as in London. There is a lot of corruption and bloated paychecks amongst the higher ups leading New York's Metroplitan Transit Authority.
This move is simply smoke and mirrors to make it seem that they are "cracking down" on potential acts of violence. But the real victim in this scenario is our civil liberties.
For instance, they are claiming that this procedure will be executed in a "reasonable" manner and that there will not be racial profiling. But, I would not want to be an "Arab looking" person with a backpack starting tomorrow. Air America News just reported that anyone who refuses search of their bags will not be allowed to ride the subway.
This is insanity.
Submitted for your consideration:
The FOURTH AMENDMENT
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.
If you live in NYC, I urge you to contact the Office of Mayor Bloomberg. This is an unacceptable violation of our constitutional rights.
In the meantime. . .
Practice this statement,
"I do not consent to a search of my person, belongings, home or vehicle. I retain my 4th Amendent Rights, and all other Rights under the US and State Constitution."
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
New York, NY 10007
PHONE 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK outside NYC)
FAX (212) 788-2460
** ACLU and NYCLU