Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine, Bill, from Colorado that had an experience with the police just outside of Sturgis this weekend. The officer said he pulled Bill over because of ‘safety concerns’ with the truck being driven. Where these safety concerns came from was confusing to Bill. The truck in question is a fairly new pickup truck and in great condition. In the bed of the pickup truck there was a tarp covering all of the camping equipment used by Bill and his wife. Nothing from the appearance of the truck seem out of the ordinary… Except maybe the Colorado license plate.
Bill says the police officer quickly checked the tarp, which was very well secured. Then without a pause asked Bill if he was in possession of any illegal substances. This appears to be the real reason Bill was pulled over. Apparently the officer was quite reluctant to believe Bill when he said he didn’t have any illegal substances. According to Bill the officer was about to do a search of his vehicle when the officer received a call on the radio to help with another situation. The officer then said Bill was free to leave, but that he would be on the lookout for the vehicle in the future.
I wasn’t going to do a post about this little incident until I looked at the Highway Patrol Sturgis Rally Daily Information posted yesterday. Of the three items in ‘Other Noteworthy Events’ two of them are for vehicles from Colorado:
A Colorado plated vehicle was stopped for equipment violations. A search revealed over 1 ½ pounds of Marijuana and THC edibles. The subjects in the vehicle were arrested and charged accordingly. The vehicle was seized, and is pending forfeiture through the Attorney General’s Office.
A Colorado motorcycle was stopped for a vehicle violation. A search revealed about two grams of suspected methamphetamine, two glass pipes, one of which having a white powder residue. The passenger was arrested and transported to the Lawrence County Jail and will be charged accordingly. The motorcycle was not seized.
Notice how both of the above ‘noteworthy events’ started with a Colorado vehicle being pulled over for some sort of vehicle check. The vehicles were then searched and illegal substances found. My question is this: are Colorado vehicles now being targeted because Marijuana has been legalized there? Bill and the two incidents reported above all have Colorado plates in common. How many vehicles with Colorado plates has the Highway Patrol been pulling over and harassing? Is SD Attorney General Marty Jackley going to target Colorado visitors so he can continue to be a leader in the failed War on Drugs? Or is the Highway Patrol doing this to make money off forfeitures?
I think even supporters of the failed War on Drugs should cringe at the South Dakota Highway pulling people over just to search their vehicles. There was one bright side to Bill’s encounter with the officer outside Sturgis. Before this encounter Bill didn’t care one way or the other about the War on Drugs because he doesn’t do or ever plan to do drugs. But now he is starting to believe the power abused by police in the War on Drugs is a large problem. If this trend continues Colorado will have to put out Public Service Announcements telling residents to avoid South Dakota because law enforcement there will harass and arrest Colorado residents. Somehow I think that would make AG Jackley proud…..
Recently the Prison Policy Initiative created a chart showing the incarceration rate of countries around the world along with each state of the US as a comparison (their site seems to be having problems right now, if the link doesn’t work here is the cached version). This chart does not look good for South Dakota or the United States.
Here is a view of the top 16 incarceration rates:
Here are some takeaway numbers from the whole chart. It should be noted that these figures represent the number of people incarcerated per 100,000 people. These figures include local, state, and federal incarceration numbers.
- The top incarceration honors go to Louisiana with a rate of 1341!
- South Dakota has an incarceration rate of 777, nothing for us to be proud of.
- The US incarceration rate is 716.
- The next lowest country is Cuba with an incarceration rate of 510. I would however recommend taking this number with a grain of salt. These numbers are what each country officially releases; and Cuba has a long history of locking people up for political reasons. It is unknown if these numbers include such cases.
- The lowest incarceration rate for a US state is Vermont with 254.
- The United Kingdom-England & Wales has an incarceration rate of 148.
- Another questionable number on the chart is China with a rate of 121. I would have the same concern with these official numbers as with Cuba.
- Canada is way below the US with an incarceration rate of 118.
- Comoros is at the very bottom of the list with an incarceration rate of 16.
The incarceration rate I’m seeing for South Dakota is shameful! As a libertarian I am often trying to make the case that victim-less crimes do nothing but create criminals out of normal people. I would suggest that the failed war on drugs is large part of our over-use of incarceration. Unfortunately this trend seems unlikely to reverse itself. Here in South Dakota the Attorney General is proud of locking up people who committed victim-less crimes and has vowed to do even more! I guess having the 16th highest incarceration rate in the world isn’t enough for the AG….
I was sent a link to this infographic over at SecurityDegreeHub a while back. Perhaps it has a place in this discussion as well:
Today South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley released the DCI 2013 Crime in South Dakota publication. There are some good downward trends in the numbers presented. But there is one troubling trend that continues and is highlighted by Jackley’s Press Release:
“The criminal trends identify the need to further strengthen crime prevention and enforcement efforts in the area of drug and alcohol addiction and solicitation of minors for sex cases.”
Add Jackley’s comment from above to this sentence from his summary published with the 2013 data:
Arrests for drug offenses increased 19.8%. In 2013, 5,493 total drug arrests were reported compared to 4,584 reported in 2012.
So, with drug-related arrests going up 19.8% Jackley is saying efforts have to be increased. This is unbelievable.
Before going on I think it is worth noting that I am not advocating for or against drug use. Whether it be for recreational, medical, or other uses doesn’t really matter. I personally do not like mind-altering drugs (aside from my Marlboros that is). This post is NOT about advocating for drug use; rather this post is about the failed War on Drugs that crusaders such as Jackley naively continue to fight.
Here is the definition of drug crimes from the DCI Publication. These drug-related offenses are considered “Group A” in this publication. Group A is apparently the really bad crimes.
Drug/Narcotic Offenses (35A – 35B) – The violation of laws prohibiting the production, distribution, and/or use of certain controlled substances and the equipment or devices utilized in their preparation and/or use.
Drug/Narcotic Violations (35A) – The unlawful cultivation, manufacture, distribution, sale, purchase, use, possession, transportation, or importation of any controlled drug or narcotic substance.
Drug Equipment Violations (35B) – The unlawful manufacture, sale, purchase, possession, or transportation of equipment or devices utilized in preparing and/or using drugs or narcotics
One thing to take note of is that drug crimes are listed in the publication as “crimes against society”. That is the way social interventionists (from all political persuasions) are able to justify creating a crime when there is no actual victim. ‘Society’ as a concept is largely ambiguous. Technically anything that social interventionist don’t like could be called a ‘crime against society’.
So how many drug-related crimes against society were there in South Dakota in 2013? Here are the actual numbers from the Pub:
35A – Drug/Narcotic Violations: 5,261
35B – Drug Equipment Violations: 3,978
Total Drug Violations: 9,239
Out of a total of 41,798 “Group A” violations, 9,293 of them were drug-related offenses. Yet most of these drug-related crimes had no actual victim. DCI’s own numbers can be used to show drug use is not creating a wave of other crimes. According to the numbers there were a total of 7,755 Group A crimes that involved people using drugs. 6,943 of those were involving drug related offenses in category 35A or 35B. That leaves 812 Group A crimes (out of a total of 41,798) where drug use was involved. These 812 crimes account for less than two percent of actual crimes where there are victims. It should also be noted even this small number is somewhat inflated. This is a disclaimer in the sections about controlled substance used in crimes:
Up to three entries can be made per each incident.
So, even the 812 number may be inflated because multiple crimes have been committed at the same time. We can’t know how inflated this number is however since they don’t report that.
Looking at the numbers again there are a couple of things that are apparent. First, ending the War on Drugs would free up valuable law enforcement resources for true crimes. In 2013 drug-related crimes accounted for 22% of Group A arrests, yet drug use accounted for less than 2% of non-Drug-related Group A crimes. The Drug Warrior’s mantra that drug use creates waves of crime simply is not backed up by the States own numbers. Actually all these numbers do is show that a lot of people are arrested for a ‘crime against society’ in which victims rarely exist.
Jackley needs to look at these numbers and realize he is doing nothing with the continued push for the War on Drugs but creating more criminals. Yet he somehow oddly seems proud to state he has increased drug arrests by almost 20% over enforcement from the previous year. Too bad a good Independent or Democrat candidate couldn’t be found to run against Jackley this year. It is time for the AG’s office to be led by someone who cares about the people of South Dakota; instead of someone who appears to love putting the people of South Dakota in jail for a crime with no victim.
Earlier this week the New York Times had a must read article. It appears that since at least 2007 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has operated a program it calls the Hemisphere Project. This project goes way beyond the domestic spying activities of the NSA. Here are some key factors that make Hemisphere a bigger civil liberty attack than the NSA’s PRISM program:
- Hemisphere is a partnership with AT&T. AT&T is not just complying with court orders; it is actually actively working to get all information available to the DEA.
- DEA pays AT&T to include employees from the telecom company in drug-fighting teams.
- AT&T provides phone data going back to 1987. Even the PRISM program doesn’t have a reach this far back (that we know of).
- This purpose of this program is NOT for national security like the NSA’s PRISM program. This is available to law enforcement for whatever it needs.
- There is no filter to target certain ‘meta-data’. All data is collected and available for browsing by law enforcement.
- Anyone receiving briefings about the program have been asked to never mention Hemisphere.
All of the above bullet points are reasons to be weary of Hemisphere. However there is one more critical item to add to the list. According to the New York Times article:
Crucially, they said, the phone data is stored by AT&T, and not by the government as in the N.S.A. program. It is queried for phone numbers of interest mainly using what are called “administrative subpoenas,” those issued not by a grand jury or a judge but by a federal agency, in this case the D.E.A.
Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that “subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations.”
Mr. Fallon said that “the records are maintained at all times by the phone company, not the government,” and that Hemisphere “simply streamlines the process of serving the subpoena to the phone company so law enforcement can quickly keep up with drug dealers when they switch phone numbers to try to avoid detection.”
So, unlike the NSA’s PRISM program, there isn’t even a pretense of oversight. At least the NSA has the FISA court to theoretically look out for the Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens. Even though the FISA court rubber-stamps all requests, there is at least a system in place to give the pretense of oversight. With Hemisphere there is no such pretense of oversight. Instead the DEA, and presumably any law enforcement agency, can simply make ‘administrative subpoenas’ to retrieve data for AT&T customers.
The government can try to make the case it does not trample the Fourth Amendment because they are not actually keeping the data. However the data retention and access are paid for by the government. Whether the actual data is held at a government server or an AT&T server the result is the same: taxpayer dollars are being used to collect and use data against American citizens. Embedding AT&T employees into the DEA and DEA agents into AT&T further dissolves any attempt by the government to say this is not a Fourth Amendment issue.
Let’s look back at what the DEA’s mission is. This from the DEA’s website:
The mission of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States…
Perhaps it is time for American citizens to consider if the DEA should exist at all. As a libertarian I have often touted the War on Drugs as the largest active federal agency that consistently attacks civil rights. Learning of Hemisphere’s existence is proof the DEA has no understanding or respect for natural-born rights. The DEA isn’t even pretending to target international call data; they are actively collecting (via AT&T) and browsing all data with administrative subpoenas. Anyone that felt the NSA overstepped their bounds should be outraged at what the DEA has done with their Hemisphere program.
Last week I mentioned a large nullification victory relating the War on Drugs. Perhaps it is time to go beyond nullification and pressure our representatives in DC to actually end the War on Drugs. The battle against the War on Drugs reached an important threshold two years ago when the 50% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana use. It is time for the government to stop treating a large percentage of American citizens like criminals for a ‘war’ that has done little but waste taxpayer dollars and put millions of people (mostly minority) in prison. Programs such as Hemisphere coming to light will only help make the case that the War on Drugs must end. We are nearing a point where the Fourth Amendment will hold little or no power if programs such as this are not stopped.
On November 5 SoDak NORML will send another letter to the legislators in South Dakota. SoDak NORML is the South Dakota affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). This series of letters being sent to legislatures are important to me personally for the following two reasons:
- Marijuana use in combination with opioids has proven to be a more effective treatment for chronic pain sufferers. I have a good friend in a state that allows medical marijuana. The use of medical marijuana has allowed him to reduce the use of prescription opioids and live a more normal (NORML) life.
- Thousands of South Dakota residents are arrested each year for a victim-less crime. Creating criminals does nothing but fill our prisons and make it harder for people to get jobs once they have a drug conviction.
Many other states have begun to decriminalize marijuana or legalize medical marijuana. By doing this the states are telling the Federal Government they will no longer partake in their failed ‘War on Drugs”. The issue of the War on Drugs is different from the issue of “are drugs good”. Even if you are against the use of marijuana it is quite apparent the war on drugs has been a failure.
All I ask at this time is for people to go over to the SoDakNORML page about the Letters to the Legislature. While there let your name be added to the list of South Dakota voters that wish to bring back sensibility to criminal legislation. You will notice that the current list of signers has a lot of cancer survivors, business owners, and concerned citizens. There is no commitment behind giving your name. Your name is used to show legislatures that people care about this issue and want the debate opened back up.