Legal Memorandum posted June 12, 2014
Filming the Watchmen: Why the First Amendment Protects Your Right to Film the Police in Public Places
Brandy Berning spent the night in a Florida jail because she used a cell phone to film a traffic stop on I-95. George Thompson of Fall River, Massachusetts, claimed that he was verbally abused, arrested, and locked up overnight for filming a profane police officer with a cell phone from his front porch. The officer was across the street in full view and within earshot…
Issue Brief posted March 26, 2014
Law Enforcement’s Dependence on Civil Asset Forfeiture in Georgia and Texas
Law enforcement agencies across the nation use revenue derived from civil asset forfeiture to fund their operations. There is a certain appeal to the idea: The bad guys are deprived of ill-gotten or ill-used assets, and the good guys get to use those assets to pursue other bad guys. But there is reason to be concerned about law enforcement agencies becoming dependent on…
Legal Memorandum posted February 28, 2014
Protecting Americans’ Privacy: Why the Electronic Communications Privacy Act Should Be Amended
The development of new technologies has brought the Fourth Amendment front and center in the public discourse. By requesting or compelling cell phone companies to provide subscriber information, law enforcement agencies can pinpoint the locations of the cell sites from which subscribers have made calls and, therefore, where the subscribers can be found.
Recently, the U.S.…
Legal Memorandum posted February 10, 2014
Reconsidering Mandatory Minimum Sentences: The Arguments for and Against Potential Reforms
Is justice best served by having legislatures assign fixed penalties to each crime? Or should legislatures leave judges more or less free to tailor sentences to the aggravating and mitigating facts of each criminal case within a defined range?
The proliferation in recent decades of mandatory minimum penalties for federal crimes, along with the tremendous increase in the…
Issue Brief posted January 8, 2014
“The Best of Disinfectants”: Using Publicity to Fight Overcriminalization
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
In a representative democracy, the public must become attuned to and troubled by a problem before a political solution is possible. The Heritage Foundation’s overcriminalization…
Issue Brief posted September 11, 2013
Two Constitutional Wrongs Don’t Make a Right: Why Conservatives Should Just Say “No” to Nullification
A number of states, including Missouri, Kansas, and Alaska either have passed or are considering state laws intended to invalidate federal statutes, most notably, federal gun laws. Many have modeled their bills on Montana’s “Firearms Freedom Act,” which was recently struck down by a federal appeals court. In so doing, they have drawn upon the political doctrine of…
Issue Brief posted August 22, 2013
Overmilitarization: Why Law Enforcement Needs to Scale Down Its Use of Military Hardware and Tactics
Call it American law enforcement’s “We’re going to need a bigger boat” moment.
In the summer of 1965, a six-day frenzy of looting, burning, and sniping consumed 46 square miles of Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles. The rioters used tactics closely resembling 20th-century guerilla warfare—with people running and shooting in all directions, rather than massing in a single…