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Joe Draego, 60, said he believes “we are evolving into a police state.”
Monday, July 29, 2013
Joe Draego lay on the road at the Albemarle County police checkpoint in defense of the Fourth Amendment.
That’s how the county man describes his July 11 encounter with police at Old Brook Road. Urged by neighbors to clamp down on speeders, police set up a checkpoint, through which Draego and 261 other drivers passed.
Police cited two motorists for having no child safety seat, two for driving on a suspended license, one for having no license, two for defective equipment, two for an expired registration and nine for having an expired inspection sticker.
But Draego, 60, got the most attention. He refused to display his license, pulled over his car when told to put on his seat belt and lay on the road urging officers to arrest him. Eventually, he left freely only to return with a handmade poster board sign that he displayed to other drivers. It read, “This is how it began in Nazi Germany.”
“I believe we are evolving into a police state,” Draego said. “I said, enough. It was like something in me broke and I had to do something.”
Concerns such as those raised by Draego are growing across the country in the wake of revelations of domestic spying and, in Virginia, abiding angst over three students’ confrontation with undercover Alcoholic Beverage Control agents who wrongly suspected the women of purchasing beer underage.
“Lately there’s been a lot of discussion about surveillance,” said Anne Coughlin, a University of Virginia law professor who specializes in criminal law and procedure. “It seems to be very much on the minds of the public. And that’s exactly as it should be.”
Checkpoints like the one run by Albemarle have had their day in court. The discussion centers on the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in 1990 that sobriety checkpoints are legal.
“The use of checkpoints has been litigated and keeps being litigated,” Coughlin said. “We do look at it skeptically, because we don’t want to live in a police state.”
But she said if police are following a set procedure and are stopping all drivers instead of randomly selecting vehicles, checkpoints are constitutional, according to the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision. Checkpoints eliminate the fear of profiling, she said.
John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, has called on county supervisors to review that case, calling it one of three instances of “heavy-handed showings of police force in recent months in the close-knit community.” He issued a news release citing as other examples the ABC arrest and the spring raid of an area home that authorities say was the center of a fake ID ring.
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