Category Archives: Constitutional Rights

They’re Letting John Hinckley Go Free? What’s That All About?

First of all, we probably need to refresh some memory of just who isJohn Hinckley?

On March 30, 1981, John Warnock Hinckley tried to assassinate john_hinckley_jr-_fbi_mugshotRonald Reagan, who was then the President of the United States. As he left a Downtown Washington D.C. hotel, with a sizable entourage, including F.B.I & Secret Service constituency, Hinckey “laid-in-wait” to ambush the President and his companions. Judging from the injuries, a number of shots were apparently fired: Reagan, himself, as he was assisted for entry into his “Limo,” was hit in the side of his chest by a ricochet, that pierced to within inches of his heart. Police Officer Thomas Delahanty, Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy, and Press Secretary James Brady, were seriously wounded. Brady was so seriously and profoundly impacted, that his ultimate death in 2014, was attributed to the injuries he received on that day in 1981. Continue reading They’re Letting John Hinckley Go Free? What’s That All About?

Are There Limits To Your Constitutional Rights?

An Exceptional Concept…

Our U.S. Constitution specifically includes the reservation of certain precious and fundamental rights to particular individuals and institutions. That Costaggini_painting--Reading_of_the_Declaration_of_Independenceconcept was somewhat exceptional when it all occurred.  The general rule for those times, was that a certain institution or symbolic human would have all of the rights and powers, and sort of loan them out to the use of certain other individuals, and for more-or-less political reasons.  This was the crux of the so-called “Feudal System”, where there was the King or Emperor who “had it all”, and as a part of a divine right. Then, and in layers below him, there would be the privileged Knights, Barons, Dukes and Bishops, who would supervise,  use and otherwise exploit the surfs and the soldiers.

The “Perfect Garden”

Then, there became the Declaration of Independence, and the radical idea that all men are created equal —– although, in practice, some were apparently more equal than others.  When the Constitution of a Nation that would be founded on such fantastic ideas was actually being written, and as almost an afterthought as the founders were constructing the elaborate institutions and procedures for  formal interactions between the various states and a central government, it was if they all just stopped at one point, and imagined an almost perfect garden, where there could be nurtured a bed of precious and exquisitely beautiful flowers, which would eternally be preserved in the form of certain basic personal entitlements for individual common citizens.  They specifically did this in what would become the first 10 Amendments to the entire Constitution; which would come to be called, “The Bill of Rights.”

The Bill of Rights are the Fundamental and Inalienable Rights that everyone seems to talk about as being absolute entitlements.  But that’s not exactly true.  It is true, that if the government, and in many cases even individuals, should attempt to interfere with any of those fundamental rights, there should have to be an extremely compelling reason for doing so.

How Much For Free Speech?

For instance, and with particular reference to one of the most precious of those fundamental rights, being the Freedom of Speech written in the First Amendment, it was once observed by a famous U.S, Supreme Court Justice, when he was writing an opinion for a case that addressed a challenge to that Freedom, that the strength of the right to free speech, does not extend to the unbridled right to just yell “Fire” in an open theater.  Such an ability would pose an unacceptable danger to any civilized society.

So, while the protection of the right of free speech is precious, if there would be a compelling state interest in regulating the “time, place and manner” of the use and exercise of that particular right, it would be incumbent on the “state” to so regulate, and for the citizenry give in and permit such a regulation and limit.  The same would be true to the regulation of the time, place and manner of the use of a fire arm; or an automobile, for that manner.

Do The Police Need a Warrant To Search Contents On Your Mobile Device?

Recent Supreme Court ruling reinforces protection under the 4th Amendment.

You’re casually driving through town when you see what appears to be the dreaded flashing lights of a law enforcement vehicle through your rear-view mirror. You Law Offices of William R. Livelydutifully (but safely) pull over, only to be accused of driving while texting.

“But no, officer. I know the laws, and would never do something like this.”

The polite but firm official offers a solution: He asks for access to your mobile device to prove you weren’t texting while driving.

What might your options be in this situation?

To be clear in this hypothetical scenario, we said that the officer ASKS  you for your mobile device. He’s using a version of “probable cause” in an effort to prove, or disprove, your innocence. Now there are some establishing guidelines for probable cause, such as the officer witnessing what may have appeared to be your making motions while driving that could be interpreted as using your mobile device to send a text message (Which is against the law in California). Were this the case, the officer can attempt to establish probable cause to initiate a search without a warrant.  Continue reading Do The Police Need a Warrant To Search Contents On Your Mobile Device?

But He Was In MY House!

Are there legal limits in the defense of yourself and your property?

Hey, what about the one where the guy offers as an excuse for having killed someone with a shotgun, that he caught the dead guy in his garage trying to steal his drug Are there legal limits to self defense?stash? Now, this is not a case about a small amount of so-called “medicinal marijuana,” it’s a case about a rather large amount of illegal pot for sale. The homeowner was so afraid he would be “ripped off,” that he installed cameras to detect any intruders. Sure enough, he saw one on the screen one night, and then went into the garage to blow the guy away.

We have a number of discussions about ongoing developments in the law of self defense. Basically, anyone threatened by imminent physical harm is entitled to use a reasonable amount of force to prevent that harm. However, some states may require a defender to “retreat-to-the-wall” before using any deadly force. On the other hand, we’re recently familiar with states that permit a “Stand Your Ground” opportunity to a defender; reasoning that if once is in a place he’s entitled to be, he shouldn’t have to run anywhere.  Continue reading But He Was In MY House!

Historic Court Case Takes On Freedom Of Religion

Town Of Greece, New York v. Galloway, Et Al paves the way for legislative prayer.

On May the 5th of this year, there was a significant decision by the highest court in our nation on a question involving religious liberty. 

For about 15 years, the town council of Greece, New York has been making a prayer, delivered by local clergy persons, as part of their openings of meetings. The prayersSupreme Court of the United States were headed by clergy specifically from the town of Greece, a town of about 94,000 citizens with a majority Christian population. In 1999, newly elected town supervisor, John Auberger, decided to replicate the prayer practice he had found meaningful while serving in the county legislature. The prayer was intended to place town board members in a solemn and deliberative frame of mind, and follow a tradition practiced by Congress and other state legislatures. A town employee would contact congregations listed in a local directory to find clergy who could deliver the opening prayer, rotating a different member each month.

Certain citizens who have attended the gatherings filed a suit alleging that the prayers violated the “Establishment Clause” of the first amendment of the United States constitution. This clause in essence prohibits the United States from officially recognizing one religion over another. Among other things, the plaintiff citizens complained that the prayers favored one religion over the others, ad that there was no attempt on the part of the council members to find a diverse number of prayer givers, as well as a more inclusive prayer content. Continue reading Historic Court Case Takes On Freedom Of Religion

Dumb Starbucks: Protected Parody, or Punishable Prank?

Coffeehouse opens in Los Feliz, CA that pokes fun of internationally known chain. Does it go too far?

The social mediasphere was abuzz this past weekend as a well known coffee chain opened its doors in the Los Angeles suburb of Los Feliz, just north of Hollywood. Dumb StarbucksHowever, something wasn’t quite right.

Coffee addicts and curiosity seekers noticed a difference in the name of the internationally famous caffeine dispenser known as Starbucks. First of all, the drinks were served at no charge (Until they ran out). The other really noticeable difference…was the name on the sign.

Dumb Starbucks opened its doors on February 7th stating:

Dumb Starbucks is not affiliated in any way with Starbucks Corporation. We are simply using their name and logo for marketing purposes. Continue reading Dumb Starbucks: Protected Parody, or Punishable Prank?

Great Guns! The Legality of Our Constitutional Rights

The United States Constitution Is Not Firm and Unchangeable

Before we can begin to discuss this next legal principle, we have to rid ourselves of the idea that our American Constitution, let alone the Laws that are founded upon it,  is a The United States Constitution and Gun Rightsfirm and unchangeable document.  The truth of our history is, that our Laws, and the interpretation of our Constitution, change over time; and with the spirit of the times.  That being said, it’s fair to say, that the current (and recently changed) position of our United States Supreme Court, on the proper interpretation of our Second Amendment, is that individuals do have a constitutional right to personally keep and bear firearms.

Just What Are Our Constitutional Rights?

Now, this is somewhat of a change in the relatively recent interpretation of our law.  Previously, opinions have sought to persuade that the thrust of the “right” to possess firearms, really concerned the rights of States to have militias, like the national guard; and not the rights of individual persons to own and possess guns for personal use.  Another thing that will be important to realize, is that when a right is found in the first ten amendments of the Constitution ( the “Bill of Rights”), such a”Right” will be of particular importance and strength; at least in terms of the fact that, if the “right” is going to be somewhat ignored or modified by any government, it will have to be for a  very “compelling” reason.  None of the “Rights” are so important that they can’t be changed, if there is a compelling reason for doing so.  For instance, there is no “Right” more basic, and even as sacred, as the Right of Freedom of Speech; but according to the opinion of a Supreme Court Justice, in an actual case on the subject, the First Amendment will not go so far as to protect a person who would yell “fire” in an open theater, when there would be no fire.

Is There a Limit To Our Constitutional Rights?

Our Supreme Court, just about the turn to the 20th Century, found that the sacred Right of Religious Freedom, did not extend to a right to engage in plural marriage.  Another thing to keep in mind, is the fact that, even in the case of these most important and fundamental rights, the courts and legislatures will still have the power to modify and otherwise regulate the “time, place and manner” of the exercise of these most important rights.   For instance, even local governments will be found to have the power to prevent unregulated animal sacrifice, and other burnt offerings, in the name of religious freedom.

Now, with these principles in mind, it’s now possible to conclude, that even though a right, like personal possession of a gun, is a very established and protected Constitutional Right, it will be subject to regulation.  For instance, the right to “keep and bear” a firearm, might be modified to require that the weapon not be carried as a concealed weapon; or even transported in a motor vehicle.  Perhaps the “time” of possession might prohibit possession in a court house, a church, or even outside of one’s home —- except, perhaps, on a hunting trip, for instance.  It will still be left to the courts to determine whether the possession and use of certain types and designs of firearms can be regulated.

There doesn’t seem to be much resistance to the idea that one should not be allowed to possess, let alone use, high caliber automatic weapons, like machine guns; or things like cannons and rockets; but, how many bullets can be contained in a “clip” for a semi-automatic weapon; or the caliber and velocity of certain weapons, are likely to be questions that will be commonly considered in the not too distant future.