Kiran Chetry interviewed a Sheriff’s Deputy on CNN’s American Morning news program about the new methamphetamine detection ‘gun’ being tested in Arizona and Missouri.
First citing the National Association of Counties survey that found meth the ‘number one drug problem,’ Chetry defines the device as “[helping] police detect trace amounts of meth on any surface including skin,” and asks her guest about any legal issues that might be raised.
I hear the Fourth Amendment issues come up on several occasions and, you know, we’re here to protect or defend that constitutional right and so we’re here to use this device to determine if something is methamphetamine or not.
So, the right to be secure in your person (house, papers or effects) from unreasonable search and seizure is basically, well, the same as the ‘right’ of the police to determine if you have trace amounts of methamphetamine on you?
And what about trace amounts? Any way you could get trace amounts of methamphetamine on you and not be a dealer/user? Chetry continued:
…one of the other concerns… because this can test for a microgram of meth, how do you insure that innocent people wouldn’t get in trouble for inadvertently touching something that someone else touched, or hugging a person who had traces of meth?
No problem replies the Sheriff. In Arizona, the possession of controlled substance statute requires that a person have a ‘usable amount’ of meth. Well, there’s no such requirement in Texas. For marijuana, yes; for all other controlled substances, no (which is a separate problem in and of itself).
The Sheriff continued:
…if we determine that there’s a trace amount, we’re going to [go on] to determine
- How did you get that?
- Why do you have a trace amount on your clothes or person?
Well, let’s see here. Everyone will say “I have no idea”. Since we know that drug dealers/drug users will deny knowing where it comes from, that won’t be a very good excuse now will it? If you actually have no idea where it came from, better not get caught using the same excuse as all those junkies.
I found the part of the segment interesting. Chetry interrupts and rephrases the Sheriff’s last response to say that it’s ‘good enough then for probable cause’. But he actually says:
It wouldn’t be probable cause in itself… until the courts determine that the science and technology behind it is good quality science.
An admission from police that the gizmo isn’t ‘enough for probable cause,’ and that we don’t know the quality of the science… but, of course, they’re using it anyway.
Also see, from Jonathan Turley:
The concern is not meth users but the creation of a fishbowl society where the government constantly scans and surveils its citizens. It presents a world not contemplated when the fourth amendment was written and a world quite different in terms of the feeling of freedom in public. Notably, as surveillance cameras increase and scanning devices proliferate, there is little discussion of the shrinking zone of personal privacy.