Editor's Note: Taking your blood, taking your rights

IT'S AN ELECTION YEAR, so bad ideas abound.

One of the worst ideas is “Operation Thunder,” a summer-long ramping up of revenue-enhancement opportunities, uh, I mean DUI checkpoints, by police throughout Chatham County.

Coordinated by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety—your current governor Nathan Deal having just shelled out $3 million of your money to settle ethics lawsuits against him before the election —Operation Thunder is bringing in law enforcement agencies from around the state all summer to help Savannah/Chatham Metro Police violate your Constitutional rights.

Uh, I mean guarantee your family’s safety.

Of course, while randomly looking for drunk drivers, police will also happily ticket, charge and/or arrest anyone for anything else they discover, from an expired tag to no seat belt to a roach in the ashtray.

The amount of money generated from operations like this—tickets, attorney fees, DUI classes, jail expansion, police overtime, parking at the courthouse, etc., etc.—is stunning to behold.

In just two and a half hours on a recent Friday, local police wrote 205 tickets!

Even worse than Operation Thunder itself is the decision by Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap to expand it to include the disgusting and frankly weird “No Refusal” option, graphically nicknamed “Grab ‘n’ Stab.”

It goes like this:

You’re stopped at an Operation Thunder DUI checkpoint.

The officer detains you and decides he or she wants you to take a Breathalyzer test.

You refuse the Breathalyzer on Constitutional or other grounds.

The officer then has discretion to go to the No Refusal option.

If so, police quickly get a warrant from an on-call judge on speed-dial.

Police call EMS.

You’re taken off in an ambulance.

EMS straps you to a gurney and forcibly draws your blood to test your alcohol level.

Strapped to a gurney. Like when someone’s taken off to be waterboarded.

Strapped to a gurney and stabbed with a needle. Like when someone’s executed by lethal injection.

Here’s the crazy thing: Grab ‘n’ Stab isn’t even new. It’s been around in several states, including Georgia, for years.

The important thing to remember is police already have an option if you refuse to take drunk-driving tests.

It’s called “charging you with DUI.”

Refusing the test automatically opens you to the so-called “DUI Less Safe” charge. It’s more easily fought in court, but it still gets inebriated drivers off the road.

That’s supposed to be the point, right?

“It’s not about safety, since you’re already under arrest when they ask you to test,” local defense attorney James Byrne tells me.

“It’s about the forcible extraction of potential evidence from your body. The hard cases for the DA’s Office to make are refusal cases. They’re trying to boost their conviction numbers at the expense of the civil liberties of Chatham County citizens.”

I’d go further. I think holding people down and drawing their blood has this purpose and this purpose only: Intimidation.

It’s a brazen display of the government’s power of brute force over the citizenry.

There’s a word for that. We call it tyranny.

Anyone who tells you police state tactics are necessary to stop drunk driving is just wrong. You can hate a drunk driver and also consider random checkpoints and forced blood draws to be un-Constitutional. The two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive.

The whole point of the American experiment is balancing personal freedom with public safety. It’s a constant effort.

But once the scales tip too far in favor of the might of the state, they’re very difficult to readjust. It usually takes a fight.

Let’s be frank: 238 years ago our forefathers started a savage, eight-year guerrilla war against the mightiest superpower on the planet. Largely over a small tax hike on tea.

What would those freedom-loving people think of their descendants today?

Would they have sacrificed so much to forge a new concept of human rights had they known how quickly and easily future generations of Americans would give away those rights to politicians and police?

If they knew how meekly we’d acquiesce to being stopped on the street, detained, and having our bodily fluids forcibly taken?

All in the name of “safety?”

The point of this is not to vilify police. Police departments are made of people like us. Imperfect people in an imperfect world.

Thing is, police—people—always take as much power as they’re given. It’s up to us to tell them how far they can go on our behalf.

(This is why I’m so against the trend of using military-style codewords for police operations. It further cultivates an Us vs. The Enemy mindset.)

You may have heard of Godwin’s Law. It’s a tongue-in-cheek adage meaning any argument on the internet will inevitably devolve into someone calling someone else a Nazi.

So forgive me. But in the case of Operation Thunder’s blood draws, I keep thinking of the old “Good German” canard, the idea that German citizens in World War II put aside personal morality and went along with Hitler’s ideas because they just wanted to do their duty, i.e., “I was just being a good German.”

I’m certainly not calling anyone a Nazi. But in the case of Operation Thunder, consider the moral quandary not only for a young police officer falsely taught that he or she should have total physical control over every taxpayer on a public road without regards to the Constitution, but also of an EMS worker forced to violate the Hippocratic oath by using his or her medical training to violate a patient’s rights.

Tyranny’s true evil is that it makes criminals of us all. The road to tyranny starts with just a pin prick.


Comments (13)

Add a comment

Add a Comment
  • or

Right Now On

Now Playing

By Film...

By Theater...