It’s Now Easier to Buy a Shotgun than a Keg of Beer in NC
“In the state's continuing war against the consumption of alcohol, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley signed a new law on Monday that will not only make it harder to buy kegs of beer, but will also diminish the legal rights of defendants to challenge illegally or incorrectly obtained evidence by the state in regards to driving under the influence charges” reports the Raleigh Chronicle.
An 18 year old can buy a shotgun or other long rifle in North Carolina without a permit but under the new law, no one -- not even those over the age of 21 -- will be able to buy a keg of beer without a permit.
The new law contains numerous provisions. It permits police to demand alcohol tests of citizens under the age of 21 who are pedestrians. A similar law in Michigan has been overturned as unconstitutional.
The new legislation permits the use of less reliable field alcohol breath testers instead of those at police stations that are more likely to be accurate. It provides that police can intrude onto private property including private forests, farms, ranches and other private lands to arrest suspected cases of impaired driving. They can also obtain private medical information of anyone involved in a traffic accident, even if they are innocent sober victims.
It will now be illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol for any reason, including religious or medicinal purposes. Those under the age of 21 who seek medical attention for alcohol poisoning can now be charged with the crime of alcohol consumption if they seek treatment at any hospital or from any physician or other healthcare provider.
A predictable unintended consequence of this law will be that fewer people will seek needed medical help and may suffer death as a result.
The new law also reduces the ability of defendants to challenge evidence against them that may be inaccurate or illegally obtained.
A defense attorney in Raleigh said that "This is what happens when you have a former prosecutor who is governor choose everyone on the commission [to come up with the law] -- everyone on there was either involved in law enforcement or worked for the state as a prosecutor." He emphasized that "There was no one there to serve as an advocate for the legal rights of citizens, just to serve law enforcement."
Reducing impaired driving is very important but it should not be at the expense of violating the fundamental constitutional rights of citizens. The alternative is a police state.
- West, Elliott. It’s now easier to buy a shotgun in NC than a keg of beer. Raleigh Chronicle, August 23, 2006.
filed under: Legal Issues