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‘He’s Perfectly Innocent And He Knows His Rights’: A Fourth Of July Police Video

July 9, 2013 by  

There are a lot viral videos of test-case encounters with police — the kind in which a law-abiding person, tired of the way in which police usurp the Bill of Rights, decides to open carry a firearm or to refuse to give consent to a vehicle search. But this video, recorded July 4 by a 21-year-old Tennessee student stopping at a DUI checkpoint, is one of the most illustrative.

That’s because the driver, Chris Kalbaugh, kept his demeanor robotically neutral, even as the officer attempted to escalate the situation. By doing so, he allowed the officer’s behavior — and judgment — to speak for itself.


The payoff comes at 5:10, when another officer says simply, “He’s perfectly innocent and he knows his rights. He knows what the Constitution says.” Clearly, the police at this checkpoint know what the Constitution says, too, and are accustomed to relying on the ignorance of the vast majority of the people whom they stop. They never check Kalbaugh for DUI (even though this was a DUI checkpoint), and they never tell him (so far as the video reveals) whether he’s being detained. The K-9 officer even has to backtrack in qualifying the weak “hit” his drug dog (inevitably) got while sniffing the car — a hit that precipitated a “probable cause” search of the entire vehicle.

If this can happen to a citizen who’s doing no more and no less than exactly what the law allows, imagine what happens to those who — heaven forbid — have unpaid parking tickets or obliviously tote a couple of prescription pills in an unmarked bottle left in the center console by an absentminded spouse?

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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