Balkinization  

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

JB

The Padilla Case

The New York Times reports that Federal District Judge Michael Mukasey in the Southern District in Manhattan has reaffirmed his earlier ruling in December that Jose Padilla has the right to consult with counsel. Padilla, an American citizen, was accused by the government of conspiring with Al Qaeda operatives to bring a "dirty bomb" (a bomb that explodes radioactive material) into the United States. He was arrested May 8th in Chicago, returning from a trip to Pakistan. At first the Justice Department claimed that he was being held as a material witness, but on June 9th, they stated that he was an enemy combatant and had effectively no Bill of Rights protections, including no right to consult with counsel.

The district court disagreed, ordering that Padilla be permitted to meet with counsel in December. However, instead of complying with the judge's order, the Justice Department asked the judge to reconsider his decision. The judge made clear in today's written order that he would not accept further delay, as the Times reports:


"Lest any confusion remain, this is not a suggestion or a request that Padilla be permitted to consult with counsel, and it is certainly not an invitation to conduct a further `dialogue' about whether he will be permitted to do so. It is a ruling -- a determination -- that he will be permitted to do so," the judge said.

No one is going to mistake Padilla for a choirboy. He is a member of a Chicago street gang. He may well be up to no good, and if he violated the law, he should be punished for his crimes. But he is also a United States citizen. The rights of citizens include the rights in our Bill of Rights, including the Sixth Amendment right to counsel. Those rights apply whether one is good or bad, whether one is guilty or innocent, and whether one is a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.

The Justice Department was wrong to insist that by simply designating some one an enemy combatant, the Executive can strip away the basic constitutional protections that all citizens enjoy. If the government can strip away Padilla's rights at will, it can strip away yours and mine. When you give government arbitrary power, eventually it will use that power arbitrarily.

I for one fully believe that members of the Justice Department are trying to keep our country safe. But I do not think that good intentions justify a blank check to the Executive. Even the best of intentions must be constrained by basic rights; otherwise, convinced of its own rectitude, the government will overreach.

It is important that courts exercise some check on the Adminstration's zeal. But it is equally important that members of the public make their opposition heard as well. Courts will not keep us safe from government overreaching in times like these. Only we ourselves can do that.




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Your first conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the State of New York with a BAC of .08 percent or higher is a misdemeanor. You will be fined from $500 to $1,000 and you could spend up to 1 year in jail. Your drivers license will be suspended for a minimum of 6 months and you will be ordered to pay a mandatory conviction surcharge. You will also be ordered alcohol screening and evaluation prior to sentencing.
Second Drunk Driving Conviction
Your second conviction for a DWI in New York State within 10 years of the first DWI will be a Class E Felony. This felony will cost you a minimum fine of $1,000 or up to $5,000. You will also receive a minimum jail sentence of 10 days in jail or be ordered to perform 60 days of community service. The minimum 10 day jail sentence can be increased by the court up to 7 years in jail. Your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year plus you will have to pay for an ignition interlock device that will be placed on your vehicle once your suspension is over. The court will also have you pay for your alcohol assessment.


Third Drunk Driving Conviction
A 3rd drunk driving conviction in New York is a class D felony. You will be fined a minimum of $2,000 up to $10,000. You could be sentenced up to 7 years in jail, 10 days of which is mandatory. The court may also order you to serve 60 days of community service. Your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year plus you will have to pay for an ignition interlock device that will be placed on your vehicle once your suspension is over.
The State of New York prohibits driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above. The .08 limit is used throughout the United States as the benchmark for the "impaired" driver. New York State has lower limits for Commercial drivers (.04) and drivers under the age of 21 (.02). The laws for drivers under 21 are effectively a zero tolerance law and a minor could lose the privilege to drive until they become an adult. The New York law also addresses driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.
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