Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Generation Trap

A Washington couple had two vehicles that they own seized by the local Regional Drug Task Force, after their then 24 year-old son was arrested four times in as many months with drugs and money in his possession. The couple appealed the forfeiture of their cars, to the county Superior Court, and lost, and then went on to the Washington State Court of Appeals, where they lost again. News stories are normally designed to be brief, and the Seattle Times piece was no exception. Not feeling that I understood enough about what was being decided to have an intelligent understanding of the case, I hopped over to the court's website, and looked up the actual opinion.

The lawyer for the parents, in typical fashion, makes the loss out to be a government-demanded erosion of the privacy rights of children. "[... I]f you have a son or daughter that you suspect may be involved in drugs, you better start snooping around and following them around. If you let them drive your car, you may very well lose your car." In practice, as is usually the case, the situation is not quite that dire, but it does put people in an uncomfortable position, as they can't afford to give their loved ones the benefit of the doubt, once their suspicions are aroused. While they are not obligated to jump to the conclusion that their children are guilty right off the bat, they are (in effect) required to conduct "an inquiry a reasonable person would have conducted under the circumstances," which doesn't leave much room for parental sentiment. I expect that it's difficult for many parents to reach a point of reasonable certainty one way or another, completely unclouded by a desire to have their children be innocent of wrongdoing.

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