Friday, February 13, 2009

New Radio Show

Beginning March 5, 2009, I will be starting a radio show on WTNK in Hartsville, Tennessee. In a half hour format, I will speak about a topic of law that might be of interest to the listeners and then will open up the phones for listeners to call and ask (simple) legal questions. The show will air each Thursday from 11:00 to 11:30 AM.

More information will be posted on the WTNK web site and on my web site.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Time to Flee the Country?

OK, so maybe it's time to flee the country. Readers of this blog know that I sometimes comment critically on laws and cases that infringe on our civil liberties. How about this one:

A bill has been introduced in the Tennessee legislature that would require people on probation, parole and some sexual offenders to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times. Presumably this would make it possible for the state to monitor their location at all times (and determine whether they have violated their probation, etc).

I understand the arguments in favor of such things. Probationers and parolees have reduced civil rights while they are subject to supervised community release. But I worry about our ability to draw lines in areas like this. We tend to go to extremes in this country, all in the name of public safety (look at all the people pushing to ban cell phone use in cars).

If we start down this GPS monitoring road, where do we stop? Will it become permissible to place GPS devices on overweight people so that they can be arrested if they go into McDonald's? After all, the government has an interest in maintaining the public health (that's the rationale for the movement to ban smoking that has swept the country). While you may think this is ridiculous now, come back ten years from now and I bet people are talking about it.

The bottom line is that we just aren't disciplined enough as a society to act with wisdom in these matters. We tend to shoot first (pass a law) and ask questions later. But it's harder to get rid of a law than it is to pass it in the first place. Once these GPS laws get passed, businesses spring up to provide the hardware and services needed to comply with the law. Those businesses then have a vested interest in keeping the law in effect. Those businesses create a powerful lobbying force that prevents the repeal of the law.

I hope this law doesn't pass in Tennessee, but I imagine it will, either here or somewhere in this great country.