Friday, November 02, 2007

The presumption of guilt

A Dallas D.A. doesn't like having to prove you're guilty:
In other words, if you're caught carrying a concealed pistol on the street and don't have a permit, tell the cop you're walking between your car and your home, either getting ready to travel somewhere or coming home. The burden now falls on the police officer to prove you are not really "traveling," which Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins says is virtually impossible.

"If you read the new statute, it essentially does away with the concealed handgun law," Watkins says. As of September 1, his office no longer accepted most UCW (unlawfully carrying a weapon) charges that involved the "traveling" issue and dismissed pending cases.

"Actually we didn't really have a choice," Watkins says. "The law had changed, and some of the individuals could have fallen under the old statute, but it would be an unfair standard if we prosecuted them. And it's impossible now for us to prove those charges when we get them. Now it makes it the responsibility of the state to disprove that a person is on their way to or from their car, and that's pretty difficult to prove. It does a disservice to law enforcement. They have to prove this person was not on their way to somewhere. Why should they even bother [to arrest them]? I see it as a possibility for a lot of individuals with criminal intent to be carrying weapons."

The change has some police officers grumbling.

"It's insane," says one Dallas officer, who asked not to be named. "They basically destroyed the concealed gun law. We're letting drug dealers with Glocks under the seat go and say have a nice day. In the past we could have charged them at least with a weapons violation and confiscated the gun. Texas is wide open now. It's a huge story. This has just gone under everyone's radar."
First of all, no it doesn't. The Motorist Protection Law clearly states that one must be "inside of or directly en route to a motor vehicle that is owned by the person or under the person's control." I think most police officers can tell if you are "directly en route" to your car or not. If you're busted with a gun halfway across town from your car, it's going to be pretty obvious. It also means that you can't leave your car with the gun for any reason other than to go to "the person's own premises or premises under the person's control." That means you can't take your gun into Wal-Mart under the Motorist Protection Law. You can only have your gun in your car as you drive there.

Not that there would be anything wrong with that.

It boils down to yet another vigilante D.A. being inconvenienced because he can't bust people for not committing a crime while peaceably carrying a gun. "Now it makes it the responsibility of the state." Yeah, how dare we common folk insist upon presumption of innocence until proven guilty?
The ramifications will take a while to percolate through the system. But the bottom line is: "If you've got a car," says a Dallas officer, "you can carry a gun."
And what's wrong with that? As far as I care, if you're not conspiring to commit a crime, you can carry a gun. Whether you have a car or not.

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