As if it wasn’t enough that we have to put up with security frisking your crying 3-year-old, nuns, and searching through grandma’s adult diaper, we also have to fear that a simple mistake can cost you jail time as well as some hefty fines. From Fox4KC:
“A fun trip to the Bahamas turned frustrating and depressing for one Liberty, Mo. man and all of his friends and family.
Darrell Lapp was arrested by airport police in the Bahamas as he was preparing to come home. Security found a single bullet in his bag, and although he tried to tell them it was simply leftover from a hunting trip earlier this year, it didn’t matter. They arrested him and kept him in a cell for three days.
Lapp had gone to the Bahamas with about two dozen other fathers and sons for a boy scout scuba diving trip.”
Those of us without the luxury of having different sets of luggage to fit our every need end up having to use the same bags for different purposes, in this case hunting and traveling. I can actually relate to the man in the story. Had it not been for the careful eyes of Navy customs in Kuwait catching five bullets in my backpack that I missed whilst packing it for redeployment home from Iraq, I may have been in the same situation. Apparently, none of the security officers have ever missed anything while unpacking.
The totality of circumstances must be taken into account in all applications of the law. This was not a lone Saudi male with no luggage and a one-way ticket. This man was with his son on a group trip with the Boy Scouts, and had already been through security twice on the first part of the trip. It is simply irrational to believe that he went down to the Bahamas clean, but decided to pack a single bullet on the return trip for use in some diabolical plan. Just because airport security is able to skirt around that pesky notion of “probable cause,” officer and supervisory discretion should be exercised precisely to prevent things like this from happening.
The bigger problem is with the misapplication of logic. For a crime to have occurred in our (Western) jurisprudence, we need to have two things: actus reus (an act) and mens rea (intent). Simple oversight that misses a single item that is legal to otherwise own and carry does not fall within the category of a crime, nor does it warrant punitive action. It’d be like pulling someone over on a road in front of a “safe-school” zone and arresting them for carrying a weapon, when that person is properly permitted to do so and he just happens to be driving by a school. This is an atrocious problem that makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens, gives them a record, and forever makes it more difficult for them to live their lives.
To add insult to injury:
“It was supposed to be one of those trips of a lifetime, and Lapp had saved for for it a long time, even working two jobs for a year to pay for it. The worst will be over Monday, when he is supposed to return home. His attorney advised him to plead guilty and the Bahama court would acknowledge he had no ill intent with the hidden bullet, though he would have to pay a hefty fine.”
Read that again carefully. He will have to plead guilty in order to prove lack of intent, but if he is found guilty it will put a felony mark on his record, and he will have to pay a fine for the privilege. He is also now in the system, which means he will be singled out every time he goes through airport security, assuming this incident doesn’t put him on a no-fly list.
The bottom line in all of this is that we should fear the terrorists, not the people in charge of protecting us. This was a low move by the Bahamian airport security, and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.
(Crossposted at Federalism Online)