First, let me say, that none of the following is to be construed as legal advice. If you have a specific legal issue or question, please contact an attorney immediately.
That being said, there is an old principle in the law most famously professed by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. that “ignorance of the law is no excuse.” We, as citizens of the United States, are expected to understand and comprehend the full extent of our constitutional rights and the boundaries of the law.
However, as this country grows more complex, and technology and business change the way we interact with one another, both personally and professionally, the law has also changed and grown to a level of difficulty that I highly doubt Justice Holmes could have imagined. Yet, we are still charged by the rule of law with understanding even the most technical of statutes, such as the Sarbanese-Oxley Act or the Gramm – Leach – Bliley Act.
The proposition seems almost absurd in today’s world, but it is a reality. What takes an attorney three (3) years of law school, a 2 ½ day bar exam, and a lifetime of practical experience to understand is to a degree the level of knowledge that is required of today’s pro se citizen. The point is that the legal system is difficult to navigate, and I want to encourage people to seek an attorney with which they are comfortable and whom they trust.
Case-in-point, the U.S. Constitution – the root of the rule of law in this country: in high school and even college, most people learned how it was formed, and why it was formed, but few have spent the hours studying the document and the corresponding federal court decisions that have interpreted those sacred words to protect our civil liberties and apply to our everyday lives.
For instance, a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision has limited the constitutional right to remain silent to only those individuals who outwardly assert it. Therefore, it is no longer enough to simply “remain silent,” instead an individual in the custody of law enforcement must actively invoke his right to remain silent before it is deemed by the courts to apply.
In another case, the Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal defendant, in a possession of illegal substances case, has the 6th Amendment right to confront and cross-exam the laboratory technician responsible for testing the substance and confirming its illegality. In fact, before the State can admit the chemical drug test report in such a case, the technician responsible for testing must be called to testify. The “catch” is that the defendant must assert his or her right and demand that the technician be available to testify before the Supreme Court’s decision is even applicable to his or her case.
Ultimately, the goal of the articles to follow is to help the reader become better acquainted with the legal system, and to understand and comprehend more fully the nature and extent of his or her civil liberties under the Constitution.
The topics that I have decided to research and write on include “Senate Bill 5 and its implications on the Right to Contract and First Amendment Right to Association”, “The Jurisdiction of the Courts: Where is My Case Being Heard?”, and “Pulled Over: What are My Rights.” The next article will examine a very controversial piece of legislation that may affect many individuals in this community and around the State of Ohio – House Bill 159. This piece of legislation was introduced alongside Governor Kasich’s budget proposal and is currently pending in the Ohio Senate. The most unfortunate aspect of the bill is that it seeks to make Ohio’s voter identification laws the most restrictive in the entire country.
But that is for another discussion.