Last week, the prosecutor finally mailed the Order of Dismissal to my attorney. While I am relieved that the criminal charges are no longer hanging over my head, it is frustrating to know that nothing has changed. The system is still broken. The Sheriff’s deputies and the staff at the Spokane County jail will continue to violate people’s constitutional rights, and use the term “constitutionalist” in a derogatory manner. You too can end up in jail, for exercising your constitutional rights.
For thirty-three years, I’ve lived as a law-abiding citizen, with no criminal record or history of violence. Then one night, I got arrested for refusing to obey an order to abandon my teenage niece on a dark deserted country highway with two aggressive, yelling, cursing Sheriff’s deputies. I was taken to jail, where I spent 12 long hours shivering in a cold holding cell, and subjected to harassment and intimidation — explicitly because I exercised my Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions, and asked to call my attorney (a right protected by the Sixth Amendment).
The message the state is sending is simply this: if you dare to exercise your constitutional rights, be prepared to pay a hefty price. It cost $1000 to bail me out. I had to appear in court, and spent $4000 in legal fees. They took my gun and held it for 21 days, and “lost” $100 worth of items from my backpack. The incident took an emotional toll on my family. Meanwhile, the Spokane County Sheriff spared no time out of his busy day, to drag my name through the mud, both publicly and in private conversations with my friends — calling me a liar, a hothead, and a bully. He was clearly more interested in covering for his deputies and saving face, than seeing that justice be done.
Several people reached out to me after I posted my original account on Facebook, and shared their stories of police abuse. Here’s one very similar to mine (unfortunately, this friend had a bad attorney and got convicted):
Hi Vitaliy, your whole situation on these bogus charges sounds like a nightmare. I have also been arrested for “obstruction of justice.” I went to a jury trial with my case and lost. My case was loosely similar to yours. A friend of mine was being given a field sobriety test, I was watching from a distance, and the police officer screamed at me to get in my vehicle. I told him I prefer to be outside…then bam, I am arrested for obstruction of justice. In my case it came down to the fact that the officer made a “lawful command” that I “disobeyed.”
People have asked me, why I refused to answer questions and requested an attorney. This is why:
The advice given in the video, is consistent with what several attorneys told me in person. It is a fact that innocent people do go to jail, and spend many decades there, or even end up on death row. In many of those cases, the “evidence” that put those people behind bars was nothing more than their own words. Remember, the founders wrote the Fifth Amendment into the Bill of Rights not to protect the guilty, but the innocent. So, don’t incriminate yourself. Don’t answer questions.
People have also suggested that I got arrested because I was “obstructing” the officers’ investigation by interfering with the deputies’ questioning of my niece (when they told me they were detaining the girl, I asked what they were charging her with). The trouble with this reasoning is that you can’t “obstruct” by merely speaking. Here is how the Washington Supreme Court put it, in their “STATE OF WASHINGTON v. E.J.J.” decision:
The obstruction statute provides, “A person is guilty of obstructing a law enforcement officer if the person willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs any law enforcement officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.” RCW 9A.76.020(1). To save the obstruction statute from being unconstitutionally overbroad in a First Amendment setting, we have construed the statute narrowly. Our cases have consistently required conduct in order to establish obstruction of an officer. State v. Williams, 171Wn.2d474, 485, 251 P.3d 877 (2011). In other words, a conviction for obstruction may not be based solely on an individual’s speech because the speech itself is constitutionally protected. This review is also consistent with the approach established by the United States Supreme Court. See Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 578, 89 S. Ct. 1354, 22 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1969).
The Washington Supreme Court also said that “obstruction statutes may not be used to limit citizens’ right to express verbal criticism, even abusive criticism, at police officers” and reversed the conviction. One of my favorite quotes from this decision, is actually a quote from a US Supreme Court decision:
“[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police state.”
Unfortunately, our country is well on its way to becoming a police state. It shouldn’t cost $5000, an arrest, and a night in jail every time you stand up for your God-given, constitutionally-protected rights. You shouldn’t be arbitrarily deprived of your property, and the means of defending yourself and your family. Alas, it can and does happen.
If you believe that the Bill of Rights actually means something, make up your mind to resist tyranny — no matter the cost. Here are a few of the things you can do, to prepare yourself and effect meaningful change:
- Watch the video.
- Share this article. Much of the war for liberty happens on the battlefield of ideas. Knowledge is power.
- Find a good criminal attorney. I didn’t think I would ever need one, either.
- If you find yourself on a jury, educate your fellow jurors about constitutional rights.
- Help elect a constitutional sheriff, and hold him accountable for protecting people’s rights.
Most importantly, remember to live as a free man: exercise your rights!