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Rights at Risk: The Limits of Liberty
in Modern America by David K. Shipler

Book Review By: Timothy Sandefur is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and author of The Right to Earn a Living: Economic Freedom and the Law (2010).


Excerpts from Sandefur's review that was published in the December issue of California Lawyer magazine:


"Early this year, Beverly Greer went to the jailhouse to bail out her son Joel. She visited an ATM and borrowed money from family, because the sheriff's office in Brown County, Wisconsin, told her it wouldn't accept checks or credit cards, and bail bondsmen are illegal in that state. But when deputies ran her $7,500 in bills past a drug-sniffing dog, it "alerted" to the presence of drugs, and the cops confiscated the money under asset-forfeiture laws that do not require them to prove guilt. It took four months for Greer to get her money back."


"It's just a day in the tawdry life of America's half-century war on drugs - a cruel and unending conflict with no victors, no conquests, only casualties. And as David K. Shipler explains in Rights at Risk - concluding his two-volume study of the pulverizing of constitutional rights in the drug and terrorism wars - the reliability of drug-sniffing dogs may be the latest mass delusion. However keen their noses, undertrained dogs and biased handlers can lead to arbitrary and subjective enforcement. A 2011 Chicago Tribune study found that K-9 units falsely alerted far more often when led around cars with Hispanic drivers than when sniffing cars driven by whites. Worse, 90 percent of U.S. currency contains detectable traces of cocaine and other drugs."


"Shipler's reserve on such matters gives the impression that threats to freedom come primarily from zealous conservatives - when in fact, even vigilant defenders of speech, privacy, or the rights of criminal procedure share the blame for shrugging at the Constitution's promises."

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Raul Hernandez has spent years writing stories about the drama that unfolds in the courtroom. Here he answers common questions, share some insights on the judicial system and passes along some of the little things that make the Ventura County courts an interesting place to be. You can contact him at