"Do you expect them to be fully versed in ever court decision at every level?"
The officer who did that research had enough time to figure out if the state of Illinois had a law against burning the American flag. With that kind of time on his hands, he could have also checked into whether an arrest under that law would be constitutional. Even a call to the district attorney would have been an effective buffer against making an unlawful arrest. That he failed to do even that should be held against him, and he absolutely should have been held accountable for his actions.
Am I the only one that finds it darkly humorous that this seems to be a case where a cop is actually researching and showing knowledge of the law rather than using the excuse of not knowing the law when it comes to dealing with a member of the public?
If someone is going to be put in a position of enforcing the laws I don't think it's asking much for them to be able to understand those laws and think before bringing them to bear against someone. If there was a law in a particular area stating that it was illegal to be a member of an unpopular religion would you be arguing that the police were within their duties to bring someone in under those circumstances, even when it would be blatantly clear that such a law wasn't constitutional?
And this is not a case of some other random court in the middle of no-where saying that flag burning is acceptable, it's the gorram US Supreme Court saying it in 1989, so it's not like it's a radical idea that only just made it through the courts.
"It's not my job to think about the laws, only enforce whatever's on the books" is just as rubbish as "I was only following orders". Personal responsibility does not go out the window simply because someone or something in the case of a law says so, if anything it increases the more power and authority someone has.
I grew up in Minnesota and once you got to the State level of high school competition where you are televised, there were "media timeouts". In basketball, the coaches almost never had to call a timeout except right at the end of the game or if the game was really going off the rails because sooner or later an out-of-bounds would result in a blown whistle and a stop for commercials. Same thing was true of varsity Football and Hockey (I don't remember any other sports but probably others as well). This was back in the mid-90s, so it can only have gotten worse since.
I think the sense of the meeting is that a lot of people here believe that they can use their smart-phones to play video games while driving in traffic. Because they have such superior reflexes that _they_ won't have an accident. Duh... I'm a pedestrian myself, and when I am crossing a street, I make a point of flourishing my cane like a musketeer's sword. Like Monsieur Cyrano De Bergerac, my arm is factually longer by four feet of steel.
I can imagine the automaker designing a signal, perhaps in the infra-red range, which says, in effect, "you are driving a car-- pay full attention," and I can envision Apple being placed under pressure to incorporate a sensor which picks up this signal, so that the smart-phone can act on it.
An automaker can design a built-in radio system, vastly bigger and heavier, and more powerful and efficient than anything which will fit in a pocket device. It can be made much cheaper than a cellphone contract (*), and it can have a Wi-Fi interface for personal devices, as well as a heads-up display for the driver. However, it can also shut things down when they are unsafe. This may include jamming cellphone frequencies within the passenger compartment.
(*) greater use of "millimeter wave" frequencies, eg. 5G or Wi-Fi-"ad," which are abundant enough that no one can buy them all up and raise the price.
A basic principle is that, when rolling, the car has to have a monopoly of the user interface. Things like GPS navigation have to be built into the heads-up display, and likewise, such external communications as may be truly necessary. That does not mean video-phone. The front-seat passenger should, insofar as possible, be functioning as a co-pilot, reinforcing the driver's external alertness. The front-seat passenger's visual acuity should be focuses a couple of hundred feet ahead of the car, so that when he sees trouble developing ahead, he immediately ceases conversing, and starts issuing warnings. If the front-seat passenger is doing something visually involving, like watching a movie or playing a video game, it is too easy for the driver to be sucked into the activity. The front-seat passenger will be obliviously shouting about his orc at just the minute when the driver needs to think about the road. Ordinary computer activities must be confined to the back seat.
You get into your car, start the engine, take out your smart-phone, pull up your Rolodex and the car's App, and paste across an address you want to go to. The address appears on the heads-up display, with a map location. You paste a link from the car's App to your telephone interface, and that automatically establishes call-forwarding, and turns off the ring-tone. Now you put your smart-phone away, and move the gear-shift from Park to Drive, and drive away. Your smart-phone doesn't work until you are back in Park again.
When the automakers set out to really own telecommunications to and from cars, that may be the straw which breaks the back of the mobile telephone companies. There is already apt to be Wi-Fi at home, and in offices and workplaces, and in places of public congregation, such as shopping mall food courts. Cars are the last missing link. Since the telephone companies are the bad guys in terms of net-neutrality, this may have interesting ramifications.
The problem with doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is that if the issue comes up again and the particular bad reason isn't there the second/third/fourth time then the person might not object for the 'right' reasons and let it through. Simply presenting the same rotten problem under a different name and with slight tweaks can be enough to let it slip through.
On the other hand if someone is doing the right thing for the right reasons then dressing up the same problem slightly different isn't going to help much, as the core problem is still there and so is the objection to it.
By that argument, if a corrupt legislature passed a law commanding police to just randomly kill people, it would be morally okay for police to do so.
Unjust laws should not be enforced and police will be judged by the reasonableness of juries if they do something wrong (if a prosecutor ever lets the charges go to trial). They don't get Nuremberg defenses for unjust actions (unless the prosecutor is a dick, which sadly happens too often).
The law is the law. If it was on the books when he was arrested, the arrest is fine.
So any officer can sit outside an abortion clinic and arrest the doctors every time they perform an abortion, then wait for the DA to drop the charges and do it again the next day? I think not.
It's not just a matter of "feeling" the law is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has made a ruling. OK, that decision wasn't on this exact law (because it didn't exist yet), but it's fairly clear that it is unconstitutional to prohibit flag burning.
I'm also less sympathetic because this wasn't in the heat of the moment. It wasn't "oh, someone is burning a flag in front of me right now and I have to decide whether to arrest them right now". If the officer has the time to calmly research that the law exists, he has the time to look into its constitutionality.
It'd be like saying a defence attourney not be allowed to look up past cases, or an engineer not be allowed to look at reference books.
It would be like an engineer reusing the plans for the Tecumseh Narrows bridge and then wondering why everyone was so upset with the result. It's a known bad. As far as your attorney example goes... well, there's a reason why they declined to prosecute, and that's because attorneys generally aren't allowed to argue contrary to established Supreme Court precedent, unless they have a good reason. (I think the NLRB just got sanctions issued against them from an appeals court for bringing cases where precedent had already been established against them.)
Perhaps Illinois should published an annotated version of the law, which includes things like relevant court rulings, similar to what Wisconsin does. Perhaps that would prevent this sort of thing from happening.
If you feel a law is unconstitutional, you challenge it.
By filing this lawsuit, he's doing just that. I guess the arrest actually makes that easier for him, since now he undoubtedly has standing.
Also, if you're an officer and you feel someone has broken the law at some point in the past but there's no particular urgency, get an arrest warrant. Otherwise, expect to get sued if it turns out you relied on a known bad law.
Keep in mind when dealing with police, you might beat the rap, but you'll never beat the ride. Had the statute not been on the books despite being unconstitutional, they would have "smelled suspicious substance thought to be marijuana" on his person and taken him in for that.
I've seen cases where police phone in "anonymous tips" to each other just so they can arrest someone that otherwise they had no probable cause, while using that same call to obtain a warrant to search their residence.
The only way I see this sort of abuse being curbed is to stop allowing police unions to mandate absolute immunity for officers. It is true that there is a downside to that: A cop that is pretty sure something is hinky and it turns out it's not will be held to account as well.
The dividing edge of that razor question is whether or not it's worth letting those questionable situations be decided in favor of law and order, or in favor of civil rights. I'm in favor of rights, but I'm quite sure a number would go with "arrest 'em all, let the judge sort it out".
Congrats to the people that made threats and complained to the police. You just made the victim lots of money. Now to determine if the government, er tax payer, is paying or the officers must personally pay.
There are a lot of states with unconstitutional laws on the books. When a law is declared unconstitutional, it doesn't automatically get taken off the books, but it does become unenforceable. The officer that decided to try to find something to arrest him for went into that area of laws that he should have reasonably known that it was unenforceable, therefore he did violate the rights of Mr Mellott.
My understanding from Boy Scouts and whatnot was that, following procedure, you cut the flag into its components (stripes, stars, field), at which point, it's no longer technically a "flag", just pieces of fabric, and thus, before the court ruling, you weren't burning a flag, just some old fabric.
Or something. It's been a while, and my troop never handled that anyway, at least not while I was in.
Ah yes, silly me I forgot the 'Murican mindset, where 'rights' are graciously granted or withheld at the whim of those in charge, and those same people and institutions are always right, and never to be challenged or objected to.
'A good citizen is a compliant citizen' after all.
(To be clear the sarcasm isn't aimed at you, but the stupid idea that some seem to have that those in charge can do no wrong.)