Before you file for Bankruptcy: Read This

 

Bankruptcy is seen as a fresh start for many people.

Bankruptcy is prominently mentioned in the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 4 of the United States Constitution provides:

The Congress shall have Power To…establish…uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States….

Bankruptcy is a necessary option for those with a high debt to income ratio.  However, it does come with serious consequences. Your credit will be ruined for up to 10 years, the process will cost you atleast 1-2,000$ to file and lenders will be very weary of you.  As a Bankruptcy paralegal myself, I would not recommend anyone file for bankruptcy who has less than 10,000$ of debt.  Debts can be paid down, negotiated, and so forth without destroying your credit report! However, if you find yourself in the midst of a foreclosure or simply cannot see a foreseeable way to escape, then bankruptcy could be your best option. If you are thinking about this option, consider these 10 strategies.

  1. Pass the “Means Test”:  If you are single and make under $40,000 per year, you will most likely qualify for a chapter 7 bankruptcy. If you are married and your combined income is less than $80,000 per year, you will most likely qualify. Some couples will strategically file for separation during a bankruptcy process in order to reduce their household income, however, the bankruptcy trustee will investigate your living situation to ensure it is a legitimate separation.
  2.  Replevin Orders are often needed to recover property from a debtor, which require the creditor to take you to court. Small items such as toasters, Televisions, or any item that is worth less than $1,000 is often able to be retained if the debtor is brave enough to call the creditor’s bluff. Replevin orders cost money and time. In my years working as Bankruptcy paralegal, it is extremely rare to see any creditor file for a Replevin order on any item worth less than a grand.
  3.  Credit scores can be strengthened after bankruptcy if you obtain a secured credit card and pay it down fast after making small purchases.
  4. Do not purposefully rack up debts on entertainment(non-essential) items and then immediately file for bankruptcy. Most debts younger than 90 days are generally scrutinized and are considered “fraudulent”  debts in many bankruptcy cases.
  5. Chapter 13 bankruptcies will save your house  from being foreclosed upon, however, it will only buy you a few months. If you fail to make payments on your Chapter 13 plan, the foreclosure process starts all over again.
  6.  Chapter 7 bankruptcies will not clear out mortgages and auto loans.  Expect to give back those properties after your case has completed unless you enter into a “reaffirmation agreement”.
  7.  Negotiate your reaffirmation agreement with your lawyer or better yet, try to avoid signing into one! See if the creditor will continue taking payments at the same rate as before. Oftentimes, creditors will try to get you to enter into a new agreement with higher rates to benefit themselves.
  8.  Child support is a non-dischargable debt.  However, filing for a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy can help you reorganize your child support debt and save you from getting your drivers license suspended.
  9.  Student Loans and owed Tax debt are generally considered non-dischargable. In some rare circumstances, they can be discharged.
  10.  Show up to court! If you don’t get a notice in the mail from your lawyer, call him/her! Missing your court date can cause huge delays and possibly have your case thrown out. It is imperative that before you file for bankruptcy, you save up some personal time off from your employer. The judge doesn’t care about your excuses. If you don’t show up, it takes alot work from the lawyers, paralegals, and courts to get a new court date. Your lawyer and the paralegals who assist will certainly thank you for making their job much easier!

 

These are just a few basic tips when it comes to filing for bankruptcy in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases. If you have any additional questions. Feel free to contact me at Naliniglobalconsulting@yahoo.com

 

-Randell Stroud

2018

I traveled the country to discuss family law reform

(Me at the congress building in DC- June 10th, 2018)-

On June 8th, 2018, my 31st birthday was fast approaching on June 10th. I decided that I needed to do something of epic proportions to celebrate this new stage of life. About 10 months ago, I published a report given to the United Nations titled, “Global Human Trafficking in the Family Law Courts”.  The UN didn’t give much attention to it, probably because it discussed issues uniquely affecting men instead of the plight of women, nevertheless, Amnesty International  in New York City reached out to me via -email about a week ago, wanting to meet up.

I have a huge fear of traveling alone, so this proved to be the perfect motivator for me to conquer two birds with one stone. I took a bus to DC, then a train to NYC, then a train back to DC, then finally an airplane flight back to Nashville,TN. I learned alot about myself on this journey.  Even though my main objective was to reach Amnesty International in New York, I spent most of my “getaway” in D.C., as I had a friend who lived there who offered to host me.  During my time in D.C., I made my way to the House of Representatives. For two days, I lobbied to them about family law reform.

A few weeks ago, Kentucky was the first state to pass a default 50/50 custody bill. A presumptive bill that would automatically grant fathers joint custody with minimal child support, so long as he didn’t have a criminal background. This is huge considering that the average man will spend 5-30K in court begging for equal rights. While I recognize the plight of women’s rights activists, the male gender faces its own unique set of challenges.

For two days, I visited more than 30 congressmen/women and their staff to discuss family law reform. I handed out copies of my report, business cards, and even stopped by the offices of Kentucky Congressman, Andy Barr, to  thank him and his state for being a leader in family law reform.  I visited congressmen in Texas, California, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Maryland, you name it!

Most of the reception I got was very “lukewarm”.  Family law is simply something that isn’t discussed very much by federal politicians. Divorce, child support, alimony, custody,— these words bring falsely negative connotations associated with failure, infidelity, blackmail, and scandal. It is a topic that many politicians simply do not want to touch out of fear of backlash from feminist groups. While there are some women who are affected by the family law courts, men tend to bear the brunt of unfairness within these systems. To speak out against the family law courts will often garnish you a label of being a misogynist or an “MRA”. (Men’s Rights Activist). For some reason, society thinks its perfectly fine for a mother to have an abortion or give up her unwanted child for adoption, however, men who don’t want to be dads are called “deadbeats”, and the ones who do want to be dads have to spend a small fortune on legal fees to get basic custody rights while still paying child support on top of it.

As many of you know, I am a champion of foreign policy reform, tax reform, civil liberties, and plethora of other civil liberties issues. In fact, I submitted a report to the ACLU regarding civil asset forfeiture. Family law reform isn’t the only thing I care about, but it is very high on the list.

During my meetings with various congressmen, I was mainly left with statements such as, “I’ll look into this.”. However, I did get very good responses from congressmen in Maryland, Texas, and Georgia.  Maryland is one of the few states who has tough laws against leaving your children in a car unattended. Maryland claims to be a very “children concentric state”,  thus, I wasn’t too surprised that their offices actually gave me the time of day.

Tom Reed of New York wasn’t in his office, however, his staff associates were very nice to me and gladly took down my info and a copy of my report. I cannot say the same about some of the other offices that I visited who gave me such a cold welcome, almost as if they couldn’t physically see me standing in front of them.

I tried to visit my own congressman from TN for two days straight, congressman  Jim Cooper, however, he was away both times. He and I have had several run-ins back in Nashville, so I’m not sure how happy he would be to see me again, as I have already spoken with him about this issue several times.

(Me outside of Rep.Cooper’s office in DC.) 

While in D.C., I learned and recognized many things. The people in this city are highly educated on political matters, even the lowly beggars have a basic understanding of how bills are passed and the roles lobbyists play.  Protesting and demonstration occurred at the Congress and white house daily.  While attending a seminar at the Supreme court, I passed the congress building and noticed a group of ethnic Uyghurs, chanting and begging for the United States government to use their military might to save their people from the clutches of Chinese control.

Many libertarian and liberally minded people often shy away from interventionism as it causes much blow-back for our national security,  however, this demonstration made me rethink the US’s role in foreign policy. Perhaps our presence isn’t always shunned but actually welcomed in some places.  I suppose there are always two sides to every story.

As I left the congress building, I managed to get a peak at President Trump coming in from his trip at the Korean Peace Talk summit in  Singapore. The Secret service was in full effect with their rifles, clearing the streets of any nearby pedestrians including myself.

“Stand back! Make way!” – Secret Service agents

Later that day, I visited the white house and came across an interesting man who went by the name, “Felipe”.  He had an encampment set up across the street from the white-house. He had been in that camp protesting war, advocating for gun control, and attacks on civil liberties since 1982! That’s right! This man has not left his protest encampment since 1982! Talk about commitment! I engaged in an hour long debate with the man who sat disabled in his wheelchair. He had several degrees in political science, sociology, and psychology. While I didn’t agree with him on many points, I respected his diligence, and we both managed to agree that things like family law reform, and laws like the NDAA and the Patriot Act are bad for Americans in regards to personal liberty.

According to his testimony, there is a current law in place that says that no one is allowed to be encamped within so many yards of the white house, however, since the man had been in this place since 1982, (before such laws existed), he had essentially be “grandfathered” in, and is legally allowed to stay encamped in front of the white house so long as the camp remains occupied 24/7. Felipe is there most of the time, but has his father stand in his place when he needs to go away or take breaks.  Felipe garnished much respect from fellow congressmen, as two actually approached him and gave him a “fist bump” of acknowledgment.

   

(Felipe camped out in front of the White House, no civilians is allowed to pass the police line or else they could face imprisonment– even Felipe isn’t exempt from this law)

My next stop was the Library of Congress.  The world’s largest collection of books in the world.  Photographs aren’t allowed to be taken of the actual books, however, when I say that the collection was impressive, it is an understatement! The library consists of three large buildings which contain entire departments dedicated to a single subject. Do you enjoy Chinese history? Well, there is an entire floor dedicated to just that single topic! Do you enjoy mechanical engineering? There is an entire room dedicated to just that subject. The amount of information in those buildings is completely awe-inspiring. I constantly found myself speaking in a silent whisper, “This is incredible!”. , “Wow!”.

I visited the copyright office in the Library of Congress and met with one of their consultants who guided me on the process of submitting my own publication, “Global Human Trafficking in the Family Law Courts”, into the library of congress.  If my book is accepted, it would forever remain as my contribution to my country, my people, and to the world’s largest library.

 

After my adventures in the Congress, the Supreme Court building, the White House, and the Library of Congress, I accidentally came across an Amnesty International building. I thought to myself, “This could be a great networking opportunity, since I am scheduled to interview with them tomorrow in NYC.”

As I approached the building, there was a small security detail who was only letting badged members get in.  I tried getting in, but I had no formal appointment with the D.C office. However, I was determined to get a copy of my report into as many people’s hands as I could. So, I did what any rational activist would do.  I broke trespassing laws. I waited until the building’s employees returned from their lunch breaks. The wave of workers came hauling into the building using their badges to bypass security. I merely ducked my head-low and piggy backed into the building behind them. Without a badge I was only able to make it to the 3rd floor. Amnesty’s main office was on the 4th floor.

  (At Amnesty International In Washington D.C.)

So, I had to get creative. I found a fire exit with a staircase and managed to get on the 4th floor. However, I ran into another problem. Amnesty had an empty lobby with a single door that only allowed badged members once again. There was no secretary in sight. I called the interviewing office in New York City and told them I was in D.C. instead. This prompted one of their policy research managers to come to the lobby. She speaks out, “Who are you? How can I help you?”

I say, “I am set to meet with Mr.Solis in NYC tomorrow about a management position. ” She laughs and says, “They tell everyone that. Mr. Solis only hires for intern positions that pay 15$ an hour.”  I was a little annoyed to learn this.  So I reply, “Wow! Seriously? Well, I traveled all the way from Nashville,Tn. This is a report I have written regarding Family Law reform. Regardless of any job opportunities, I think you guys should look at this! I am a supporter of women’s rights activism, however, this is an issue of gender equality where the male gender needs some serious support!”.  The policy manager was hesitant to take my packet until I gave her my Nalini-Global business card.

At this point, she realized I was serious. She replies, “I will get this to our research department. This looks very fascinating. But, I’m sorry we can’t interview you here. You aren’t cut out for an internship anyways. Forget the NYC interview with Mr.Solis. I am going to take your report and see what we discuss further.”

I reply, “Thank you so much!”. She replies, ” I don’t know how you got up here. This is a restricted area. But, I admire your moxy! But, you have to go now!”. I reply, “Yes ma’am. And thank you!”.

After leaving Amnesty, I took a rest and headed up to NYC by train. The ride was three hours. On the train, I met many lobbyists and a woman from Italy who was here on vacation. We discussed music and politics for a good hour until the train staff told us to shut as other passengers were trying to sleep.

Upon arrived in NYC at Penn Station, I headed straight to Federal Hall. The birthplace of out government. It was a proud moment. Something that has been on my bucket list since the age of 20.  After getting in NYC, I arrived about an hour late, thus I was shut out of my interview with Amnesty. But, I didn’t care, I wasn’t happy about being lied to about an internship/canvasser position anyways. I needed to make some real money! Regardless, I was still on a mission.  After leaving Federal Hall, I visited “Wall Street”, the financial center of the USA. The power and corruption germinating inside the NYSE was overwhelming just as the city skyline was itself. NYC is not the place to go if you have anxiety or are prone to panic attacks.

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(Me in New York City in front of Penn Station) 

In NYC, everyone is looking to score something. Sex, drugs, money, a phone number, a free-ride, selling something. ect.. It is a very fast paced city that caters to the rich. My last action in NYC was to visit the UN building. To try and submit my report in person. I was blocked by security and wasn’t about to attempt to go further. This wasn’t amnesty international, this was a multinational governmental organization, I didn’t want to be arrested or killed. So, I took my loss and returned to Penn station the next morning. After all, as a state rep candidate myself back in Nashville, I still have a campaign to run myself!  During the train ride back to D.C, , I saw the poverty in Baltimore and in parts of New Jersey. It was a sad site. Like a third world country in some respects. Upon arriving in D.C., I stayed at a friend’s house and took a flight back to Nashville the next morning.

While this narrative is a summarized version of my experiences during this birthday diplomatic mission, it sums up my passion quite well. If this blog post were to be used in a job interview, it would demonstrate my passion to a high level unparalleled to any college degree one may possess, as anyone can remember facts and details in order to obtain a degree, but few can put their very lives on the line for a cause they believe in.

I don’t know how effective my actions were in this trip. Perhaps I wasted my time and money. Perhaps I am a fool for thinking that such a man from a lowly background of lower-middle class parents can actually make a difference in such a powerful city like D.C. or NYC. But, then again, I thought that same thing two years ago when I successfully fought to get a corrupt politician fired, county clerk, John Arriola. in Nashville TN.

Regardless of the outcome, the trip changed my life. It made me proud to be an America. It gave me a connection to this land unlike I had before. For all of it’s ugliness, I saw a certain amount of beauty in the process of politics and government. I did see remedies and potential in solving certain problems in an ever changing world. It gave me a sense of strength and confidence I never knew I had.

I do not know where my journey will take me next, as I will be ending the lease on my apartment in two weeks, however, wherever I end up next, you can take your money to the casinos and safely bet that my next chapter will be anything but boring!

To life. To liberty. And to the pursuit of a meaningful life.

-Randell Daryl Stroud

2018

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Why 9/11 was the worst day in the 21st Century

 

As a historian, many people ask me, “What do you think the worst day in human history was ?”  I’m sure if I lived during the “black plague” in the 13th century or the “Mongol Invasions” lead under Ghengis Khan in the 11th century, my answer might be different. However, as a 30 year old man living in the 21st century, my answer has to be “September 11th, 2001”.  Although we are only 17 years into this century, less than a year in, the worst attack on American soil in our nation’s history took place, causing unforgettable mass panic and fear. A fear that has never quite evaporated from our conscious.

Not just for Americans, but for humanity as a whole. It’s no secret that the United States is considered the world’s super-power in terms of economics and military strength. Thus, when such a nation is attacked, it brings forth world-wide consequences. The September 11th attacks resulted in thousands of innocent American citizen casualties, thousands of US military causalities, and more than a million deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan; most of who were not enemy combatants.  In fact, the nation of Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11—-Alas, that is a conversation for a different day. Economically, it resulted in Trillions of dollars being spent, causing world-wide massive inflation and debt.

16 years later, the wars in the middle east as a result of these attacks are still ongoing.

Since 9/11/2001, a complete overhaul of what it means to be “free” and “safe” has been forever altered. These attacks gave birth to Islamophobia, wars in Libya, Iraq,Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, and increased terrorism  in countries outside the United States. France, UK, Germany, Sudan, Burma, Canada, all of which have had tensions with Muslims since 9/11.  Another side effect of the 9/11 attacks is the attack on our personal liberties under the guise of “protection”.

Because of these attacks, the United States felt compelled to pass laws like the “Patriot Act” and the “National Defense Authorization Act of 2012”.  The Patriot Act was passed under the Bush administration which allowed the government to supersede the need for a warrant to seize property or wiretap phones, so long as suspected “terrorism” was cited for the reason.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, passed under the Obama administration, specifically sections 1021 and 1022, allows for the indefinite detention of American Citizens without use of trial; so long as their is “suspicion” of terrorism involved; A word that is still not completely defined.

Another response to the 9/11 attacks was the creation of the Transportation Administration Administration , A.K.A- TSA. The TSA also coincided with newly created government “watchlists” and “no-fly lists“. Anyone can be secretly put onto these lists for a host of arbitrary reasons, such as posting something negative about the government on social media, without the person being formally accused of any crime in a judicial court.  Many people have been put on such lists for simply sharing a similar name to a former criminal. The procedure for getting off the list is also very limited and the results are usually not successful and/or very time consuming.   According to a report issued by the Department of Defense and later publicized by the ACLU in 2009 , see —(,https://www.aclu.org/news/fbi-inspector-general-reports-35-percent-error-rate-terror-watchlist) revealed that more than 35% of people put on watch-lists were done so in error or without good cause. Once put on such a list, most people remain there indefinitely with no expiration or “probationary” date.  Some people as young as 7 years old have been put on the list, revoking their ability to travel via air permanently.

Soon, other countries began to follow suit. The United Kingdom responded to the 9/11 attacks with the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 which allowed for indefinite detention of non-nationals in the UK.  The Criminal Justice Act of 2003 passed in the UK parliament, also allowed for double-jeopardy pending new evidence being submitted. Something completely unheard of in most westernized judicial systems.  However, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2005 was the most egregious law attacking British civil liberties. Under this legislation, the government was then allowed to tag, monitor, and detain anyone “suspected” of terrorism with little (if any) oversight from the courts.

In 2013, Edward Snowden, a former IT specialist with the CIA, leaked the NSA’s “spy program” to the public, that was operating under the authority of the Patriot Act. Snowden discovered that nearly all communication devices in the United States and parts of Europe were being monitored 24/7 by governing powers with the cooperation of major corporations in secrecy.  Such a leak turned Snowden in a political refugee who was forced to  flee to Russia, a country that previously had a war with the US backed “Mujahadeen” in the 1980s. In October of 2015, I met Ben Wizner, Snowden’s attorney, at a conference, who stated that Mr. Snowden desires to come back home to the United States, a dream that Wizner hopes will someday come true.

Since 9/11, Muslim extremists have attacked subway stations, parades, and other social events, such as the “Boston Marathon Bombings” and the recent attacks in Paris,France.  These extremists often use guerrilla warfare or nontraditional methods to attack their hosts. They are not like a traditional standing army that fights in a formation with a designated uniform. As a result, the use of unmanned “spy drones” have been deployed in war. These drones can hover for days, monitoring human movement, equipped with weaponry.  This technology is now being used by domestic law enforcement against civilians.

To this day, many speculate on ‘why” the attacks on 9/11 happened. Some say that the middle eastern culture is simply barbaric or is “jealous” of our liberal way of life. Others, such as former FBI director, Michael Scheurer, and former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, cite foreign policy moves in the past, like the sanctions placed on Iraq during the Clinton era that resulted in over 500,000 starving to death, for being potential causes of the 9/11 attacks. Some conspiracy theorists claim it was an “inside job” perpetrated by profiteers. Regardless of “why” it happened, a response to these attacks were justified. Whether or not the United States responded correctly is an on-going debate. Personally, I think that the Bush administration and the Obama administration did some “good things” and some “bad things”, just as any other president would do. It’s a “gray” area that continues today. The question still lingers…

“How do we respect individual liberty while still keeping us safe?”

Just as during WWII and the Cold-War era, there is a witch-hunt happening. In the cold-war era, anyone who was negative or critical of government was automatically labeled a “communist” or “Nazi” and could be imprisoned under the Smith Act of 1940 for having certain political affiliations .  I fear that the same thing is happening today. Yes, there are terrorists in the world. Yes, there is a threat from Muslim extremism and domestic extremists. However, I feel that it is far too easy, legislatively, to label some person/protestor, common criminal or an activity as “terroristic”, so that the burdens of judicial oversight can be ignored, thus making some bureaucrat’s job easier to go after people they deem, “unpatriotic” or ideologically “unfavorable” to mainstream politics. Very reminiscent of the 1950’s which spawned the  COINTEL program  lead under J. Edgar Hoover.

These current parameters are certainly a slippery-slope that has effected many innocent people arbitrarily placed on surveillance, made to be informants against their will, and so forth. People live in constant fear of being “labeled”, thus, free speech and dissent become muffled.

“Have a negative view of your government? You better delete that last comment on Facebook, or else you may get a knock on your door!” – A quote you hear all too often these days.

However, on the other hand, the United States government cannot simply “do nothing” when such attacks happen like the ones that occurred on 9/11. A government’s natural reaction is to prevent such attacks from re-occurring and to reassure the public.  The problem is, many disagree on how to achieve that goal.  Yet, the important thing is, we all agree that we never want to see something like this happen again.  The question remains, is the so called “War on Terror” a winnable war? Can it be won? Have they already defeated us by making us change our values so much? I certainly believe that Americans and the rest of the western world certainly suffers from a form of PTSD after witnessing the 9/11 attacks. Fear and anxiety certainly envelop many of us when we fly or travel since those attacks occurred.

The attacks on the World Trade Center not only sent shockwaves through the hearts of Americans, but it also caused a catastrophic change in our values as a nation. As these values changed, so did the rest of the world’s values. As the world’s super-power, the entire globe was watching, listening, taking notes, and following suit.

16 years later. The war continues. Many sons and daughters are fighting in the same wars that their mothers and fathers served in.  Many children of deceased US soldiers carry resentment towards Muslims. Children of deceased middle eastern civilians carry resentment towards Americans. The cycle of hate and fear continue while those everyday people who have nothing to do with these wars get caught in a “legislative drive-by” AKA “Knee-jerk reaction laws”.

September 11th, 2001 permanently changed the way we travel, communicate, and do business.  The years leading up to 9/11, the internet was largely an unregulated free-market enterprise rife with expression. Our foreign policy entanglements were limited to brief skirmishes, green cards were relatively easy to obtain and the world was a lot more “self governing”.  Unfortunately, I do not see these trends reversing anytime soon. At the very least, we may be able to “weaken” some of these invasive measures, such as what happened with the “Patriot Act”. (later renamed the Freedom Act, which limited some of the powers of the Patriot Act).

If you are under the age of 40, and live in any westernized nation, it is very plausible and arguable to say that the September 11th attack was the worst day in your lifetime, perhaps not on a personal scale (factoring in death of relatives, health issues ect..), but on a public scale for humanity,western culture,values, and those who hold Libertarian leaning values.

Even if you disagree with my statement of 9/11 being the worst day in the 21st century, none can argue that it didn’t permanently change the geo-political landscape of this world. If you can recognize that fact, then you will see the rationale behind such a bold statement.

Where do we go from here? How do we heal a wound that still bleeds 16 years later in a society that continues to divide?  Forget Islamaphobia, attacks on civil liberties or the possibility of ISIS invading the United States. What scares me the most is that we are forgetting the values that bind us. Values that are explicitly and universally stated in the United States Constitution, the International Declaration of Human Rights, and even in most major religions like Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and even Islam.

Thou shalt not kill…

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you….

Treat foreign aliens as if they were your family….

Do not murder…

Kindness begets kindness…

use resources sparingly…

let a non-believer relish in his own ways so long as he does no personal harm to you…

These are universal principles found everywhere in the world. Principles that have been overshadowed by fear, angst, anxiety, and our need to “right” about everything.

It is my dream that September 11th, 2001, can transform itself from being the worst day in the 21st century, to becoming a catalyst for conversation that enlightens all of us, a sort of renaissance/enlightenment for mankind. If you are reading this  article, perhaps we are one step closer to achieving that dream.

Sincerely,

Randell D Stroud

 

-Nalini-Global

2017

 

 

Kentucky Police Department tests the 4th Amendment

To: Paducah Police Chief, Brandon Barnhill-  bbarnhill@paducahky.gov

From: Nalini-Global- Naliniglobal@yahoo.com 

The Paducah Police Department of Kentucky has recently launched a new initiative known as the, “Lock it or Lose it” campaign. Officers will now be encouraged to conduct sweeps around the city to check vehicles parked on public property, to see if they are properly locked and/or if valuables are in plain-view. If the vehicle is found to be unlocked and unattended by the owner, the officer will run the license plate and make attempts to reach the owner of the vehicle by telephone. If the officer cannot make contact, the officer will place a door hanger on the owner’s registered home address linked to the license plate. The informational door hanger will contain a warning to keep their vehicle properly locked up.

Officers who come across vehicles that are properly locked, will leave a “Thank you” card on the windshield of the vehicle. On the back of the card, a survey can be completed and mailed to the Paducah Police Department. Those who fill out the survey are automatically entered into a drawing contest to win prizes.  Officer Christopher Fearon recently spoke on a local Television program called “The Paducah View“, promoting the initiative stating that , “….Paducah is a safe town to live in, and sometimes people gain a false sense of security because of that.”   The initiative is not a nation-wide federal mandate, however, other cities and states have launched similar programs such as the “Lock it or Lose it” program launched in Lakeland,Florida last year. The Lakeland Police Department uses even more invasive tactics such as placing a bright orange cone on the top of an unlocked vehicle and leaving “lock it or leave it” brochures inside of the vehicle in order to send a “wake up” message to the car owner to lock up his/her valuables.

According to an article written by the West Kentucky Star, Officer Fearon states that, “……the Paducah Police Department will not leave warning hangers on the car itself nor will they open the car doors.” However, there is a million dollar question that comes with such a statement.

How can you know if a car is unlocked unless you try to open it?

On the surface, such a program may seem innocent or even well-intended. To be honest, it probably is well intended. Some may jump to conspiracy theories about, “Big Brother is Watching”, or claim that there is some secret agenda, yet, I believe it is simply a plan that is not well-thought out albeit well intended.

I have two problems with this initiative.

  1. A potential breach of the 4th Amendment
  2.  An abuse of power 

For an officer to make contact with a person or his property, there generally has to be “probable cause” or “Reasonable Suspicion”. “Probable cause” is a principle that is highly debated, especially with practices such as the “Terry Stop” being the norm these days.  A “Terry Stop”, is more a less an officer’s legal right to stop someone for questioning if the subject is doing something “suspicious” but is not engaging in a blatant activity that warrants probable cause for arrest or seizure of property.

Looking at the “Lock it or Lose It” program, I can see many pitfalls with this well-intended program.

Under the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, a private individual has the right to be secure in his possessions and maintain his privacy. This includes his home, his personal belongings, his e-mails, text messages, and yes……his vehicle! If an officer wants to enter the home of a citizen, search a vehicle, or seize property, he must obtain a warrant signed from a judge or the subject must voluntarily consent.

If an officer routinely approached your house, unwarranted, and began to “jiggle” the locks on your door to make sure they are “secured”, would you feel safer or violated? If your answer is “violated”, then you are probably not a supporter of this initiative. Or at least you shouldn’t be.   In order for an officer to determine whether or not a vehicle is locked, unless the door is left wide-open, the officer will have to physically attempt to open the door of the vehicle. The Paducah Police Department claims that they will not open doors, but how else could they test whether or not a car door is locked?

If this program becomes the norm around the nation, citizens will begin to develop a false-sense of trust for law enforcement officers who “check” their locks. While I believe most officers have good hearts and truly want to protect their communities, who is to say that this program wouldn’t be alluring to an officer who may be inclined to use this program to conduct full on searches or to plant evidence illegally? This type of program could create a curtain for abuse of power and make it easier for law enforcement to target citizens or to obtain an arrest and/or conviction.

If my car is stolen, or my valuables are taken because of my own negligence, I have no one to blame but myself and the person who lacks the moral aptitude to refrain from stealing.  Our local police are already burdened with investigators looking to track down murderers, pedophiles, rapists, and other violent criminals.  We cannot expect law enforcement to protect us 24/7 unless we all agreed to live in a militarized police-state where our every action, thought, and movement were all being recorded or monitored.

With the rise of the TSA, Terrorist threats and the controversy surrounding the “NSA Spy Program” leaked by former intelligence officer Edward Snowden, many Americans look at this program with the same question that has plagued us all since September 11th, 2001.

“How do we balance security while respecting our individual liberty and privacy?”

The police and military have a job to do. Their #1 duty is to protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of their fellow residents and citizens. Their job is not to make sure we button up our shirts correctly, brush our teeth every morning, or lock our cars when we run inside the grocery store to purchase a loaf of bread.

Not only is this program disrespecting the 4th amendment of the Constitution, but it is also creating unnecessary, “Busy Work” for police officers who could be applying their time and resources towards tackling and solving crimes that are actually taking place or have already taken place.  From a tax burden issue, who will pay for these informational cards to be printed up? What will be the administrative cost of this program a year from now?  How many man hours will be dedicated to this program? These, among other issues, certainly need to be addressed before further implementation of this program continues.

What are your thoughts? Should the program be discontinued, altered, or do you see it as perfectly innocent?

Let me know at, NaliniGlobal@yahoo.com

Thank you,

With love and honor

Randell D Stroud,

Founder of Nalini-Global

2017

(To be Submitted)