Sheriff’s Message, Week of March 12th
One never knows when something said could produce a profound learning lesson. A Fernley business owner once stated, “Every so often, we give up power by choosing one of our own to keep the peace and enforce the laws.” While this individual has no law enforcement background, he is extremely grounded in the principles of liberty as it relates to our constitution. A very wise man indeed.
The Lyon County Sheriff’s Office has a responsibility to protect the rights of all persons within its jurisdiction while enforcing state laws. This is a difficult challenge, especially when people want action taken that is in direct conflict with constitutional rights. Just like social media dramatizes an article with an inflammatory headline and picture, these same people read only the Nevada Revised Statute title without reading the text of the body or looking at its legislative intent.
Let us use NRS 203.010, Breach of Peace as an example. While we do use this law to contact a neighbor in an attempt to resolve loud music complaints, we are really in a grey area. NRS 203.010 was adopted in 1911 as a result of progressive riots in Nevada. It has been amended twice – in 1967 and 1971, which probably had something to do with social issues stemming from the Vietnam War. Speakers, subwoofers, and amps were not even available when this law was crafted, adopted, and amended. Music, even loud music, can be a 1st Amendment claim. We do our best to keep neighborhood peace within the boundaries of that particular law.
There are also other areas protected by the 1st and 4th Amendments. Panhandling with a sign is protected by the 1st as long as they are on public property, not impeding traffic, and the language written on the sign is within certain boundaries. Camping on public lands, also called vagrancy, is protected by the 4th because no state law violation has been committed. While BLM officials manage those public lands, it is their responsibility to establish rules. The LCSO will assist BLM in that management by keeping the peace between citizen and BLM officials as the rules are explained and citizen compliance is attempted.
Irresponsible off-highway vehicle (OHV) riding on public lands next to private property and residential neighborhoods is another challenge. It is generally protected by the 4th Amendment because no state law violation has been committed; although there are times when some laws could be broken such as operating an OHV while impaired. Constitutionally protected rights of all persons must come first, and LCSO will not succumb to outside pressures or influences to circumvent those protections.
And finally, during the past month, we have seen our prisoner population increase by about 30-percent. That could be a direct result of several factors, but being a bit biased, much of it is a direct result of our hard working LCSO staff. Nonetheless, a bit of advice for those who have booked a jail vacation. Don’t smuggle drugs in. You may have come in for your visit having committed a only misdemeanor, but you will leave us with a felony charge. We routinely bring in Deputy Bo and he will find it.
As always, keep the faith,