Saturday, February 25, 2006

Athenian Wisdom

In classical Athens, the victim of theft was entitled to search the home of the accused; if he found his property he could recover it and receive a damage payment of twice its value. This provided an obvious opportunity for fraud—plant the supposedly stolen property while pretending to search for it. The Athenians came up with a simple and elegant solution to that problem.

The accuser was entitled to search—but he had to do it naked.

We have our own version of the same problem—the risk that police officers may plant drugs while pretending to search for them. Perhaps we should take a lesson from the ancient Athenians.

[Readers sufficiently interested in ancient Athenian law may want to look at the web page of my current seminar, which contains a link to my outline of an excellent book on the subject]

5 Comments:

At 5:39 AM, February 25, 2006, Anonymous johnt said...

The problem with the Athenian solution is, who would enforce it? If you can plant drugs you can get another cop to say you were naked. This depends to a degree on where the search takes place, then again maybe there's a few cops who wouldn't mind undressing considering the sex of the suspect. It could get a little dicey on a car stop, traffic and all that.

 
At 7:09 AM, February 26, 2006, Blogger Gary McGath said...

This would mean that they'd have to rely on karate to smash doors in. Sounds good to me.

 
At 11:16 AM, February 26, 2006, Blogger driftwood said...

So if you get stopped during sub-zero temps with a howling wind, wouldn't it be fun to try and goad the cops into doing a search?

Drug runners would want to wait for the nastiest weather....

Or we could just decriminalize at least the smallish amounts that cops are likely to plant. But maybe that is too sensible a solution for this country.

 
At 5:29 AM, March 02, 2006, Blogger Phu said...

If I saw a good looking lady-cop I'd spark up a spliff and wind the window down.

 
At 5:09 PM, March 14, 2006, Anonymous stefan said...

I would say the problem is the police searching for drugs in the first place. When it comes to theft the idea is not that bad though, it just needs to be reworked a little. I would say: dressed you can have your stuff back only. Naked you can have your stuff back and slap the guy that stole it.

 

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