On the Road
enforcement getting out of control?
* Many states
have "asset forfeiture" laws that permit the seizure of your vehicle
if, for example, a little marijuana (or other arbitrarily "controlled")
substance is found during a traffic stop, including those probable-cause-free
"checkpoints" that cops now use to make such seizures even easier.
may think about pot smokers or other-than-allowed-drug-use in
general it seems a bit much to expropriate personal property
that in many cases is worth tens of thousands of dollars because
a guy had some grass (or whatever) on him. Note: Not smoking
the stuff; just having it on him. As a mental experiment,
imagine a cop just taking your car (and taking you
to jail) because he popped the trunk and found you had a case of
wine back there. What's the difference? One's "controlled"
and the other's not. (Personal note: I don't smoke pot or consume
legal drugs alcohol and tobacco. Well, I do
drink a clot of coffee. Still, this isn't advocacy of "substance
abuse." It's advocacy of sanity.)
who often have no assets to seize probably suffer far less in
terms of actual punishment. What, after all, is a few months in
the taxpayer-subsidized clink with free food, cable TV and heaf
cayuh, too in terms of punishment to a loser lowlife who has
no job to lose, no assets to forfeit and plenty of time on
his hands anyhow? But just taking someone's $35,000 vehicle?
That's a whole ‘nother thing.
State Police have deployed military-style infrared night vision
goggles to surveil motorists at night for the purpose of determining
whether they were wearing seatbelts. IFR equipment costs
thousands of dollars, but of course, the state can take in thousands
of dollars in "revenue" via the fines they collect, so the math
works out. But is targeting civilians in this way with military
equipment to find out whether they're "buckled up for safety"
a proper use of police authority in a (cough) free country?
defines "reckless driving" as anything more than 20 MPH faster than
the posted speed limit; thus, on a major Interstate highway spur
such as I-581 near my hometown of Roanoke, Va. where the speed
limit is still set at a Jimmy Carter-esque 55 MPH you can be tagged
for "reckless driving" for doing 76 MPH, which is slightly faster
than the average flow of traffic. In Virginia, a "reckless driving"
cite means a mandatory court appearance (no mailing in the fine)
and you'd better hire a lawyer, too because conviction means a
huge fine, the possibility of your driver's license being suspended
and the certainty of a six "demerit" points being assigned to your
DMV rap sheet. Your insurance will likely go up by 30-50 percent,
if it's not canceled altogether. Better have a top-shelf shyster
on your speed dial.
* In Georgia,
North Carolina and a dozen other states people convicted of nothing
more serious than "speeding" can be sent to jail for up to a a year
at the discretion of the local judge. Better hope it's not Boss
Hogg (see http://www.007radardetectors.com/speeding_fines.htm
for some state-by-state examples).
* The legal
threshold for "drunk driving" is now at .08 BAC in every state
so it's already well below the .10 BC threshold that correlates
with actual accidents (vs. an arbitrary, highly politicized
definition of "impairment") but efforts to lower it even more, to
.06 or even .04 (a level of "intoxication" that can be reached after
a single drink) are in the works. No one defends drunk driving
but is one really "drunk" (or even significantly impaired)
after a single drink? Or even two? Based on what evidence?
It seems we're on the path to "zero tolerance" a position openly
championed by that cash machine and political juggernaut Mothers
Against Drunk Driving. It sounds righteous but it's arguably ridiculous
to tag people with trace amounts of alcohol in their system as "
drunks" especially when there's no evidence their driving
has been impaired.
enforcement" of seatbelt laws gives cops legal authority to pull
drivers over simply because they're not wearing their seat belt.
Regardless of the wisdom of buckling up, should police have the
authority to pull drivers over for a personal choice that has nothing
to do with whether the person is a danger to others? It may be safer
for the driver to buckle-up, but an unbuckled motorist poses no
threat to the safety of other drivers just as an overweight
cop who lives on fast food isn't endangering anyone but himself.
But the cop is in no danger of a ticket for "risky eating." Isn't
this an unfair double-standard? If the driver deserves a ticket,
why not the cop?
The late author
Samuel Francis described this state of affairs as "anarcho-tyranny"
ordinary citizens getting harassed more and more aggressively
by the law and its enforcers over small-time "technical fouls" (such
as speeding or failing to buckle up) while violent thugs and big-time
lawbreakers suffer less and less in terms of real-world consequences
for their actions. The "speeder" gets several thousand dollars in
fines and 30 days in the clink; a guy who isn't even doing that
loses his $35,000 vehicle because some cop found a small bag
of pot in the glovebox during a seatbelt safety check. Meanwhile
violent thugs receive perhaps a few weeks/months of free room and
board at taxpayers' expense.
For the average
person, the loss of their driver's license, vehicle, massive fines
or a week in jail can be life-altering. For a violent thug,
fines are irrelevant, his "record" is something to boast about
and jail time means free room and board. The thug hasn't got a job
to lose and owns nothing of value that can be seized by the government.
That's probably why law enforcement isn't much interested; there's
no money there.
and Bill of Rights were supposed to ensure equal treatment -
but that's been thrown out the window, too along with the First,
Second and Fourth Amendments (to name the major casualties).
wife beaters, child molesters and all the various cretins and thugs
out there at bay (or secured inside the walls of a prison someplace)
ought to be a higher priority than worrying about seat-belt violators,
"speeders" and the couple that enjoyed a glass of wine with their
dinner before heading home.
But that would
be reasonable and we live in an increasingly unreasonable
with permission from EricPetersAutos.com.
[send him mail] is an
automotive columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2011 Eric Peters
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