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Published:August 11th, 2005 06:09 EST
Highway Robbery

Highway Robbery

By Sean Stubblefield

As the reluctant and highly annoyed recipient of a few unnecessary traffic tickets, I generally have no great affection for policemen. Except for the ones who actually, you know, genuinely serve and protect.

Regarding the rules of engagement for issuing traffic tickets, I spoke with a representative of the Houston Sheriff’s office, who kindly took the time to answer my questions as best he could, and I appreciate that. He informed me that there are no strict or specific orders for officers to pull anyone over for traffic violations.

He claimed that stopping someone to write them a ticket, give them a warning or ignore them is totally at the discretion of the individual law enforcer. Despite rumors to the contrary, this representative also insisted that, as far as he knew, no police or sheriff’s department uses ticket quotas and denied that any ever have used such quotas.

Maybe this is true, but I’m not quite convinced. Particularly considering the existence of speed traps, which seem explicitly designed for issuing tickets to hapless drivers. This money goes to fund various resources for the city or state— as that representative also told me (though he didn’t know what exactly it pays for). So how could it not be in their interest to take our money by any means they can?

Perhaps there really are no ticket quotas, but I suspect that many policemen (and women) are “encouraged” to write tickets whenever possible.

Is it right that our police force should have such vague and broad discretionary powers?  Could this perhaps enable an abuse of authority, as well as a dereliction of that authority? Officers of the law may write tickets merely on a whim?

Rather than making me feel secure when I see cops while driving, I feel paranoid.

Because you never know what might set them off, or when.

We get tickets that cost us over $100!!! Even for minor infractions. Yeah, thanks, you’ve been a big help. Way to encourage public appreciation and support. I can really afford to throw money away on a ridiculous fine.

Granted, there are some offenses and circumstances that actually do merit a ticket.

I also realize that the police are just “doing their jobs”, and it’s usually nothing personal.

Plus, there is always more than a single point of view on any issue, and they have their own justifications and rationalizations for it.

But I protest that something negligible like a broken tail light you didn’t even know about or an expired sticker or running a stop sign where no other cars are in the vicinity should ever warrant anything more than a simple advisement or warning, if not a dismissal.

The most recent ticket I got was for “allegedly” speeding, and I’m fairly sure I was not.

I was told by he who pulled me over that the car in front of me was going the speed limit, so I must be the one he detected going too fast on a one lane road. What?!!!

If this were true, I would have crashed into the car in front of me.

I lost $130.

As if the ticket charge weren’t atrocious enough, we are ordered to appear in court at the court’s convenience to address the offense— even if occurring out of state (?!!!).

If we don’t show up to our appointed court date to address the ticket charge, the fine increases. If we still don’t pay, this government issues a warrant for our arrest.

The government, our American government, is stealing from us. Legally.

And there’s not a thing we can do to prevent it. We defy and resist at our risk. 

How can they do this to us? How is this theft accomplished?

By issuing frivolous and fraudulent traffic tickets for ultimately victimless and harmless “crimes”. An officer of the law ever so inclined has the authority and the temerity to stop any citizen at any moment for any provocation— no matter how insignificant, and fine them with an expensive ticket. They could even falsely charge someone with an offense if they wanted to; it’s their word against ours, even if it is their innocent mistake.

And who are the courts more likely to believe?

As should be done with frivolous law suits, I suggest that the issuing of frivolous traffic tickets should be constrained and punished for disturbing the peace, abusing legal power, and a wasting the court’s time. There are real crimes, victims and bad guys out there— where people are actually getting hurt or threatened, or who could use their help.

Yet these so-called police have the gall to waste time and resources on irrelevancies like radar guns and speed traps, whether or not we are wearing a seat belt, or making a u-turn, or jay-walking, or coming to a complete stop.

They often ignore the intent of the law in favor of the word of the law, as they so please.

And, more importantly, how do they get away with this blatant thievery?

The United States government routinely and legally engages in the extortion of its citizens. Do you realize this?

Extortion: To obtain by force or improper pressure.

This is essentially our government saying to us, demanding— threatening us, “Pay me, or I will arrest you.” “Pay me, and I will not arrest you.” “Pay me, and I will release you.”

Another appropriate word is “racketeering”, and maybe “forced bribe”.

We give the government “protection” money, and they let us go free. They let us?!!!

Please, understand, this is theft. It is wrong when the mob does it, and it is still wrong when the police do it. Probably even more so, because they are supposed to be serving and protecting us, not harassing and robbing us.

That, of course, is only one way to look at it.