Law Enforcement

Now here’s a Facebook meme that makes sense. It’s from Filming Cops, but the true adversary here is not the police officer:

This isn’t some paranoid, whack-job, cop hating-nonsense. It’s an accurate description of how all criminal laws are enforced.

Even a minor violation such as loitering can have a penalty of several hundred dollars, which is probably an awful lot of money if you’re the kind of person — poor, minority, homeless — who is likely to get hit with a loitering charge. And if you don’t (or can’t) pay the fine, sooner or later someone will get a judge to issue a warrant for your arrest, meaning that men with guns will come to take you away and lock you in a cage. If you’re accused of a more serious crime, they’ll just skip straight to issuing an arrest warrant, and men with guns will come to take you away and lock you in a cage. And in either case, if you resist being taken away and locked in a cage — a perfectly natural (albeit unwise) impulse — the men with guns will overcome your resistance with violence, up to and including killing you.

And all of this can happen before you are ever convicted of any crime.

So for God’s sake, people, think before you legislate! (Or encourage others to do so.) Because whether your law is about selling spray paint to someone younger than 18, buying too much cold medicine, selling raw milk, watering your lawn, or loitering, when you support a new law, you are implicitly saying that you think people who disobey your law should be subject to the violence of arrest and incarceration.

So before you demand a new law, ask yourself: Is what’s bothering you really worth all this trouble?

3 Comments

  1. russ

    The sad fact is very few people have ever spent 60 seconds in a criminal court.

    I’ve spent 60 minutes in a criminal court (55 minutes were spent on the cases before mine) and it became pretty obvious that EVERYONE was involved in a victimless crime and most of the people were there because the poor slobs couldn’t come up with the money for the outrageous fine.

    I’m convinced that 90% of robberies (and maybe higher in poor neighborhoods) are a way to come up with the money to pay fines. Which means the justice system is creating more victims.

    Reply

  2. I don’t know about robberies, but I’m sure the fines and penalties feed back in a few other ways. Poor people often live so close to the edge that a few days in jail or even just a loss of the right to drive can set off a cascade of missed work, lost job, repo’d car, missed rent, eviction, and social workers coming to take the kids.

    Reply

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