Monday, November 15, 2010

The Money Grab

I had the misfortune of getting a speeding ticket this weekend. I'm not disputing my guilt Despite the fact that I rarely speed, on this occasion, I was definitely over the limit. What upset me was the absolute determination of the officer to write the ticket without even considering a reprimand and leniency. Even though I don't agree with this mindset, I understand what goes.

Traffic citations are a source of revenue for municipalities and have become, in these troubling economic times, one way in which many cities, towns and villages are seeking to reap income to close their budget gaps. As such the Barney Fifes are out in force, setting up speed traps and scouring their ordinance books to squeeze every dollar they can out of drivers. Since when did traffic laws become a tax and cease to be an instrument of public safety? The proliferation of red light cameras, random "license" checks, and the mother of all money grabs, impound fees, is disturbing. Maybe for some a speeding ticket here and there is no big deal, but to me and most of humanity a dollar still has value. What is also particularly irksome is the fact that if one rolls over and pays the fine via mail it is roughly one third of the minimum fine that is charged if one has the audacity to show up in court. Freedom isn't free, but we can't be clogging up the courts with annoying citizens who wish to actually defend themselves.

There is also the disturbing nature of just who is doing the policing and judging. Show me a cop who has never violated a traffic law and I'll show you a unicorn attending Harvard. Not too long ago a local criminal prosecutor was tragically killed in a one car collision after consuming too many martinis with her cohorts. Just this past year a local judge was cited for reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident, but somehow the judicial ethics folks had no problem with him remaining in robes behind the bench.

The point here is simple. No one is above the law, but few have not strayed beneath once in a while. As such the punishment should fit the crimes and the laws should serve to insure the public safety and not used to raise revenue. It would also be nice if those entrusted with serving and protecting us from the evil doers, weren't evil doers themselves.

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