Some pigs are more equal than others

If you are suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, the FHP will require that you take a sobriety test. If you refuse, to
take the test, your license will be suspended for one year for your first refusal. Unless you are a cop, I guess.
According to a May 5 arrest report, Sgt. Meyer was driving an unmarked
sheriff’s department pickup truck with the emergency lights flashing, en
route to an off-duty job at Walt Disney World, when he rear-ended a car
on County Road 535 near Windermere. No one was injured injured in the
crash, which occurred just after 9 p.m.
1 So he was driving to an off-duty job in his official vehicle with his emergency lights flashing?
2 He was intoxicated while operating a department vehicle?
3 He pled “no contest,” which is the same legally as a guilty plea. He should be terminated immediately.

Except that he is a cop.

Robocop 2

More redlight ticket madness.

 Revenue generators Traffic Cameras in Washington, DC operated by private companies have written a total of 4,019,023 tickets worth a total of $305 million. That is equivalent to one ticket not just for every resident of Washington, DC, but for every single resident of the District plus surrounding Virginia and Maryland suburbs. In a 2009 case, a Washington, DC judge ruled that if more than one car is visible in the photo for a speeding ticket, there is no way to prove which car was speeding. So how do the companies respond? They tamper with evidence by cropping the photos.

Miami makes $3.5 million a year from about 15,000 citations issued by traffic cameras. In order to contest your $158 red light ticket, a driver must pay an additional $85 to an appeals board that works entirely for the city. Wanna take a guess on how many appeals will go your way? Even if the appeal DOES go your way, the city still gets your $85 appeals fee. The city hires the hearing officer, who is not required to have any
legal training and cannot use formal rules of evidence. Now this person
will be a rubber stamp for $85 fees, ALL of which are kept by the city.
They have to pay the camera vendor and the state out of the $158, so the $85 is all gravy. Since when does the government get to accuse you of a crime, and then charge you a fee in order to prove your innocence?

In Newark, the city improperly wrote more than 20,000 tickets at $500 each over a 6 1/2 year period.

Meanwhile, NOLA cops are using their cameras to line their own pockets then laundered the money through the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, a tax-exempt organization that describes itself as “dedicated to supporting the people and processes of the criminal justice system in New Orleans.”

The first southern New Jersey municipality to issue a red light camera ticket admitted in 2011 that it issued 12,000 tickets worth $1 million at an intersection where the yellow light time was illegally short.

Voters in Hernando County, Florida will decide whether or not to get rid of red light cameras by voting on a referendum in 2014 (pdf alert)

The voters in Sugar Land, TX aren’t so lucky. The camera contractors in that town have been helping the local politicians perform some legal maneuvers to deny their voters the opportunity to place a referendum on the ballot.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee had this to say in a recent study:

 “A literature survey
reveals that most municipalities implementing red light cameras are
committed to private red light camera providers with certain revenue
goals to financially sustain their red light camera programs,” the study
found. “Most red light cameras are installed with dual, conflicting
purposes, reduce red light running and maximize private (and public)
sector revenue from red light running citations”

It is becoming increasingly obvious to me that the government in this country is, at every level, simply a scam for some to gain wealth at the expense of others.

Show me more money

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis knows that I think traffic tickets are a form of extortion. I talk about this enough that I have assigned the topic its own label.

The last time I got a ticket was in 2001. I paid the $184 fine. Eleven years later, I began getting letters saying that the court miscalculated the fine, and I actually owed another $32. I refused to pay it. I pointed out that the statute of limitations has passed, and they can’t do a thing about it.

So they sent me to collections. Now I get letters from a collection agency, and have been since last August. So far, I have received 22 letters. Now they are claiming that I owe $45. The letters have been increasing in frequency: from one a month last August, to one a week now. I have repeatedly told them that they can’t put it on my credit report because it is over 7 years old, they can’t do a thing about it legally, so I have no intention of paying. Since I am not going to pay it, they might as well save their money and stop contacting me.
Nope. Still getting the letters. Even though collection agencies are legally supposed to stop when you tell them to, in this case they are not required to, because they are collecting for the government. Another case of the government exempting themselves from the laws that the rest of us must follow.

Still not going to pay them. Still, how desperate is the government for more funding when they are reviewing cases that are a dozen years old?

DUI limits

One night while working as a firefighter, I was serving as the company officer of a truck company when a call came in to the neighboring company’s response area for an accident. During the dispatch, it sounded pretty serious. The Battalion Chief, who was at my station, told me to be ready to be dispatched to set up a landing zone for a medical helicopter, because he had a funny feeling that we would be needed.

Well, we wound up at the scene, treating a woman who was seriously injured, while the first unit to arrive on scene was busy doing CPR on her baby. Being the only paramedic on the truck full of EMTs, I was incharge of her care. I tried everything, every trick that I had in my knowledge base, but the woman died. So did her baby.

It turns out, according to her own family members, who were driving in the car behind her, she ran the stop sign, and was hit by a pickup truck that did not have a stop sign. The accident was clearly and unequivocally her fault, and that mistake cost her life, and her child’s life.

The problem here is that the State of Florida requires blood samples of every driver involved in a fatal crash. The driver of the truck, who did not seem impaired to me, had a blood alcohol of 82. He did admit on scene that he had 2 glasses of wine with dinner. I know what you are thinking- but his BAC did support the fact that he had only two. The State limit is 80. He was charged with and convicted of two felony counts of DUI manslaughter, and sentenced to twenty years in prison, and the accident wasn’t even his fault.

Why the long story? Because the government is cutting the DUI limits again. From 100, where it was thirty years ago, to 80 in 1999, and now to 50. After the limit was reduced from 100 to 80, traffic fatalities actually went up the following year, not down. My guess is that the law is working to reduce drinking and driving, and the amount of income that the government is getting from DUI fines is declining, and the number of paying customers that DUI attorneys is getting is falling. Perhaps the cops aren’t getting enough opportunities to earn free vacations for DUI arrests.

The truth is that the DUI law changes have had no discernible effect on the rate of traffic fatalities. Of course, the fact that the government uses traffic offenses as a cash cow, with Florida making $100 million a year  and Virginia doing the same from traffic tickets, has nothing to do with it. In California, it was recently discovered that 1,600 DUI checkpoints yielded only 3,200 DUI arrests (two per checkpoint), but resulted in $40 million in traffic tickets and 24,000 vehicle confiscations. Cops also won, being paid $30 million in overtime to staff the checkpoints.

Money, it’s a gas

A speed camera issues a ticket to a stationary car. The real story here isn’t that one car was erroneously ticketed. No, the real story is the fact that Baltimore’s 164 cameras have issued $48 million in tickets over the last three years. If the amount of the ticket, $40, is typical, this means that 400,000 tickets a year are issued by those 164 cameras: roughly 2400 tickets for each camera.

The officers that review the pictures before they are issued review and issue 1200 tickets per day. On an 8 hour workday, that leaves just 24 seconds for each picture to be reviewed and a citation issued. In other words, this is nothing but a revenue generator with few safeguards or oversight.

Cops are a waste of money

I have had relatively few traffic tickets, yet I can say that I have
lost far more money to cops in the form of traffic tickets than I have
from thieves.
In 2005, I had someone steal a check for over $200 from my mailbox, forge my name and deposit into his bank account. The number of the account that the check was deposited in was printed on the back of the check. I went to the station to report the crime. I had a copy of the check. All the cop had to do was go to the bank, get the name of the account owner, and make the arrest. Anyone could have done it, it wasn’t a hard crime to solve. The cops told me that they didn’t have the manpower to solve a crime for such a small amount of money. On the way home, I passed 6 cops with cars pulled over, writing traffic tickets.

In 2000, my car was broken into, and my stereo, radar detector, cash, and other items totaling about $600 was stolen from it. The crime scene investigator came out and took fingerprints. They got a hit, and gave me the name of the person, and asked me to sign a paper saying that this man did not have permission to be in my vehicle. A month later, I was told that the criminal would not be arrested because the crime was too minor to waste resources on.

As a paramedic in 2010, I ran a call on a report of man who was unconscious and slumped over the wheel at an intersection. When I got there, he was obviously drunk, and I reached in and took the keys out of the ignition and put them on the vehicle roof. When the cops got there, they let the man call his girlfriend and let her give him a ride home. They said that they couldn’t prove that he was behind the wheel. I told them I would testify, but then the cop told me that his shift was over soon, and he didn’t want to stay late to do the paperwork.

Yet, in 2001 I got a traffic ticket for $184, which I subsequently paid. Eleven years later, the court sends me a letter saying that they miscalculated the fine for the ticket, and I owe them another $32. So it appears that no amount of money is too small when they stand to lose it.

I would rather take my chances with the supposed criminals. At least I can fight back against them.

Officer Discretion

My brother was in a car accident twice in a two week period. The first time, he was driving down a 4 lane divided highway in the right turn lane. Traffic was slow, and the vehicles in the other two lanes waved a vehicle across the highway. My brother T-boned him. The cop didn’t want to write a ticket, and said that due to officer discretion, wouldn’t. As a result, the insurance company claimed that my brother was 50% at fault, and would only pay half of the damage. So he had to fork out $2,000 to repair his car.

Having had his car back for just four days, my brother was sitting at a red light when a car rear ended him. The cops again used officer discretion to not write a ticket. Same story, the insurance company again refused to pay more than half. Another $1800 later, the body shop bought him a steak dinner for being a “good” customer, and bringing nearly $8,000 into the shop within a week or so.

So he complained to the police department and was told that there is no way that they can force cops to write tickets. The worst part? All of this happened during the same week that the city entered talks to install red light cameras at all of the intersections.