The Tyranny of Traffic Enforcement
Medieval Times… On the Road
by Eric Peters
Is traffic 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.
Whatever you 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.)
Violent criminals – 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.
* Maryland 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?