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I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into a Constitutional Trial (thepublicdiscourse.com)
899 points by anarazel on Jan 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 467 comments



I got a red light ticket for a car I no longer own. I have a receipt of electronic transfer of title dated 6 months before the incident, passport stamps and travel documents proving I was out of the country, and the person in the photo was of the wrong gender and ethnicity.

I fought it via mail. It took multiple round trips. At each step the potential fine more than doubled. If I did not respond correctly or in time, I waved my right to appeal. The appeal paperwork contradicted itself. (Page 1: You must do X or we will reject your appeal. Page 2: You must not do X or we will reject your appeal). I had to send a passport photo less than 30 days old of myself in, but photos taken with electronic cameras are not allowed.

In the end, I sent a letter. The city of San Francisco is not obligated to inform me of a successful appeal, so either I beat the ticket, or some day (maybe years from now) they will issue a warrant for my arrest.

This isn't even guilty until proven innocent. 100% of the evidence presented against me proved my innocence, and I will be in legal limbo forever.

[edit: In a special kafka-esque twist, the only reason I was able to fill out the paperwork successfully is because the telephone operator at the SF courthouse took pity on me. There is a number to call for clarification, but no one picks up that phone. So, your best bet is to get your legal advice from the operator.]


One more thing (since I might have the attention of a windmill-tilting pro-bono lawyer): I donated the car in question to KDFC. The SF red light proceedure for people in my situation has the accused track down the current owner of the car (which is not necessarily the person it was first transferred to), which means I needed to get in touch with an out of state auction house that sells the cars for the radio station.

This happens all the time, and the radio station has a department to deal with these issues. If you call the car donations hotline, and ask for the red light ticket helpdesk, you will be transferred to someone that might be able to help bootstrap a class action suit. I suspect this situation is the same in most states.


For other Californians selling or donating cars, a crucial step is to complete a "Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability" form. details at:

https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/vr_info#BM2520

but the key language is:

> Protect Your Liability. Complete a Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability. The seller is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 5 days from the date of sale. After DMV updates the information from the Notice of Transfer and Release of Liability, you will be cleared from future liability on the vehicle. The purchaser is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 10 days from the date of purchase.

Being liable for a traffic ticket is one thing, but imagine being thought liable for a hit and run collision.


Here is some of the documentation from the SF court:

http://www.sfsuperiorcourt.org/divisions/traffic/red-light

(There are more, contradictory instructions that they mail out with the ticket)

Their database of car registrations is not regularly synced with the DMV, so they routinely send citations to people that do not own the car in question.

There is no process for "the bureaucracy screwed up", so they won't accept a copy of the liability transfer reciept as proof you are no longer liable (nor will they simply contact the DMV).

Of course, since you have no idea what the new owner is up to, you can't provide the information required to contest the ticket.

At this point, things get progressively more bizarre.


This is a giant scam to screw the public out of more money. Call your congressperson, make a petition, make a big deal publicly out of it, go to the press, dig up as much dirt as you can; if the people don't make the authorities do their job right, they'll continue to use us as exploitation resources.


What part of this designed to increase income, in your opinion? It seems to me that revenue remains constant whether they fine the previous owner or the new one.


Taking the path of least resistance of course, it is easier to extort the person on their file than getting out of their way to find the real culprit.


> What part of this designed to increase income, in your opinion?

Not making the information on general contests (rather than a few narrow cases) readily available makes it more likely that people that rely on only the county site for information won't contest tickets (thinking that there is no procedure available for their circumstance), which reduces costs associated with contested tickets.


> There is no process for "the bureaucracy screwed up

There certainly is, whether or not SF County actively provides it to you.

In any case, the state does provide it.

http://www.courts.ca.gov/8452.htm


Turn it on them and declare it was stolen. Either they accept the transfer or you are legally the owner and declare it stolen. Go to the police and report the car stolen. That would create such a cluster$uck for them maybe they'd be more inclined to work with you.


> Turn it on them and declare it was stolen.

So, you'll be guilty of perjury with clear documentary evidence, but get out of the traffic infraction. Likely pyrrhic victory, there.


Definitely do that. Just don't be surprised when the courts don't honor it. The paperwork was correct for me (and I can prove it), but that wasn't enough to "clear me from future liability".


I traded my car in, and one of the forms they had me sign was this. 6 months later I got a call from the DMV saying my insurance lapsed. I told them as much and they said that it's a common tactic by dealerships - they have you sign it then never send it in, because they don't want to be liable for the car even though they own it. Totally scummy.


You should submit the form online. It takes less than 5 minutes.


>The seller is responsible for reporting the change of ownership to DMV within 5 days from the date of sale

And if you sell your car to a dealership (i.e., give it away for pennies because you don't want it anymore) and they say they will do this step for you, assume they are full of shit.

I sold my old Toyota to DGDG in San Jose. I specifically asked them about this step (having experience with the equally kafkaesque Texas Toll Systems) and they told me they'd take care of it for me. Sweet.

Six months later I'm getting letters about toll violations. I dispute them with proof, dismissed. I did this five times for various toll violations until finally I bugged the dealership enough for them to get around to fixing it. But their first response was: "Don't worry about it, if they come in the mail, just ignore them." Uh..


Don't ignore them! That waves your right to contest the tickets!


So the fact that you no longer own the car is not enough to release you from liability from it? Typical "may cause cancer in the state of California" style regulations. Glad I don't live there anymore


Where do you live that you don't have to notify the DMV of a title transfer in order to be released from liability? When I sold my Dad's car in South Carolina, I had to collect the license plates (called "tags" there) and physically return them to the DMV with the required paperwork.


Pretty much anywhere with a sensible idea of what liability means. When the car is gone, you're not liable for it.

This year a car I used to drive was involved in a serious accident. I sold the car 7 years ago, the owner was just driving it illegally without registration. A few minutes on the phone with the police officer and it was cleared up.


so far I can't find a single state where you don't have to notify the DMV of a title transfer. I don't agree that this is some crazy "only in California" type of deal.


I don't know about cars, but I had this happen with a boat that I sold in Florida. The buyer is supposed to register the boat. The registration sticker did not expire for another year. So, they didn't bother to pay the fees.

When I went to the DMV a few months later to renew a car registration, they thought that I still owned the boat. They said it happens all the time. I had the bill of sale to sort things out.


I don't know if it's still the case, but it used to be in Virginia that it was the buyer's responsibility to notify the DMV; the seller signed and handed over the title; if the buyer never registered the car it would be completely possible for the DMV to not have record of the transfer in that case.


While not required, the seller can also mail back their registration with a notice of sale (there is a small form on the back of the registration card, if I remember correctly).


Looks like Virginia is currently one of those states where you have to turn in the license plates -- so how would the camera ticket get to you? https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#selling.asp

In California, the plates stay with the car (unless they are vanity or you are attached to your plate number)


I never said it was "crazy", you inferred that yourself.


In Texas in the late 90's my father sold a car which was involved in a hit and run the very next day. Luckily a simple bill of sale was enough to keep him out of trouble.


> Being liable for a traffic ticket is one thing, but imagine being thought liable for a hit and run collision.

Why would car ownership be anything but a very weak piece of evidence in such a case?


I would hope.

This was wayyyy before red light/speeding cameras existed - I was 17 under mom's insurance. Car insurance calls mom saying my car was involved in a hit-and-run, a bystander took down the license plate of the hit and run car, my license plate. This hit and run also happened in the town I lived in. Totally plausible and even provable it was me, or at least someone driving my car.

My car, however, at that time was about 250 miles away... Being towed, as the shitbox I drove broke down, again. I had the tow truck receipt to prove it.

I honestly don't know what ended up happening, as at 17 I wasn't handling this kinda stuff. I guess the tow receipts proved it wasn't me. Or maybe it was a different make/model/color than what was registered with the DMV. Anyways, I never heard about it again. Of course, nobody went after me for a crime, it was the insurance who cared in this case, not the police. I don't know how long this took to resolved or how much of a pain of the ass it was to deal with.

I just find it very frightening that, when you looked at it from afar, it seemed so obvious that it was me even though I was totally innocent.


In a case of mistaken car identity (as opposed to correct car, but incorrect driver), there are even better sources of evidence: hitting someone usually leaves traces on the car (bent buffer or hood).


Years ago when red light cameras were new I remember hearing a comedian say "The city sent me a photo of my car running a red light and a ticket for $100. So, I took a photo of $100 and sent that back to them with the ticket".

That's completely silly but it sounds like it was just as effective as your efforts so far. Hope you get it sorted some day.


I remember the story ending with "they sent back a picture of handcuffs, and so I sent the actual money"



Help a confused european: do you guys not have a car registration system, wherein when you sell a car the buyer has to go and register himself as the new owner before he gets registration plates and can drive the car?

How could the city not know who the owner of the car is?

Over here photo tickets follow a simple rule: if it's your car, it's your responsibility to know who's driving it. When you get a ticket, you either name the driver, or you pay it yourself. But I haven't heard of anyone getting a ticket for someone else's car.


> How could the city not know who the owner of the car is?

Because frankly the city doesn't care about change of ownership. Many cities (probably most in California, and SF for sure) are totally disconnected from helping citizens. They really neither interested, nor in business of helping you out. They BELIEVE you did something wrong and that's enough. Most of the time they are right and that's enough of a fuel for a SF budget committee not to allocate budget to helping few citizens out of majority to "make it right" for them.

An interesting story from an App that made it simple to fight wrong tickets. Who would have thought that SF would give you wrong ticket or that they would be in wrong generally? You not supposed to be well-informed either. At the end, they got frustrated by all people who lawfully and willingly were submitting claims via Fax and just simply... unplug their fax machine!

When Fixed began faxing its submissions to SFMTA last year, the agency emailed the startup to stop using their fax machine. When Fixed pointed out that it was legal to do so, the agency simply shut off their fax.

https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/12/fixed-the-app-that-fixes-y...


>Because frankly the city doesn't care about change of ownership. Many cities (probably most in California, and SF for sure) are totally disconnected from helping citizens.

Eh, Boston isn't in California but from what I gather most of the populace has contracted whatever California has so it may as well be.


Wow! Can we at least have an app that pays the fine using pennies?


There are two parts to it. The seller notifies the state that they have sold the car, and the buyer has to register with the state that they bought the car. Taxes are due when the buyer registers with the state, so guess which part doesn't get done as often?

If the seller forgets to send in the sell notification and the buyer flakes out on registering the only person they know to pursue is the seller. Hopefully the seller has a signed bill of sale so they can point the finger further down the ownership chain.


All of that assume there are plates on the car. If the seller left his plates on the car, well, that was a mistake. If you sell a car private-party, you should take the plates off. It's on the buyer to ensure the car is properly tagged. Most states off short-term tags for just this reason (transporting newly purchased cars that haven't had registration updated).


>If the seller left his plates on the car, well, that was a mistake.

That's not always the case. In some states the plates are "owned" by the vehicle, not a person and are transferred with the vehicle on sale.


In California the plates stay with the car, not the owner. Other states are different.


I did not know that. That seems like a terrible idea for exactly the reason we're discussing this. Does CA have a web site available where a seller can relinquish ownership? If not, it seems the time between the actual sale and one or other of the seller or buyer going to the DMV would have the car in legal limbo wrt ownership.


It is indeed a terrible idea to have thhe plates follow the car. There is a website, but it only updates the DMV database in a timely, the database the city police / courts use can be > 6 months out of date.


In Indiana, the plates stay with the owner. Yet you can relignquish ownership of a vehicle either in the office or online. I'd not be surprised to find out that other states have a similar option.


You usually need to show up in person to register a vehicle. If you intend to buy a car and drive it to a different state then you may not be able to register it in the origin state because most state stipulate that you can't register a vehicle if you do not reside there or have an address there (otherwise people in small shitty states would drive a couple hours to an adjacent state to save a few hundred on tax/registration/insurance). Registering it in the destination state would be similarly impossible without the title/bill of sale in hand and some states require an inspection prior to registration. Inspections stations need to be licensed. This means it's in some cases impossible to legally buy and drive a car bought private party because you can't register it where you buy it and you need have the car inspected before registering it where you're bringing it.

Depending on the states in question the fine for invalid registration is usually much less than the cost of having the unregistered vehicle towed from A to B so many people just slap an old plate on the back and cross their fingers.


Are there no exceptions for driving directly to a closest inspection place? In canton of Zurich, this is the AFAIK only case when you can drive without license plates (if you want to register your car and the DMV wants to inspect it, you can drive it plateless to DMV).


Most states in the mid-Atlantic region will issue 24-hour or 7-day temp tags for just this purpose (transport a new-to-buyer car from out-of-state).


Yes we do. But 50 states, 50 different motor vehicle bureaus. Not to mention D.C. Plus Puerto Rico etc.

Some states have an excellent DMV. Others suck. It depends.


No states have excellent DMVs (or BMVs, or IDS) some states just have worse ones than others.


You've used the DMV in all 50 states?


The BMV near me has been nothing but cheerful and helpful and I've done a few transactions that are off the beaten path. Wait times are usually 0-40min and it's in a strip mall so you can do your shopping while you wait. I do live in the middle of nowhere by SV standard though.


I've had a DL in 7 states so far. Yes some were good. Your mileage may vary though.


DMV in New Hampshire is fine. It wasn't until I got to Silly Valley that I learned that what they eventually showed in Zootopia is true.

Part of it is just due to population density. They need to increase the number of DMVs by about 10 to get a reasonable distribution for the population.


Wrong. Also, in NY, there is a state DMV, 57 county DMVs, and the NYC DMV. County DMV offices are run by their respective county clerks, though they do tie into the state computer systems. Many of them are fantastic.


I've had a pretty good experience with the DMV in TN. I know others who haven't, but I have.


Yes. But, it's not uncommon (though not a good idea) to sell a car with the plates on, so the buyer doesn't have to go to the DMV before purchase.


I think it is uncommon, if not rare. It's a terrible idea, and depending on the location and circumstances may be illegal.


> When you get a ticket, you either name the driver, or you pay it yourself. But I haven't heard of anyone getting a ticket for someone else's car.

Or you pay a fine for not naming the driver. Which makes sense, because if you're unaware who was driving (or not willing to say), why should you be punished for speeding/running a red light, as opposed to not naming the driver.


I would imagine in the US, the fifth amendment would protect you from having to name the driver.


It varies from state to state. You typically have some type of title document. When you sell your car, you sign the back with the sale value. You have to do this very carefully because if you sign the wrong part or screw something up, you have to go to the county clerk, sign an affidavit and pay for a new title that you can then sign over properly.

Some states require that the title be notarized (signed and sealed in front of a notary public who verifies your identity) which can be done at a bank at transfer time.

In both cases, the buyer is responsible for registering the car (at which time they'll pay sales tax on it. The seller will usually print and fill out a bill of sale. It's best to get this notarized too along with the title).

Unless you fill out one of the forms mentioned in the comments, the car will still be listed as belonging to you until the buyer registers it.


Not everyone complies with registrations. Compliance is especially low amongst the poor, ethnic minorities in large cities, and the wealthy elite in California.


Hey, sorry to be off-topic, but your post does not have a downvote button for me. The rest do, and I do not want to downvote you, but I am curious as to the 'why not?'.


older than 24 hours, the others aren't.


I am going to chance another downvote to say: Thanks for the clarification.


I don't disagree, but why would a non-poor ethnic minority be less likely to follow the law?


Or a non-ethnic minority poor... my best guess would be some cultural distrust of government?


In California, the license plates stay with the car, and as people mentioned, there's a system to notify the DMV of ownership changes. Also, when you buy a new car, of course you have to register with the DMV and they mail you the new license plates... which takes the usual 6-8 weeks or whatever. In the meantime, you just drive the car around with no license plates.


> buyer has to go and register himself as the new owner

As you've described it, you're depending on the buyer doing the right thing.


I didn't realise he sold the car with his old registration plates still on. That seems silly.


How is it silly? That's normal, in my experience; the plates transfer with the car. Do you live in a place where one must obtain new plates immediately after purchasing a car?


> That's normal, in my experience; the plates transfer with the car.

What? No they do not. The plates stay with the person not the car. You can transfer the plates from car to car as well.

> Do you live in a place where one must obtain new plates immediately after purchasing a car?

Where do you live that you don't????

Are you sure that in your state plates transfer with the car? What state is that, because I would like to look that up.


That's not true in California, at least. Plates stay with the car unless they're vanity plates.


This is the part that confused me the most. Why wouldn't they just make the new owner get new plates? It's completely trivial.


Apparently you are not allowed to (supposed to?) keep the plates in CA. At first, I thought the new owner was using the plates illegally.


Costs some $


And it costs the seller money to get new plates for his new car. Somebody in the transaction will have to buy new plates.


Different states have different laws:

http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/transfer-of-plates/


They do in California.


Presumably that simple rule has some kind of exception for when your car is stolen?


There's an episode of The Simpsons where Homer gets a parking ticket. There's a number to call. He calls. "Press 1 to appeal your ticket." He presses 1. Immediately the IVR system replies, "Your appeal has been denied. Thank you." and hangs up.


The real WTF here? Municipal executives who sign contracts with distant third party tech companies containing revenue quotas for those companies.

Perverse incentives! the original purpose of laws against driving too fast or jumping red lights is promoting public safety. When the municipality has an obligation to issue a certain number of violations, the original purpose is subverted. Now, of course another public policy purpose of these laws is to raise revenue.

When the revenue is made possible by a tech company, the municipality probably has a contractual obligation undermining its public safety mission.

Municipal officials, if they were willing, could raise revenue by asking the people to pay more taxes, even excise taxes on vehicles. But there's no incentive for municipal executives to be honest any more: for over a generation the US citizenry has been trained to vote against anyone who asks for more taxes.

So dinging violators of regulations is an easier way for towns to get money. Create regulations that turn ordinary people in to "bad" people, then grab some of their money to make them "good" again. What a system!

Hacker News friends, let's remember that we are, or easily could be, the creators of those distant third party tech companies whose contracts perpetuate the perverse incentives.


We should put safety related ticket revenue 100 percent into an insurance policy for those hurt by the offense. We should set ticket prices based on the needed premium to insure the victims. That would remove the incentive to increase tickets, while preserving the purpose!

For example, if you get hurt by a red light runner, you should get paid by all the accident free red light tickets.


> For example, if you get hurt by a red light runner, you should get paid by all the accident free red light tickets.

This is referenced in the article, but if there is an accident-free red light running incident, then there are no plaintiffs with standing to claim injury ergo there are no tickets issued (as there would be no one to issue them) ergo there would be no revenues.

The idea that you can make a facial wrong into something just by putting the ill-gotten gains to better use than they currently are is undoubtedly somewhat more noble an act than what is currently done, but still ignoble as it is predicated on ignobility.

Past that, your idea has pragmatic challenges. If the funds are placed into a trust or insurance policy, then they are not being used to fund the police and court systems that generate those funds, so the system cannot perpetuate itself without significantly raising the cost of the tickets to cover both the insurance policy funds and the regular maintenance fees, which makes a ticket expensive enough to be worth hiring an attorney to fight, meaning fewer fees collected, meaning fees would need be raised again to cover the cost of avoidance.


> if there is an accident-free red light running incident, then there are no plaintiffs with standing to claim injury ergo there are no tickets issued (as there would be no one to issue them) ergo there would be no revenues.

That's not what the article was about. Injury does not have to occur for you to get a ticket (and have to pay it) for running a red light. You have violated a regulation, and the city has standing. The article was about a different situation where there was no actual proof that Adam broke the law, yet he was being accused of exactly that.


No, injuries do not have to occur for you to get a ticket. Injuries do have to occur for one to have standing in a civil suit. If it is a criminal act, then you have the right to presumption of innocence, to confront your accusers, and the burden of proof is on the state to prove that it was indeed you who was driving at the time.

As the article details, that is NOT how red light camera "crimes" are treated. To be fair, they aren't treated like civil violations either, which is the crux of the complaint.

As citizens, we are supposed to have protections against a state who engages in such a fashion, but my point (perhaps poorly made before) is that in order to extend such protections to the citizenry for laws like this, the cost of the crime must go up substantially, as it is only by the current practice that these punishments can be so inexpensive to get away with.

Someone upstream (I couldn't find it skimming) makes the point that it is only because these claims are so small that their punishments are tenable by the population, and I broadly agree with that. If a red light ticket were thousands of dollars, they'd be fought vigorously by everyone who got such a ticket, and it's quite likely that they'd be treated more like real cases than de rigueur as they are. If they were fought so vigorously, they might fall on claims of constitutionality, so it is imperative that the fines be kept low enough that nobody would engage with the massive undertaking of fighting them to a high enough level that matters.


I do not think cerium's suggestion requires that the beneficiaries need be regarded as plaintiffs in a civil suit, it merely suggests limits on the flow of funds.

Other than that detail, I think you make some very valid points.


I wasn't suggesting that the beneficiaries would be named plaintiffs, but that in order for the state to sue a red-light runner for running a red light, the state has to be a plaintiff, and if they cannot prove any injury from someone running a red light, then they have no standing to sue.

Apologies if I didn't make that clear in my earlier posts.


> put safety related ticket revenue 100 percent into an insurance policy

That's a great idea. But that means taking that revenue from fines out of the government's general fund. Or it means engaging in a shadow-booking shell game where the fine revenue goes both to (a) showing the government's general fund books are balanced and (b) is somehow earmarked for making restitution to victims.

Your suggestion requires long-term honest bookkeeping from a government. I believe that makes it infeasible, sorry to say.


The fact that the government no longer has that money in the general fund is exactly the point.

Otherwise, one of the greatest acts of civil disobedience is to advocate perfect compliance with the law.


+1 for ear-marking

I'd also allow projects that remediate the offense. E.g., for red light violations, I'd allow red light fine monies to fund studies of various intersections to see if e.g., the yellow light duration needs to be made longer, etc.

Or e.g., fines from moving violations in general could go towards improving transportation so that people can safely move about in a hurry.


You can get most of the way there by just mandating the fines go to a different layer of government. If it's cities deciding fine levels and enforcing them with city police, but revenues go to the state, then there is not nearly as much incentive to over-enforce.


It would be better to get rid of the revenue aspect entirely. Instead of assessing a fine (plus court costs), just assess demerit points on the license of the diver who is guilty of the traffic offense.

With enough offenses, the person's license can be suspended or revoked.


That already happens here in California. Three(?) strikes in a two year period and your license is suspended. At the same time, you still have to pay for the ticket.


The point I was trying to make was to eliminate fines and court costs as a form of punishment for traffic offenses. The only penalty would be demerit points on one's drivers license.

That removes the revenue aspect from traffic enforcement, but still will lead to eventual license suspensions for repeat offenders.


This has been successfully implemented in China. If you exceed the limit you have to watch am educational video and do some public service. Very good detriment to rich people speeding.


Yes--this would be the best, but it's always been about Revenue Collection since I got my provisional licence at 15 1/2.

Personally, I would like to see fines tied to Income.

In my county, of Marin, the wealthy drive like they don't have a care in the world. They don't care if they get a ticket. It's just a part of driving? "Oh well?"

The help--they know a $500 ticket might ruin their year, or put a dent in next months rent? It's not fair.

Plus--towns, counties realized 25 years ago that fees, and fines on all levels are a legal way to tax.

I'll spill the beans on Marin County. Just don't drive through it on a Friday, or Saturday night, after 10:30 p.m. Cops assume everyone drinks like they do on their days off, or at parties.

San Anselmo is basically a speed trap. If you aren't white and look wealthy, be prepared for a pull over for no reason, or a really debatable ticket.

San Rafael is o.k.; they have real crime to attend to.

Ross, Greenbrae, Kentfield, Corte Madera, Novato, and Sausalito are just Revenue Collection Squads.

(Your tech wealthy bosses usually end up living here, if they make it big, and you might be invited to a hootenanny?)


> Create regulations that turn ordinary people in to "bad" people, then grab some of their money to make them "good" again. What a system!

Rather reminiscent of the way religion worked in the middle ages.


> of the way religion worked in the middle ages.

Still does. The local Catholic Church diocese here in eastern MA campaigned, from their PULPITS!!, against decriminalizing cannabis here in MA.

The only explanation I can think of: the less ways people have to be "bad," the less leverage the bishops have over the people.


That's different. Your parent was referring to indulgences, a pay for sin scheme. There's nothing wrong with religions choosing morals to preach - that's their raison d'etre - if you don't like what they choose, you can leave the church or attempt to change their choice (this is why we have freedom of religion).


> campaigned, from their PULPITS!!

Gosh, they're only supposed talk about abstract notions and lots of feel-goodies for everyone there.

Taking a stand in church on decriminalizing drugs...that's too far!


I may be wrong, but my understanding was that religious institutions benefiting from tax-free status in the US could not engage in "politics" that way.

Now if they were to preach against the use of drugs - that would be fine. But specifically preaching about decriminalization would not be OK.


> I may be wrong, but my understanding was that religious institutions benefiting from tax-free status in the US could not engage in "politics" that way.

I believe you to be wrong. The protections they receive on the free exercise of religion aren't a compromise attained in exchange for tax exemption -- both are the product of the first amendment. If Congress "shall make no law" respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion (or speech), then it has no power to prevent the churches from proclaiming whatever they wish.

The tax exemption is there because making a law that imposes a tax on religion is a means of prohibiting "the free exercise thereof", for most definitions of "free" and "exercise".

Your equation makes it something more like "You have the right to exercise free speech, so long as you agree not to yell fire in a theater," which is wrong. I have the right to free speech because the government is not allowed to restrict that right, and it includes the right to yell fire in a theater. If there are harms associated with my yelling fire in a theater, then I might be liable for those harms, but if no such harms occur, then I am liable for nothing.


(Reasonable, non-discriminatory) taxation does not infringe on those freedoms, which is why newspapers can be taxed, as well as gun sales or sales of bibles.


That depends on whether or not you consider those things to be rights, and whether or not you consider taxes to be infringements. Taxes on voting have been considered to be prima fascia discriminatory, despite having been largely categorized as reasonable. Why? Because it is considered de facto discriminatory against the poor.

That said, it isn't a matter of whether or not it infringes, but whether or not congress can make laws respecting them, and laws that tax religion are laws that were created to tax religion. Yes, I know that isn't a slam dunk argument, because it cuts into whether or not the tax is particular to the exercise, and whether or not the tax interferes with the free exercise of that religion, but it's worth pointing out that while your argument holds merit, there are meritorious arguments to the contrary.

Also worth noting that whether or not we can tax religion is an entirely different argument from whether or not we should tax religion, which is again a different argument from whether or not we would tax religion.


> That depends on whether or not you consider those things to be rights,

I think those things were chosen precisely because they are guaranteed by the same document (and in the case of newspapers, the very same amendment) as was under discussion.


Probably, but not everyone considers those things to be rights. Meanwhile, I tossed voting out because while it is patently a right, it is expressly not protected by that document.

Edit: I often forget that most people don't know the context to this. TLDR, there is no "right to vote" in the constitution. There are amendments that prohibit discrimination in the practice of voting, but if a state wanted to abolish elections for all people, they would not be infringing anyone's constitutional right to vote because no such right exists, as no such right is enumerated. Of course, not all rights are enumerated, but typically unenumerated rights are subject to lesser judicial scrutiny. Of course, this is not generally the case with voting and (lately at least) gay marriage, but altogether, this is a much longer discussion that is somewhat tangential to the argument at hand.


There are limitations (https://www.irs.gov/uac/charities-churches-and-politics), but only for actual candidates.

> [A 501(c)(3) organization] does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.

Naturally, it would be absurd to prohibit every opinion about drugs, prostitution, taxes, immigration, discrimination, marriage, abortion, or murder.

To quote Thomas Mann, "Everything is politics."


As I understand it 501(c)(3)'s may preach about issues and topics, endorsing a side related to the issues. They may not however endorse a particular candidate in an election.


This is incorrect. They are not allowed to be partisan. So endorsing parties or candidates would be off the table.


If i remember correctly, there is a never-enforced federal statute forbading preachers from advocating for/against paticular politicians. It made sence back when written, but it's hard to imagine it ever enforced today.

Not the best citation but i am on a mobile.

http://www.christian-attorney.net/church_political_campaign_...


It doesn't target churches specifically. But churches like to operate under 501c3 nonprofit charity status so they can avoid paying taxes, and part of the 501c3 tax regulation forbids supporting candidates. I was curious though and apparently they are allowed to spend some undefined small portion of their time and resources lobbying or talking about legislation.


>there is a never-enforced federal statute

The IRS is the agency that would enforce this by striping the organization of its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. The organization would then be subject to various taxes.


Until Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses


Good catch! I'm a Lutheran minister, and my comment about making good people bad and good again is, precisely, informed by Dr. Luther's rant about selling indulgences.


> for over a generation the US citizenry has been trained to vote against anyone who asks for more taxes.

My understanding is that in the Reagan era, it was assumed that if tax payers could get tax cuts passed, then common-sense budgetary-discipline would force the legislature to follow through with spending cuts. The motto was to "starve the beast".

The problem is that transfer payments (from tax payers to voter blocks) are so compelling for most politicians that they refuse to swerve in the game of political chicken.

Nowadays, some libertarian-minded voters call for spending cuts directly, hoping that the tax cuts will follow.

Either way, there needs to be some way of signaling for errant government to do more with less as we do via market signals in the private sector.


> Either way, there needs to be some way of signaling for errant government to do more with less as we do via market signals in the private sector.

I don't understand what you mean by this. The whole concept of a "market signal" is that it's not a deliberate communication.


Right--the regular drivers who are never found in violation are the ones who are claimed to benefit from enforcement. If there are budget shortfalls that can be fixed by enforcement-related revenues, let those who benefit be the ones who pay (via taxation).


Except that it does good. To go out and catch idiots driving is a good thing.


> Create regulations that turn ordinary people in to "bad" people, then grab some of their money to make them "good" again. What a system!

Darn!! You just basically described what racketeering is, no??


Wait, political corruption from an elected official is your WTF here?

Have you been paying attention?


Taxes are theft. Lower taxes at all costs. Of course don't cut police, road maintainence, schools, etc. so what's a politician to do? Be honest?

Edit: The first 2 sentences are sarcasm. Though there are people who think this way.


For what its worth, I think most people who agree with your first to sentences would have no problem with cutting the things you list in the third.


I am one of those people.

Though what you forget to add is that we'd rather pay to have such services in our communities by ourselves, of our own volition, rather than it being taken from us without our explicit consent. This discussion always boils down to consent.


The thing I've come to realize after being alive for a while is, the world you want to live in is pure fantasy.

The idea that we'd do away with a democratic state and replace it with all-volunteer contracts and shit, it has absolutely no resemblance to reality at all. It's an even bigger fiction than a communist paradise, from each according to his ability and all that.

BUT...my ideal world (for simplicity's sake, star trek--post-scarcity, people can explore and make art, etc) is also fiction. I get that. I don't think we're there, of course, though I'd like to see us get closer.

The difference between our aspirational fictional worlds is, whenever people take steps toward yours (think America in the late 1800s, which is probably the best proxy for the libertarian paradise we could look at in the West), lots of people suffer. Private charity simply didn't--and wouldn't--work the way libertarians think it would/should. Life is hard for a lot of people, and shitty, and we've moved beyond that because it doesn't have to be a cruel world like that.

But when people take steps toward my ideal post-scarcity world (think, broadly speaking, Scandinavia, or even anywhere with universal health care, like Canada), it actually kinda works. Health care systems get funded, people can be artists without starving. People suffer less.

Maybe you prioritize the libertarian ideal of personal freedom (which is not what I'd even consider freedom in any way) over the suffering of a bunch of people, and hey, that's your prerogative.

But looking at the outcomes of one or the other, man I know where I throw in.


I'm genuinely curious, how do you go about executing this? Not everyone will consent, so how do you selectively apply those services? In the winter, I pay for snow plows and salting the roads, but my neighbor doesn't, so...?

I am really having a difficult time seeing how to actually make this happen.


Roads would be plowed by the companies that owe them. I.e. as a service to the people that are renting usage of the road. And yeah, we envision a society where all land can be owned, including roads.

Of course, transitioning to such a system where currently all roads are owned by everyone else and simultaneously by no-one, would be a tricky thing to solve. Though it has been "solved" in certain parts. E.g. If you consider large gated communities. It's not a perfect example, but it does hint at the possibility of people coming together to solve a communal problem using communal funding, and individuals having the option to leave if they don't like it and don't want to consent.

It took me the longest time to reconcile a bunch of these things when it came to Libertarianism (or further). Eventually I did "get it" when I started thinking about how I would solve these problems in the absence of a state and only having access to the concepts of "private property" and "contracts". Having a state there, ready and ever-present to fix all our problems is a cushion/crutch when it comes to solving the problems that a community would have to deal with.


"It's not a perfect example, but it does hint at the possibility of people coming together to solve a communal problem using communal funding, and individuals having the option to leave if they don't like it and don't want to consent."

Not unlike the way that (for example) local road maintenance in a particular city is typically funded by citizens of that city, who always have the option to leave should they tire of paying the taxes the fund said maintenance.


>"Not unlike the way that (for example) local road maintenance in a particular city is typically funded by citizens of that city, who always have the option to leave should they tire of paying the taxes the fund said maintenance."

The state is completely different in this regard. There is no meaningful piece of land on earth where you could settle and be free from a state. Even if it's arid desert and no one would contemplate living there, if you were to start a thriving community there and the residents start making money or break the outer-state's laws, they will impose on you.

You really have no option when it comes to settling and making your own community.

Or on other planets for that matter:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty


True, but does it matter? Because in such a hypothetical stateless land, you also have no courts, and therefore no way to enforce agreements other than via direct threat of violence. So it would be difficult to have members of said hypothetical community agree to contribute to a (for example) road maintenance fund.


> So it would be difficult to have members of said hypothetical community agree to contribute to a (for example) road maintenance fund.

One reason why I want to give up part of my land and pay for road to be developed is that it will increase value of the land. That reason would suffice for 99% cases.

Also its safe to assume that Humans are also cooperative and neighourly bunch.


I think you're missing my point, which has to do not with the desirability of entering into such an agreement, but rather with how to enforce such an agreement in the absence of any sort of state.


You wont be able to enforce every arbitrary agreement. The constitutional courts will only rule on limited matters such as physical aggressions.

And (for example) for Oracle to enforce non-compete, It will have to come in agreement with big corps such as Google/Amazon/Facebook/etc. This will work for most cases. But former-employee of Oracle will be able to work at Joyent.

In conclusion, You have to get help from others to enforce an agreement not enforced by Govt.

Also note, constitution ~= what everyone consents on. That is, 1. It will be short & sweet. Everyone will be able to understand it. No suprises. 2. It will never have surveillance measures.


Who pays for those who can't support themselves? Orphans, elderly, infirm/sick? Who pays for those things that everyone benefits from but no one sees? International trade agreements, armed forces, border controls, research, pest control, safety regulation, building regulation, civil defence etc etc.


> Who pays for those who can't support themselves? Orphans, elderly, infirm/sick?

They die.

This is considered a feature, not a bug. Beneath the smokescreen rhetoric of consent and personal freedom, the core ethos of libertarianism is "survival of the fittest."


I'm really glad the pretty words and nice imagery are coming off this fact. I've seen a lot more acknowledgement lately that this is how libertarian societies work out for people lacking any ownership of their own resources.


Family and the community. But go ahead and label us evil because apparently our core Libertarian "ethos" is that we want the sick and infirm to "die".

Meanwhile, on the state's watch:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_in_the_United_States https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homelessness_in_the_United_Sta... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_on_Drugs https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnam_War https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_strikes_in_Pakistan


So... "Family and community" seem not to be working for today's homeless and hungry. Why not?

Are taxes so strangling that families and communities simply cannot afford not to let their neighbour/uncle sleep on the street/eat from the trash? Bear in mind that people spend $20B/year on pay-to-play games on their phones.

Is the overbearing nature of the nanny-state confusing the libertarian "ethos", i. e. by creating the illusion that there are no homeless, or by requiring true libertarians to temporarily redirect their spending to PACs until such time when true freedom is achieved and the ethos can fully unfold?

If "family and community" are your support group, how much (actual) freedom do you have to – for example – come out as gay as a member of a conservative family in a likeminded small community?

Most poor people are concentrated within a few communities, and poverty often runs in families. Conversely, someone living on Cape Cod probably can't find a poor person within 20 miles or in their family. Should the brunt of care for poor people be born by others in or near poverty?

Many homeless have severe mental health problems. Those can make them quite annoying, or hostile, or otherwise unsympathetic. Would people give equally to all needy? And, if not, do you believe homeless people deserve assistance in correlation to their ability garner sympathy?


>"Most poor people are concentrated within a few communities, and poverty often runs in families. Conversely, someone living on Cape Cod probably can't find a poor person within 20 miles or in their family. Should the brunt of care for poor people be born by others in or near poverty?"

By community I meant any arbitrary level of "distance" between the person needing help and the one willing to give it. Some will want to only take care of the people within their near community or family. Others will go out of their way to feed people in distant continents, as I'm sure some do right now. Heck, if there weren't people like that existing right now, then who in the world convinced governments to send aid to third-world countries? Noble politicians? I'm sure polls would answer that.

>"Many homeless have severe mental health problems. Those can make them quite annoying, or hostile, or otherwise unsympathetic. Would people give equally to all needy? And, if not, do you believe homeless people deserve assistance in correlation to their ability garner sympathy?"

That's not up to me to decide. That's up to those people that want to give to charity and help whatever type of needy person they want.

But if you ask me, I'd put orphans at the top. Does that make me an evil person for not prioritizing mentally-ill individuals that can't function in society? Depends on who you ask, but I'd say no of course. It's a complicated problem. I told you my preference above. Other individuals have other motives and preferences, just like some want to distribute their money equally (such as yourself?).


> Family and the community. But go ahead and label us evil because apparently our core Libertarian "ethos" is that we want the sick and infirm to "die".

Then by all means prove me wrong. What, as a Libertarian, do you think should be done for sick and infirm people without their own financial support?


It's a circular argument. The response will be "their family and the community will look after them". But if there's no family, and even if there is, "community" will be some nebulous concept with no practical example, nor method for which to reliably and practically have any impact.


The argument is loaded. Of course not everyone will be covered. Of course there will be people that fall between the cracks of family, community and charity.

Really, you demand perfection of a hypothetical system, yet there are millions starving right now. Millions killed, forgotten and neglected due to negligence of the state, or by active effort. All while countless others are forced to pay a state to fix those very things, while the state doesn't do it or does it half-assed while funding gets sent to low-priority causes.

And to answer your question. I don't know. I can hypothesize, and we could argue the merits. But really, you will fundamentally disagree with every single suggestion. Or you'll find some little flaw or hole that gets missed(just like you did above), and automatically you'll declare that it is a bad solution and we could never do it.


Since you specifically mentioned homelessness, here's a good example of care provided by "family and the community" back in the days when those were the sole sources of relief:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_penny_coffin

Do I understand correctly that this kind of thing is what you consider normal in your ideal society?


Charity.


So yes, that is the standard Libertarian answer. But the problem is that it is in direct opposition to the philosophy of looking after oneself. How can you give charity if you're looking after yourself?

Charity in fact would deny someone else the ability to look after themselves, which would be denying them rights.

So charity doesn't really fit with the morality of Libertarianism.

http://atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/4271-char...


>"So yes, that is the standard Libertarian answer. But the problem is that it is in direct opposition to the philosophy of looking after oneself. How can you give charity if you're looking after yourself?"

I'm not sure who or what has been creating a vilified image of the Libertarian for you. Libertarianism has nothing to do with "looking after oneself", and you're probably just dressing up the word "selfish" by stating that. It has everything to do with consent, and freedom from coercion. Now, what kind of world we choose to make after those principles dictates what kind of society we are in right now.

Also, what the other person said. You're posting a link that is making commentary about Objectivism, not Libertarianism.


Objectivism isn't libertarianism.

And no, giving charity does no deny another a right. They can choose to forego their rights. And I would suggest not giving to those who do so out of choice.

Charity is a choice, not an obligation enforced through violence. As such it is the correct answer.

Whether we live in such a society or not, charity exists and provides for those who cannot or cannot yet provide for themselves. It works pretty well.

Is it in my interest to give to another? If I am free to make that choice then yes.


How do you solve these problems?

1. I do not wish to consent to the contracts of your community. However, I was born here, and lack the resources to leave, or any goodwill that may assist me in doing so. Perhaps I am LGBT in the deep south.

2. Somebody is murdered. A person can be demonstrated to be the killer, but they do not consent to jailing or court.

3. Somebody is emitting carbon dioxide on their own property, as I suppose is their right. But the expanding sea is now trespassing on my island, flooding my property.

4. I buy up all the land surrounding your property, and erect a wall. I refuse to grant you passage onto my property (and thus, off of yours) unless you sign a contract agreeing to turn over to me a portion of all value you produce.


How are "taxes theft" but landownership is not? Why does someone get to claim exclusive ownership over some land and another person does not (just because the first persons ancestors reached the land first (in some cases, only if you conveniently ignore the native population))?


Well, one is where your labor and the benefit of it (earnings) get taken from you without consent. The other is land ownership, I'm not sure how else to digest that? Are you implying that land belongs to everyone and someone claiming exclusive ownership of it is somehow theft?

The usual response about how land "becomes" owned:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homestead_principle

I really can't think of any fair way of distributing land other than the mechanism above which is essentially "first come first serve" along with a "use it or lose it" expiry mechanism.


How do you account for the free rider problem? Suppose you live in a small town how do they collectively pay for expensive medical services if one member of the small community gets an illness that requires lots of resources to treat? Isn't it better to distribute the burden over a larger population? Wouldn't there be a massive amount of administrative overlap if all services truly were done at the community level? How do you prevent the race to the bottom mentality if everything is done at the community level?


One of the big problems I have with this theory is the way "consent" is being defined: I find it illogical to think that every person should have to explicitly agree to every possible law they could be held accountable for. Exercising this would become the biggest farce and waste untold amounts of money.


Well, Libertarianism usually means very little government and as a consequence, very few laws. So there is no need to have elaborate mechanisms to "consent" to countless laws. Though the precise amount of "laws" varies depending on which Libertarian you speak to.

They will all, however, agree on property/ownership law and the Non-aggression principle. It's actually quite elegant, because you could define all sorts of "laws" or prescribed/prohibited behaviors simply by following through with the consequences of the above principles.

E.g. Fraud, or breaking a contract. The money and ownership of goods was transferred from one entity to another. If one side "refuses" to hold up their side of the trade, then they're effectively depriving the other party of the use of the property that they own.


Probably not police but certainly schools.


Cut Medicaid/Medicare?


Be very happy that HN has an undownvote button.


I very much enjoyed this article. The larger takeaways for me are that most citizens (or people) don't know the law, don't know the basis of law, and don't know the foundations of creating and defining law. Yet we're forced into submitting ourselves to what someone else wrote with deficiencies or moderately malicious intent where fundamental rights and freedoms granted in the constitution are violated.

Governments the world over are becoming bigger and more powerful, while common people are subjugated and controlled through diktats. I don't know what's the best way to improve the situation (other than some activists and campaigners doing the work for the society), but a somewhat in-depth course in law seems like a fundamental requirement for everyone.


There's another takeaway here too. This person does know the law, well enough to teach it, and successfully won his trial by proving that the officer involved perjured himself. His "success" resulted in him losing a bond for twice the cost of the ticket and no action being taken against the police officer whose perjury initiated the charge against him.

His only consolation can be that the trial likely cost the city more money than they collected from him. Yay for sticking it to the man! The best case scenario we have is for both sides to lose. There's no way to win. If we want to change this situation, we need to pay more attention to the procedural semantics of our justice system, not just the law. You can be entirely vindicated in the eyes of the law and still lose every bit as badly because of the process you're forced to submit to just to contest the legal aspects of the case.


> His only consolation can be that the trial likely cost the city more money than they collected from him.

Unfortunately, this doesn't actually affect the involved asshole cops/officials/attorneys who blithely violated the public trust: the costs come out of citizens' taxes (or services), not out of the salaries of those people. It's pretty much lose-lose for everyone except them.


Unless we change it.


How would we change it? Malfeasance like perjury on the job is already illegal, but if the legal system excuses it case by case, what other recourse is there? The way you change stuff like this is at the ballot box, but the vast majority of voters treat voting like their own personal pissing contest instead of something with consequences (seriously, look at some of the research around what determines the way people vote. It's an utter farce).


Look how easy it is to do from their end as well. Just don't create a "process" for citizens to win and make it no one's responsibility to deal with when it happens. Everyone just shrugs their shoulders and "not-my-job's" it and there's no one to blame!


As an example of this, "granted in the constitution" in your post.

The constitution does no such thing. As a free people, we created the federal government and gave it specific powers, which are enumerated in the constitution. The rights of the people are not limited or enumerated.

The bill of rights was controversial because many people thought that listing some rights would give nefarious people the idea that this was all the rights the people have.

In fact, the 9th Amendment states:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
And the 10th Amendment states:

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.


To be fair the author clearly doesn't understand the basis of the law either. Hint: it's not the constitution, even if it ever was.

It's power and the threat of violence from the elite.


   When I tried to recover my doubled appeal bond, I was told that the clerk was not authorized to give me my money. ..... Still nothing has happened now several months later.
This is the problem with challenging really anything not of much financial consequence in court. Lots of red tape and expenses, even if you are in the right.


Hmm. Civil asset forfeiture? The same procedure used, without much supervision by judiciary, to grab assets from persons suspected of crimes? The proceeds are used to pay for, well, more police to do more civil asset forfeiture work.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/08/12/taken


It's a problem of our system in general. When I don't pay something I supposedly "owe" immediately penalties escalate unreasonably.

When the state doesn't pay something they owe, there is no penalty. That asymmetry breeds injustice.


He could take the city to small claims court.


I doubt that very much. He wouldn't be fighting the city, he would be fighting the legal system... via the legal system.

That won't end well. Small claims court will tell him to continue following the system, and reject his claim.

There are processes he has to follow in order to get his money back. If he doesn't follow them, too bad. There are process that the court is supposed follow. If the court doesn't follow them, too bad.

Notice any problems with this approach? No one in the court system is held responsible. The people in the court system don't even have to obey the law. Where there are legal requirements for a speedy trial, or for him to get his money back, those laws are ignored with impunity by the people in the system.

In contrast, for the average person, "ignorance of the law is no excuse".

The courts must not only be impartial (justice is blind), they must be perceived to be impartial. Stories like the OP show that justice is often bigoted, and quite potentially illegal.


Recovering the double-the-amount bond will likely need to be pursued through the normal, frustrating channels.

But perhaps he could take the police officer to small claims court. He could introduce the court transcript where the police officer admitted under oath that he perjured himself when signing the ticket. And he could argue that the time spent fighting the illegal ticket amounted to damages.

That police officer wouldn't be paying the judgment out of pocket. The city would reimburse him rather than risk any complaint from the officer that he perjured himself and incurred the judgment in the course of doing his job the way that he was instructed to do it.


"No one in the court system is held responsible."

... That is not entirely true (not to say it is false, but more nuanced). Much of the court system is elected (or directly appointed by someone elected), which is supposed to balance abuse in the long run. Obviously it takes publicity and a lot of wrangling to make an impact through elections, but it is technically feasible.


i.e. if you break the law, you are punished in / by the courts. If the people in the court system break the law, they don't get re-elected.

I don't find that a satisfactory answer. And I don't think that's "holding them responsible". Let's look at what happens in real life:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Connick_Sr.#Prosecutoria...

One judge said Connick's office had in fact committed a pattern of violations, failing to disclose exculpatory blood type evidence, failing to disclose audio tapes of witness testimony, failing to disclose a deathbed confession of evidence destruction by the prosecuting attorney Gerry Deegan, and failing to disclose eyewitness identification of the killer that did not match Thompson,

And what happened to the people who broke the law and put innocent people in jail?

I'll let you guess.


Makes me wonder how well I'd go in court against a particularly egregious violation of my civil and human rights. About 7 months ago I had a mental breakdown and rather publicly announced it to quite a lot of people, to the point where I sparked an article in Vice Magazine. I was not in my right mind, having suffered over 18 months of intense stress and two operations (onevrelativeky minor, the other rather more major and painful). I consequently drive aimlessly for at least 9 hours in distress, before I slowly came to my senses and started to realise the enormity of what I had just done.

After several more hours I came home. The police had been there and filed a missing person's report about me, I decided that I knew what was coming next and didn't like my prospects for freedom even though I hadn't broken any laws. So anyway, I arrived home at about 5:30am, where I was greeted by my wife who immediately put me to bed and made sure I got some rest and care (my wife is amazing!), and whilst I didn't get any sleep my young son - who mercifully had no idea what just transpired - for some reason woke up and gave me a huge hug which I have to say is one of the most wonderful things you can get after being so upset.

Several hours later the police knocked on my front door, my wife answered and they demanded to be let in - which my wife allowed. Three large and burley policemen entered into my bedroom and I was forced to sit up, and there I groggily argued that I was fine, any thoughts of suicide had passed and that all I needed was sleep, as by this time I had been awake for close to 16 hours. My wife agreed. They somewhat sheepish shaky shuffled around trying to work out what to do, eventually electing to call the NSW Ambulance Service, who arrived and proceeded to aggressively grill me, speak over the top of me and in general ignore the wishes and explanations of both myself and my wife. The room was at this stage very crowded, as there were three police officers, two ambulance service ladies, my wife standing in her pyjamas by the side of the bed and myself, still lying in bed and hoping they would all go away so I could fall asleep.

Through the my dulled cognitive abilities I heard them tell me they would be forced to take me to Liverpool hospital involuntarily. This would entail the police officers bodily hauling me out of bed and literally carry me to the awaiting ambulance in front of all my neighbours. There I would, they warned, be placed into an assessment area whilst a determination was made as to what to do with me.

I didn't like the sound of that, not least because I had actually already read the legislation around this area - the NSW Mental Health Act 2007 - and in fact knew they were well within their rights to do so. I also knew that if I didn't go in a vokuntary capacity that they could hold me for up to 12 hours before deciding whether I should be stuck in a psychiatric facility surrounded by people suffering from delusions, mania, violent tendencies, and generally people who would not necessarily make my mental state any better. So I elected to go with them voluntarily, but in their insistence I went with them in their ambulance (For this I was sent a $600 bill).

When I arrived, they shoved forms in my face, which I signed without really knowing what I was in fact signing. I'm knew it would be dangerous to question this, because he hat would be considered not being "compliant" and likely cause them to make me an involuntary patient. I was eventually brought over to a bed in the ED ward, where a guard sat down next to me.

Through the mists of fatigue it slowly occurred to me that it was rather unusual that a guard should be placed with someone who was a voluntary patient, as a voluntary patient is actually free to leave at any time whereas an involuntary patient is detained until assessed and determined not to be held any further - or as is more likely, they are locked in the psychiatric wing where you can be legally drugged if you say the wrong thing, complain about your treatment and conditions or generally do anything the staff don't like. So knowing this, I asked what was going on and was advised I had been "sectioned". I didn't need to ask for clarification - to my horror it was clear that I had been placed as an involuntary patient under Section 20 of the Mental Health Act, which allows an ambulance officer to have you detained at an authorised mental health facility to be processed by a psychiatrist who determines your level of sanity and has the power to place you in psychiatric care for up to three months.

I, of course, had been told I was to be entering the facility as a voluntary patient - and it had never occurred to me that anyone would knowingly lie about something like this in front of witnesses! So I demanded to see someone about this.

This was a big mistake. Whilst I was arguing quietly and insisting that either a mistake had been made or I had been deceived into coming, a decision was made and I was summarily ordered to get up and follow them, whereupon I was moved into an isolation room commonly used for patients undergoing drug withdrawal or having psychotic breaks. I protested and asked why they were incarcerating me: I got no response. And there I stayed for the next five and a half hours. I was seen by one doctor who checked my vitals, but the next time I was seen was by the psychiatrist who determines whether you should be there in the first place.

I was fortunate that they alllwed me to keep my phone as I immediately called one if my best and most loyal friends, who arrived in the hospital not 25 minutes or so after I was incarcerated. He demanded to be allowed to stay with me in the room, and they allowed this. He stayed for the entire 5 hours.

As I was saying, I was seen by the psychiatrist on duty after 4.5 hours of quietly rotting in this locked and brightly lit, open to everyone, observation room, with only my friend for company and no chance of sleep. Somehow I kept my sanity and quietly explained the situation to the psychiatrist, who after consulting with my wife (who I add I called, not the hospital) and my friend realised that it would be best for me to be released into the care of my family. Precisely the thing my family, friends and yes, myself had been saying for approximately 6 hours.

I have now been battling the health system for 7 months. I have now been lied to, both verbally and in writing, have been given wrong information on the policies of the hospital, have pointed out these inaccuracies and the implications (they broke the law!) and been ignored, and have been dismissed by the HCCC who gave told me that they can do nothing because although they agree that perhaps the law has been broken, it's not considered serious enough to investigate further.

The interesting thing is: I persevered and eventually found the mistake that made them suddenly sit up and take notice. You see, in one of the most two letters from the General Manager of the hospital, someone drafted a response to a number of my specific questions and had him sign off on it. This person was clearly feeling very clever, and decided to put an end to my annoyingly insistence that I had been traumatised and mistreated by the ED. In their letter thry told me that if I wanted mybrecirds I was free to apply for them if I paid $40 in cash, in person at the hospital.

So I did.

After the statutory 21 maximum 21 days for processing I still had not received the documentation so I waited till day 30 and then asked for an internal review as to the reasons for the delay. Thus is mandated in law, and consequently two days later I received my paperwork.

There I discovered why neither my pyschologist, psychiatrist or doctor had received anything about my stay in hospital. They had completely neglected to fill in a discharge summary and so far as it hey knew, I was still in the ED ward. They had also not filled in the necessary paperwork mandated by hospital policy for all patients placed in seclusion. Furthermore, in the very same letter that advised me to apply for my records, I was told that patients sectioned under the Act are routinely placed in the seclusion room "as a low stimulus environment" and for their privacy. Whilst I was speaking to the information officers about my lack of paperwork I finally located the policy on the use of restraint and seclusion and was surprised to read that in fact, seclusion was specifically NOT to be used as a low stimulus environment for patience as it violated section 68 of the Act and was categorically proven to almost always cause the one being placed I isomation a great deal of trauma and impacted on their dignity and self-respect.

Suddenly the people who had been treating me as an inconvenience, troublemaker and yet another unstable mentally ill person with possible ideas of grandeur became very attentive, courteous and nervous.

It is far too little, too late. Every single one of them is now running scared, because now they have had no choice to send to the Director of Clinical Governance and already she has been speaking to me for hours, and she has confirmed that everyone of my complaints is legitimate and very serious. There is currently a number of investigations being done at Director level and there are almost certainly a bunch of very nervous and worried staff members who must have never in their wildest dreams believed that someone brought in as an involuntary patient under the Mental Health Act 2007 could possibly have the determination and intestinal fortitude to smash through a system designed to place road blocks in the way of complaints at every opportunity.


Could you make a different topic for this? It's extremely long and seems only tangentially related to fighting red light tickets.


Which bit is off-topic? And I think if you believe that the story linked to is only about traffic tickets, then I rather think you have missed the larger point the author was making.


Thanks for telling your story, very interesting. "The system" can sometimes become very scary once the people meant to protect us get involved.

It's interesting to me that it is easy to find clearly mentally ill homeless people walking around free, and most neighbourhoods have well-known ones that must be being wilfully ignored by police, etc, but an otherwise normal (and obviously intelligent) member of society just stating that he is having a mental breakdown and then going missing (which every adult is legally allowed to do), could cause such a chain of events.

I hope you get satisfaction. It's such an important thing to deprive someone of their liberty that it should never be taken lightly and routinely, as appears to have happened in your case. All the 't's should have been crossed and the 'i's dotted.


If you are not satisfied with their actions, then typically the only remedy is to go to court, or at least mention the possibility in passing (unless you're in the mafia / government already). As for how well you'd do in court, you'd have to ask a lawyer to find out.


Unfortunately I think you may be right. But before I get to court, I'm going to see what their upper management do. But I felt striking similarities in this issue as with the story presented here in that people who should know better literally do not understand the law, or the responsibilities and principles they must uphold.

My concern with mentioning legal action in passing is that they may decide to stop all investigations whilst lawyers find ways of minimising their liability. They have already made huge errors of law and fact because they were so confident I was a vexation complainant who wasn't any threat to them in any way.

They don't think that way any more, but my goal is to ensure not that the system changes, more that they follow the law and framework they have spent a very long time formulating, educating staff on and enforcing compliance of!


I have nothing to say besides I'm so sorry for what you went through. You have my empathy.


> “So, you signed an affidavit under the pains and penalties of perjury alleging probable cause to believe that Adam MacLeod committed a violation of traffic laws without any evidence that was so?”

> Without hesitating he answered, “Yes.”

Damn! That is something I'd expect a certain amount of squirming before answering. It is not something that you want to do. Even if you know you have to.


He's just a cop, doing it his job bored and/or befuddled by a fairly complex line of reasoning.

He's probably just stating it as he sees it, possibly trying to avoid getting into trouble.

Anything he is doing, he's being required to do by someone above him.

Cops are also humans: he may be very well against the concept himself, but can't state it. Or he may be very well against it not for judicial reasons ... but for pragmatic reasons. People 'on the front lines' of justice often have a much more pragmatic view of it than others. The same applies to many fields.


There's nothing particularly complex about this line of reasoning. If the guy has no understanding of what "probable cause" means, he is plainly not qualified to be a cop. If he does understand what it means, but he knowingly ignored it, then that's a serious violation of constitutional rights. Then there's perjury on top of that - again, something a police officer should very much be familiar with.


He absolutely knows what 'probable cause' is.

"If he does understand what it means, but he knowingly ignored it, then that's a serious violation of constitutional rights."

What he's doing is what he is told.

Obviously - someone far higher than 'a cop' decided to implement the policy of 'camera tickets'.

The 'possible constitutional violation' is inherent in the policy, he's not doing anything but implementing the policy.

He's just the schmuck who has to be in court, validating the policy, which is way beyond his rank.

Also - it's debatable whether this is a 'clear violation of constitutional rights'. 'Camera tickets' are in place all over America, Canada, Europe etc. - if it were a huge violation of rights there would be a lot of court challenges.

In effect the person 'on the stand' should have been whoever in the judicial system is responsible for actually implementing the system. Then it would be 'their responsibility' if there was a violation.

The cop on the stand is basically the sorry dude forced to articulate the obvious incoherence of the policy.


The clear violation of constitutional rights here is not the camera ticket per se. It's this particular statement made by this particular officer. He could not in good conscience make a claim that he did without evidence. If his superiors demanded that he make such a claim, either directly (by ordering such) or indirectly (by demanding a certain amount of tickets), the proper course of action would be to refuse to implement it, and expose the scheme to the public. Since in this particular case the demands actually constitute making a false statement, an order requiring that would be criminal in and of itself, so this even falls under the duty to report a crime.

The rest of your argument is "I'm just following orders". This is considered sufficient to reduce culpability in some circumstances, but is not enough to avoid it entirely, on the basis that if nobody followed orders that are clearly illegal, the harm from them wouldn't occur, so people who do follow them do contribute to said harm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superior_orders


" the proper course of action would be to refuse to implement it,"

No, I'm sorry, but this is not pragmatic or reasonable.

It's not remotely clear that this is a 'violation of the constitution' and given that it's implemented in so many other areas and states, there's no way a cop can reasonably make this claim.

That's a lawyers job, not a cops job.

Can you imagine every cop on the beat trying to split hairs in all these situations?

There are tons of little things that law enforcement do that could be feasibly challenged in court.

This issue could feasibly go to the Supreme Court - so how could a cop be responsible for knowing up from down on this law?

It's not like the cops boss said 'shoot that guy who looks funny' wherein the cop would have a reasonable requirement to 'not commit a crime or do something unconstitutional'.

We're talking about traffic tickets.

In court, the cop answered the question as best he could and his honestly basically outlined the oddity of the law.

Let the courts decide the constitutionality of it all.


You're the one splitting hairs here.

There's a well-known standard of "probable cause". A cop is supposed to know what that standard is, it's part of their job description, and it pertains directly to what they do every day.

When a cop is asked to claim that there's probable cause when said standard isn't met, it's clearly and plainly an illegal order, because they're asked to lie. Doing so under penalty of perjury is doubly illegal. He doesn't need to be a constitutional lawyer to determine that this is illegal and cannot be obeyed.

This is exactly the same as doing a search without warrant, or arresting someone without reading them their Miranda rights, or lying under oath (something that the cop had also admitted to doing, by the way).

That this also happens to be unconstitutional is coincidental. It suffices for the cop to know it's illegal, and act accordingly.

And if they do know their orders are illegal, but follow them anyway, they should be held responsible accordingly.


You would think so, but it doesn't seem like there is any consequence for the officer.


In the UK I believe the first letter goes to the "keeper" of the vehicle, called a NIP (notice of intended prosecution). The keeper of the vehicle is required by law to fill in the NIP (under pain of perjury) and return it telling the police who was driving. The police will then criminally prosecute the person on the form.

I never got a speeding ticket, but I looked this up here: http://www.nopenaltypoints.co.uk/dispute-speed-ticket-you-we...

It may well be wrong, but it sounds like what I'd expect in the UK.


Yes, this is how it works in the UK. Basically you have to shop yourself, or if you were not the driver then the person who was driving, to the authorities. If you don't, then you have committed an offence. Presumably this approach does not work in the US due to the 5th amendment. And from the article it looks like other approaches that are being tried in the US are also unconstitutional.


I wonder how that works in the UK - the 5th amendment is just another version of the same law in England, triggered by the abuses at the same English court, Star Chamber.

According to Lord Mustill: "A general immunity, possessed by all persons and bodies, from being compelled on pain of punishment to answer questions posed by other persons or bodies."

Which seems eminently applicable. Has the camera law been challenged in this way in British courts?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_silence_in_England_an...


That's not how the Westminster system works. Parliament has the right to legislate more or less as it pleases, and is not bound by any superior authority, including the courts. The courts in the U.K. cannot strike down Acts of Parliament.

In this case, there is an Act of Parliament (Section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, as amended by Section 21 of the Road Traffic Act 1991) that makes it an offence to withhold this information. That is the end of the story: Parliament has said it, therefore it is so.

(Note that in the U.K. there is currently a way out: the ECHR. I don't think they cover the right to not self-incriminate, but if they do that would be a possible challenge.)

Remember: in the U.K., Parliament governs by wielding the power of the monarch. That power is formally unbounded and absolute.


While the UK has parliamentary sovereignty, the UK is also party to the European Convention of Human Rights, which (via the Human Rights Act) takes precedence over any other law (unless a law is passed that explicitly repeals the Human Rights Act).

And indeed, in 2007 someone appealed a camera speeding ticket all the way to the European Court of Human Rights, saying that this system violates the right to remain silent!

Unfortunately, the court rejected the argument. "On the one hand, it was self-evident that it was incompatible with the immunities to base a conviction solely or mainly on the accused's silence or on a refusal to answer questions or to give evidence himself. On the other hand, the immunities could and should not prevent the accused's silence from being taken into account in situations which clearly called for an explanation. The conclusion was that the 'right to remain silent' was not absolute"

http://thenewspaper.com/news/18/1832.asp


While I think your general point is probably right, I don't agree with your last point that 'Parliament governs by wielding the power of the monarch".

That - to my understanding - is backwards. The power of the monarch is subordinated under Parliament. Parliamentary sovereignty is inherent, not derived from the crown.

HMG - not parliament - exercises the royal prerogative (those powers retained by the Crown) on behalf of the monarch.


>The power of the monarch is subordinated under Parliament.

In reality, yes. But technically the monarch can veto any Act of Parliament and appoint anyone as PM, though this would last about a day until there was a 'revolution' and the monarch was formally stripped of power.



I Am Not A Legal Scholar, but:

It is not clear to me that any of the constitutional documents in the UK enshrine a right to silence. The Right to Silence in the U.K. is generally built up on common law, not statue. Every essay I have ever found on this topic refers to the right to silence in the UK as predicated on common law, not on statute, let alone on a critical constitutional document that would require explicit repeal.

So yes, Parliament cannot implicitly repeal some documents. But I don't think that the Right to Silence is in any of those. Of course, citations to the contrary would be welcome!

EDIT: And in fact the law has been challenged, all the way to the ECHR. The challenge failed: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2007/jun/29/transport.eu


I can't tell how that works in UK, but here (another EU country), such law is avoided by a different status of the traffic offenses. The full protections of the legal are awarded to the criminal punishments, but traffic/parking tickets aren't subject to some of the legal protections (like a trial, required witnesses). This allows them to have inverted burden of proof (we've seen your car do the traffic offence, so now you have to pay the fine or point at the actual driver at that time).


Indeed. There are actually two offences one could commit in such a case: The underlying offence (say, speeding) and failing to provide information requested under S.172 of the Road Traffic Act. The two offences are unrelated in law, being committed at entirely different times (the s.172 offence is committed 30 days after you receive the notice requesting the information) and possibly by different people.

Failure to respond to the request will often lead to a summons to court for both offences, although a successful prosecution for the underlying offence is fairly unlikely as the prosecution will usually be unable to prove who was driving. Additionally, the penalty for failure to provide information is higher than most standard traffic offences, partly as a deterrent and partly to avoid refusing to identify the driver from being the "better" option in all but the worst of circumstances.

There was a loophole for a while whereby you could return the form, correctly filled in but not signed, meaning that you have provided the information, but it is not admissible as evidence in court. This is currently still effective in Scotland. In England, case law has been established such that the form is not valid unless signed, and would usually result in the police placing the defendant firmly in the "smartass" pile and proceeding with a prosecution for failing to provide information. Just lately, police have been increasingly taking the more pragmatic approach of calling the motorists bluff in cases where he nominates himself and the case can be dealt with by way of a training course or a simple fixed penalty. They will often now offer the course or the penalty, and still charge for both offences if the driver elects for the case to progress to court.


TBH, I prefer not to give them an incentive to the photos of people's faces at the same time as the license plates.

Requiring people to answer questions truthfully is not unreasonable, I never quite understood the basis for the 5th amendment. Was it because of some British colonial atrocity?


It was indeed because of the British - the fifth amendment was meant to keep US courts from using the inquisitorial method, rather than the prosecutorial, triggered by the abuses at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Chamber#Influence_on_the_...


Does the USA justice system use inquisitorial prosecution? From what I've heard about that kind of court in Germany, the USA is very far from that kind of non-adversarial proceeding.


The 5th amendment specifically allows it for military trials, but for civilian trials, no, it's made impossible outside of cases where the defendant agrees to it by the 5th amendment.

Presumably, this is a big part of why Bush was so keen to relabel what had previously been considered civilian terrorists as military combatants, since the fifth amendment then apparently stops applying.


I don't understand the connection you're drawing between the 5th amendment and inquisitorial systems (which I understand to be jusics systems which do not separate the judgers of law (neutral) from fact gatherers (prosecutor)). The original comment above was about the no-self-incrination clause, and now you seem to say there's a tension with the grand juries clause. But I can't see how either conflicts with an iquisiorial system in principle (even if inquisitorial systems generally don't have grand juries in practice). Could you explain?


I'm getting way out of my depth here. My understanding has been, and seems to be corroborated by the Wikipedia article above, that the fifth amendments no-self-incrimination clause is usually interpreted in the context of an inquisitorial system - specifically the way the inquisitorial method was applied at Star Chamber.

IANAL, but the way I understand it is something like: You are a court, and you're trying to determine how the 5th amendment applies in some tricky case. The text itself might be ambiguous or unspecific in your case.

One way to approach that ambiguity is to look at the history of the amendment - why was it written, and given that, what is the most likely intended way to read it?

For the 5th amendment, the context is that the Court of Star Chamber used the inquisitive method, combining the search for truth with the force a court is able to apply to a defendant. In doing so, the Court of Star Chamber highlighted a flaw in the inquisitive method: Combining the right to apply force to its subjects with the job of determining truth created incentive for extensive abuse, as the court forced false testimonies out of its subjects.

Hence, the 5th amendments no-self-incrimination clause can be interpreted to exist to weaken the inquisitorial method in US courts, reinforcing the US commitment to an adversarial system instead.


But the police practice of collecting evidence (e.g. tricking people into giving confessions) seems completely at odds with their neutral investigator role inquisitorial justice.


The judicial branch is meant to be neutral judges - but police and prosecutors are not part of the judicial branch. In the case of prosecutors, their job is explicitly to not be neutral.

However, the 5th amendment applies there as well - they can't force you to self-incriminate, you are free to remain silent in police interrogation. However, there's nothing in the 5th amendment saying the police or courts can't ask clever questions - if you incriminate yourself because a police asked a sneaky question in interrogation, that's on you.


But the judge isn't free to make their own investigations, and the police are part of the prosecuting apparatus. So they evidence presented is biased, and the system is adversarial not inquisitorial.

Sneaky questions versus outright lying? From what I've read, that's common practice for US police officers in suspect interviews.


Well, the fifth element as a whole has a number of provisions. The popular clause against self-incrimination is but one of them.

It's mostly to prevent the incentive to apply pressure to the citizenry via torture or harassment. (Parenthetically, we just harass witnesses instead now)

"The history of this clause is interesting. In England, it was permissible at one point to force a confession, and this at times included torture. Our founders realized this was wrong, and so they added this clause." http://libertyfirstfl.org/2013/06/why-do-we-have-the-fifth-a...


The government, in bringing a charge, has the duty to make the case....the right to not self-incriminate flows from the presumption of innocence and protection against being coerced into a false confession or into perjury.


Precisely. The key short phrase is "nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself"

It is only one short clause amongst several others in the amendment.


> Requiring people to answer questions truthfully is not unreasonable

How do you determine whether they're answering questions truthfully or not?


here is great video explaining the importance of 5th amendment rights: https://youtu.be/L-WlZ7Sa0SQ

there's also a longer 2-part video of the entire talk including a complementary perspective from the police POV. look in the related videos/sidebar.


This is not a 5th amendment issue as much as not submitting your taxes is. You can do that and not be prosecuted under the original traffic offence but failing to keep track of who's driving is simply another offence.


...and people go to jail for lying about who was driving.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/liberaldemocrats/85...


I live in the UK, but never understood this. What if you really, genuinely don't know who was driving the car at the time? Can you give a list of people who could have been driving it, to the best of your knowledge? After all, it's the police's job to establish who committed the offence,not yours?


Germany handles this somewhat similar (the owner is supposed to know who's driving). It is possible to claim 'I have no idea', but the court is able to respond with 'Well, from now on you're documenting every single ride with your car for quite a while'. That means that every driver of this car now is required to document

- the current date

- the time you start the ride

- the license plate number

- the name of the driver

and immediately after finishing the ride

- the end of the ride

- the driver's signature

I personally would like to avoid that..


I think this is quite a good example of why protections like the 5th amendment are important.

A person might be tempted - in such a case - to confess to the crime and take the fine simply in order to avoid getting entangled in a bureaucratic nightmare. And because of that the state is encouraged to threaten bureaucratic nightmare in order to elicit a confession.

Isn't this exactly the situation that protections against self-incrimination are designed to avoid?


I'm confused. But then again, I know little/none about US laws. My naive understanding of the 5th is that you can remain quiet if you'd otherwise have to point at yourself (or your family?). If your coworker is the offender, can you plead the 5th?

If that's close enough: How is that a problem? Yes, people over here might just pay the fine (which is completely legal for a lot of cases: In all cases where the state doesn't care about the offender's identity).

But if the 5th only means that you're allowed to protect yourself (and yours), isn't it correct to pay? I currently parse your comment as "Wouldn't the people pay up if they are guilty in the first place?".

Not my native language.


If you are suspected of doing something illegal (speeding) because your car was photographed using photo radar, I'm reasonably sure the 5th amendment applies to the police or prosecutor asking you to answer any questions about that accusation.

The answer could be "X person borrowed my car", which isn't, itself necessarily covered, however the answer could be "I was driving my car at that time", which is definitely covered by the 5th amendment. Since one of the possible truthful responses counts as testimony against yourself, you don't have to answer the question at all, otherwise non-answers could be seen as implicit confessions.


> After all, it's the police's job to establish who committed the offence,not yours?

The police's assumption is that as the car's owner you are responsible for its use, and have committed any offense involving it.


Well, then if you don't mind me saying so, it's a dumb assumption. If say....you have 4 children, all insured on your car, and all of them refuse using it at the time(or maybe they all say they have used it, and all have driven on the road in question, or maybe the case is now year old and no one remembers who was driving that day), then how could you possibly, in good faith, be hold liable for this?


> then how could you possibly, in good faith, be hold liable for this?

Because you're the person responsible for the vehicle. That's literally what "responsible" means. It's your job as a car owner to ensure situations like this, where you don't know who was driving, don't happen.


I think that's one thing that's different vs the US. It's not the car being charged but an individual. That's the article's point that in the US they can't arbitrarily decide that someone was responsible for a crime like that, it's a direct violation of our requirement of due process and other proceedings.


But I am not required by law to keep the record of every single person driving that car, am I? Like I said, I can, to my best effort, know that on the evening of day X, 3 people drove my car, because they were all running errands. I don't know the exact times when they were all using it, but I am happy to supply the list of names.


> But I am not required by law to keep the record of every single person driving that car, am I?

No, but if you do not it's on your head, you are personally responsible for the use of your motor vehicle.


it's reasonable to expect that a person know where their car is, but that does not amount to a legal requirement to do so, as you have admitted. In point of fact, you are not responsible for what other people do with your things. If you borrow a gun from me and shoot someone, I cannot be held liable for that shooting. Ownership may imply responsibility, but not liability.


Yeah, you left out a part of that.

"If you borrow a gun from me, and I don't know that you did, and you don't or won't tell me that you did... oh well. shrug" becomes your expectation of what should happen next.

"Oh sorry, you weren't driving your vehicle, and you have no idea who was, when it was involved in that accident. But you know it wasn't stolen. Guess there's nothing more we can do here, have a nice day."


You're arguing that because a gun or car is dangerous, ownership implies liability. There are few things which can be possessed which cannot be dangerous in the wrong hands, and a car is not actually intended for the purpose of murder, so one should probably not judge it by that standard. However, I did explicitly consider the case of an inherently dangerous object, so I cannot have left out that part as you suggest. I am really not sure what part of this concept you could possibly have an objection to. You know we're talking about a car, right, not a hydrogen bomb? Surely you can do better than that?


If someone is killed by your gun and you don't tell who, you will be jailed at least.


This is not phrased such that it can be said to be true or false. Yes, accessory to murder is a felony itself. Accessory to speeding is not, and being ignorant of the crime is the opposite of accessory. Would you like to rephrase your objections?


Car is dangerous. It's easy to kill someone by accident using car, just by pressing accelerator pedal long enough. Just compare number of killed or injured by a car and by a weapon. Car is still the most dangerous thing we have: http://www.vpc.org/regulating-the-gun-industry/gun-deaths-co... .


The link upthread mentions this. You ask for the photo. If the photo doesn't answer the question you can say you don't know, and ask for further evidence.


Your scenario seems a bit off. I imagine that if your kids did something stupid they should admit it - or they lose access to the car, period.

'A year old' case seems unlikely as well. I don't know about the UK laws, but over here most (all?) traffic violations expire after 3 month. There's no way to receive questions about a speeding ticket in the distant past..


Ok, if the "year ago" scenario is far fetched, then I'm not even going to pretend I can remember when I was on this day a month ago,much less where my car was and who was driving it. Like I said, I am not required by law to keep a record of every single person using my car with the times they used it, so how can the law require me to produce said information? If me + 4 other people are insured on a vehicle, that means that possibly, it could be one out of 5 people driving it on a given day. I have no idea which one it was. What then?


I can only state what the law requires here, in DE. It requires you to know that (but admittedly you're usually going to get a picture with the first request for information, so it's mostly a matter of "Hey Joe, you've got a new mugshot!" and passing it to the right one of five) and has ways to "motivate" you if you fail this in a harsh case or repeatedly.

Which is fair in my book: You own the car, you are responsible for it. You're not on the hook for offenses that you didn't cause. But you were careless with your car if nobody steps forward after an incident.


Are you suggesting collective punishment? How do you know who to revoke access to the car if they don't admit it?

Also how do they if they actually were the one that was speeding if more than one used the car on the same road.


Uhm. Yes. If I give access to 2.x tons of steel and someone abuses that, I'll revoke those privileges.

Collective punishment? You make it sound like Full Metal Jacket. I'd call it responsible behavior, protecting the person involved (unfit for driving if unable to admit errors) and myself (responsible for that heavy machine and the one whose trust was abused).

Obviously that doesn't apply to a random parking ticket or even a minor (slap on the wrist) speeding ticket. But accidents, running red lights, sever speeding? See above. Admit it or gtfo.

I really, really fail to see the reason for artificial "4 kids have access, they took turn driving and it was a year ago. What can these poor souls do?" arguments.


What is so hard about getting this, I really don't understand??

Wife takes car in the evening to do some shopping. She comes back, daughter takes the car to see some friends. They both drove on the same road. Month later, you get a letter saying that your car has been photographed doing 5mph over the limit on that day. The photo has a time stamp, but there's really no way to tell who was driving at that time, it could have been either your daughter or your wife.

What do you do? Do you pay the fine, knowing fully well that it wasn't you driving? Or do you tell your wife or daughter to take the points? At the same time, you are aware that naming the wrong person is actually a criminal offence, and since you are not 100% certain who was driving, how can you name anyone??

Why shouldn't you demand more evidence from the police? Why shouldn't you tell the police that you simply don't know and have no way of knowing who was using the car at the time? How can the police ticket anybody in this case, since they don't know who was driving?

I really, really fail to see why is it so hard to understand this. Actually, I bet this happens all the time, but people prefer to just pay the fine and be done with it, instead of fighting for their rights.


Well, all over this subthread I'm comparing it to my local laws and procedures. My answers are to be read in that context.

Over here you get a picture showing license plate and driver for most offenses (obviously not for parking tickets etc). Pointing out that the picture shows your wife or your daughter should be a trivial exercise.

But I understand that this might not be the case in your jurisdiction. Now, I hope you do get some evidence. The license plate at least?

If the car you own, that you are responsible for, is caught speeding, then there's no way in hell that you can shrug and say "Well.. Could've been anyone, really. The keys usually are in the lock, anyone could be the driver". That excuse seems mind-blowingly easy to exploit. Sure - you might not know who drove the car. In my world, that should have consequences for you, the owner (over here it's on a case by case basis, not a strict consequence).

My understanding so far is that someone wants to weasel out of that responsibility by paying a lawyer.. or teaching law. "If you cannot tell who drove it's your problem" is a crappy answer imo, because that can only lead to more surveillance. And there lies my problem, my issue.


The only weaseling here is by the entity that would levy a fine/penalty without presenting sufficient evidence. Moreover, it is or should be a natural right for the accused to confront their accusers. Both of these important ideas are trampled if you accept violations issued by a machine.



The red light cameras here now started adding a photo of the driver side window to clarify this concern.


Shouldn't they need something more solid than an assumption to hit you with legal penalties?


> A person shall not be guilty of an offence ... if he shows that he did not know and could not with reasonable diligence have ascertained who the driver of the vehicle was.

So yes, if you only had a list of names and couldn't do anything else, you could hand that over. The police could then require information from each of those people in the same way.


There is a statutory defence if you can't identify the driver "using reasonable diligence", but it's a very tough sell. It's certainly not as simple as "Well it could have been me or my wife, but neither of us can remember which." - you'd have to be able to demonstrate what attempts you had made to identify the driver and why these had all been unsuccessful. You are expected to know who is driving your car at a given time.

There was a case which was successfully defended, where the defendant asserted that the "reasonable diligence" requirement only applied after the request was received, and that there was no such requirement for you to retrospectively exercise such diligence. In other words, you must do everything you can to find out who was driving when you receive the notice, but that doesn't mean you have an obligation to keep records of who was driving in anticipation of such a request.


Interestingly that can also be used the other way in places with "point system" licenses (assuming the driver's face is not visible or it was a backside camera), some people will pay their ticket but (after having arranged it) "rat on" someone else who'll get their points docked.


The photographs literally don't matter. As long as the form has a name on it, and the fine is paid, it's not like they're going to look at the photo and do a match against the identified driver.


That's not the case in the UK where taking someone else's points is perjury and results in fines or jail time.


And the purpose of points systems is to cap out the number of infractions[0] a driver can perform regardless of their wealth. If you can shift the points loss, they can not fulfil their purpose.

[0] for infractions which are all short of an immediate license loss


But do they verify photos against claims? I'm certain they don't here in Australia (at least not 100%), because .. others .. have done this very thing when they were younger.


> The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly. - Abraham Lincoln

While I can't say that I'm a fan of traffic cams, and I do appreciate that the author was vindicated in this circumstance, I like the idea of laws that are enforced for every single violation. Traffic law, and indeed most of our laws, seem to be enforced so inconsistently as to be laughable.

I'm sure there are instances where, financially speaking, you're better off to break the law and then just pay the fines if you get caught. Similar to when corporations break a law for years and eventually pay a fine that's less than the profit they made from breaking the law.

I think if the enforcement were more consistent, we'd end up with much better laws in the long run.


I couldn't disagree more. The fact that our laws are subjectively interpreted is a blessing. There are so many laws that the Congressional Research Service can't even count them all. In other words, we are all breaking laws every day.[0]

Absolute law enforcement is a bad idea, for the fact that it provides no path towards civil disobedience[1]

Take for example the Texas "sodomy" law, that prevented homosexual couples from ingaging in sexual acts. If the law were practiced in absolute terms, we would have never had Lawrence v. Texas, and gay people would have remained criminals.

If I take a more generous stance towards your argument, and assume that you meant to say only traffic laws should be absolutely enforced, again I think it's a bad idea. It provides no way to argue circumstances in your case (such as "tree was blocking the red light").

In summary, I think absolute enforcement is effectively Orwellian.

[0] https://moxie.org/blog/we-should-all-have-something-to-hide/

[1]http://archives.nwtrcc.org/omtfp/civilrole.html


> I couldn't disagree more. The fact that our laws are subjectively interpreted is a blessing. There are so many laws that the Congressional Research Service can't even count them all. In other words, we are all breaking laws every day.

But the selective enforcement of laws is a disaster. As you say, we are all breaking laws every day. Which means, if any individual prosecutor decides he doesn't like you, they probably have the ability to charge you with something.

You've just handed the state the power to jail anyone they decide they don't like. That is truly dangerous.


and if the bad law had to be enforced against someone powerful and/or popular it would make it easier to get repealed.


> You've just handed the state the power to jail anyone they decide they don't like. That is truly dangerous.

That's the way it already works in countries that don't respect rule of law, i.e. every non-Anglophone nation.


lol. you should test your theory in e.g. japan or hmmm saudi arabia.

one might even say that there are countries that follow the law ... religiously.

non anglophone countries also include most of europe. please put a little more thought into your racism. you get a point for originality but it's not nearly as entertaining when it's so weak logically.


> or hmmm saudi arabia.

The place where the rich have alcohol (illegal) fueled sex orgies (illegal) without any consequences?


rich people get away with illegal stuff in all countries, i don't think that's up for debate. i was talking about normal people that laws actually apply to.

but i mean, yeah, i guess you're technically correct, rich people break the law all the time in saudi arabia without any consequence. film at 11.


I didn't say they didn't respect the law. I said they don't respect the rule of law. Rule of law is the idea that justice is not arbitrary, it does not stem from the whims of divine kings or power itself.

Authority must be legitimate, emanating from a constitution that was voted on by the people and exercised by representatives of the people. Not an unelected monarch or tyrant or oligarchy.

The English invented the concept and were the first to practice it. It's so infused in Anglo culture that violations of the principle are considered so beyond the pale that we call for, and often get, prison sentences for violators.

The book to read here is:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BATKSIO/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?...

Other nations have laws, but only Anglo nations are really ruled by them. Western Europe is an interesting case. The French constitution grants the President near-dictatorial emergency powers, which is how democracy and rule of law is commonly subverted in less-affluent nations. That the French are on their Fifth Republic should tell you how fragile the political institutions really are there.

The same is true of the rest of W Europe. They're heads and tails over the rest of the world including Russia and China. But you can't call yourselves a stable democracy if 70 years ago, you let fascists destroy your legislative systems so as to put your country to war, as Germany, Spain, and Italy did. How can you have rule of law if you let dictators decide what the law is?

The European Union is a grand experiment in finding Europe a babysitter so that doesn't happen again.


>In summary, I think absolute enforcement is effectively Orwellian.

It is, but that seems to be the point. The only way to highlight the absurdity of having so many laws is to enforce them so strictly that it creates a public backlash.

Put another way, the only reason our legislators were able to amass such a large amount of laws is because they are selectively enforced, or not enforced at all (for now).


> The fact that our laws are subjectively interpreted is a blessing.

This is precisely because many of the uncountable laws are bad ones. I interpret Lincoln's quote to imply that if the bad ones were strictly enforced, it would quickly be realized how bad they are, and they would be repealed.

With the Texas Sodomy law - the reason the public at large was made aware of it was because it was enforced. If it were more strictly enforced, we would have been made aware sooner, and it likely would have been repealed.

Perhaps we have so many laws because we have so many bad ones. If all were enforced the bad ones would be pruned. Then perhaps congress could actually count them all.


This is a tricky topic. I think I disagree with you. I'm certainly in agreement that there's ample evidence of justice being unevenly applied in this country, at least in part because there are humans doing the enforcing. Traffic cams are a great way to get around that -- in this case, it was the (human) bureaucracy that was unfair, not the camera.

However, the (main) reason I disagree is because, when you're dealing with people doing things that may not leave a paper trail, enforcement is contingent on supervision. It follows that constant enforcement is contingent on constant supervision, and I'd rather people just not get caught, to be honest. Otherwise we end up in a situation where the argument becomes, "Well of course we have to install tracking chips in all the cars, do you want people to be speeding and get away with it? Of course we have to let the government read our email, that's how people coordinate financial crimes!"

This is wandering a little farther into tinfoil-hat territory than I'd meant it to. My originally intended point was that it's a tough line to walk between consistent enforcement and pervasive enforcement.


> It follows that constant enforcement is contingent on constant supervision

I think I've found that it's neither necessary nor sufficient. Constant enforcement just means that you give the ticket no matter who you stopped.


My understanding is that this is where it runs afoul of that whole criminal vs civil distinction.

To do what you want, the law in question must be a criminal law, since civil law requires some direct measurable harm caused by the action to be applicable - and it would be hard to demonstrate direct harm from someone blasting through a red light at an empty intersection.

So, you make it criminal law. But that raises the standard of proof significantly - you can no longer go on preponderance of evidence, but you need to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Cameras, in most cases, simply don't provide enough evidence to meet that bar (not the least because it's hard to see who's driving the car), so in practice, it would mean that most such cases would go nowhere.

You also don't want to say that people have committed a misdemeanor for something as trivial as parking wrongly, because there are some long-term consequences of this.

Hence, they invent things like "civil violation of criminal laws", such that the standard of proof is closer to that of civil law, but they don't need to prove direct harm - an action can be illegal in and of itself, regardless of consequences. This is justified on the grounds that penalties are "merely" fines, not imprisonment. Of course, the fine can still be very large - and larger still if you're unable to pay, and they start charging you interest. At some point, the interest will cross the line where you may actually get arrested for not paying it, too. All stemming from that initial lack of due process.


> "The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly"

This is an approach that I like for most bad laws (though noting that its attribution to Lincoln is questionable). That said, this isn't a case of the law being good or bad, but about the enforcement being bad. Most people would agree that traffic lights are a net good, and that running a traffic light in a way that causes harm would be a bad act, ergo, laws against running traffic lights seem to be overall good on balance.

Moreover, it is logical to assume that if people were just running traffic lights whenever they wanted to, that the net result would be in mistakes that would ultimately result in harm.

But if you're at a 5 minute red light in the middle of the night with a wife who is in labor and nobody else is around, would you support enforcement of that law against the man who runs that light? Nobody was harmed, no damages were caused, and waiting for the light might potentially have caused a medical issue for which the driver could have sued.

The point of the article isn't that "red lights are bad" or that "running red lights is good", but the more nuanced take that "the enforcement of red light laws as both a civil and criminal act while adhering to the tenets and protections of neither is bad", which is (at least taking the article on faith) correct, as applied.

At its core, the author does themselves a mild disservice by closing with the standing argument. Yes, I can't sue you for harms you didn't cause, and nor can I sue you for harms you might have caused, but didn't. Moreover, it is true that the state similarly has no standing for suits in which no harms were caused, but that is not the core of the wrong he is fighting.


There's a counter argument that in a situation where your wife is in labour and you're stuck at a red light, you made a conscious analysis of the risks and decided that a $100 ticket was an acceptable price to pay to get your wife to hospital in time. You elected to break the law and so the ticket should stand.


Which may result in a disenfranchisement of the poor.

A friend of mine (who is brilliant, but also an asshole) once shared with me a part of his philosophy on life. This occurred as we were staying in adjacent hotel rooms. There was an after-wedding party going on in his hotel room, and he lights up a cigarette. I mention to him "Hey, you know there's no smoking in DC hotels, right?" to which he responds "Yeah -- it's allowed." Pretty confident he was wrong, I kept at it, until he pointed out that it cost $150. Not understanding, I questioned him, until he broke it down -- it's not allowed, but for violating the rule, the fine is $150. For him, celebrating the wedding of our close mutual friend was a festive occasion, and worth paying the $150 for.

In short, he had deemed that the fine was not a fine, but the cost, and he was willing to pay it.

If laws are prohibitively expensive for the poor, but merely 'a cost' for the more well to do, then we run the risk of jeopardizing the rule of law entirely, and begs the question of whether or not the law needs to exist if nobody is harmed by its selective infraction. Liability already covers means for reliably determining who is at fault, so where there is incident, the person running the light can be considered at fault. Otherwise, it seems to be just a system for generating fees, and largely from the hoi polloi.


Meanwhile, Germany has photo-radar, but the German police MUST issue the ticket to the driver of the vehicle at the time. Therefore, they take pictures of the front of the car, and the back if needed.


that approach comes with its own problems regarding privacy.


Ironically, Germany is quite strong on privacy laws.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundesdatenschutzgesetz


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