- Ice finger of death!
- Man falls off bicycle. Cop kills him.
- Red light camera vendor sues Knoxville, Tennessee for not issuing tickets when people turn right at a red light.
- The Pentagon’s $3 billion mercenary war on drugs.
- AFL-CIO, Teamsters, other unions firmly backing SOPA.
- All your fish are belong to government.
- A good reminder as the country goes into panic—and politicians go into “there oughtta be a law” mode—in response to Penn State: False allegations of sex abuse can also ruin lives.
Category: Motorist Freedom
- The product of a decade of democracy-fighting in Afghan.
- Speaking of spreading democracy around the world: “Why is the Pentagon spending tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars to whitewash the image of Central Asian dictatorships?”
- ACLU: Local governments are using license plate scanners to monitor citizens’ movement.
- How we process evidence.
- Cato’s Ben Friedman: Cutting Pentagon budget will limit U.S. military capability . . . and that’s a good thing.
- When academic papers get honest.
- Your morning worry.
- Headline of the day.
- Smart kids do drugs.
- Georgia cop admits to falsifying breath test results in DUI cases.
- New York’s highest court ordered the state’s family courts opened to the public in 1997. They’ve mostly stayed closed, anyway.
- Yale law professors propose paying students to quit law school.
- Good question.
- Chicago journalism professor records an arrest in progress. Police threaten him, seize his camera, and delete the video. If he was using sound, it’s still illegal to record anyone in Illinois without their permission, in which case the police destroyed evidence of a crime. If he wasn’t using sound, they illegally confiscated his camera and destroyed his property.
- Cabin porn. (Link is SFW.)
- An interview with the great John Prine.
- Government announces plan to make citizens safer by devoting more resources to harassing and threatening them.
- Mitt Romney demonstrates one of the most important qualifications to be president.
- Finally, something heartwarming. The first paragraph is really all you need.
- More feuding over “professional courtesy” between Miami police and Florida state troopers.
- Massachusetts to keep health care costs down with . . . price controls.
- Coca-Cola gets a ban on plastic bottles at national parks overturned. And somehow . . . the Koch brothers and libertarianism are to blame.
- I’m not sure I understand the point of handing out annual awards for classic rock.
- A nation asks: Who, if not government, will count our goats?
- I don’t see how this could possibly go wrong.
Slate’s Farhad Manjoo correctly diagnoses the problem with bans on texting, cell phone use, and other forms of distracted driving . . .
During the last five years, 34 states have passed laws that ban texting while driving. The laws in each of those states differ widely—some make it illegal to “send” texts, while others prohibit “electronic communication” as well as “reading” texts. Each of these versions would make Siri-based texting verboten, because even if you dictate a message, you’re still, technically, sending some kind of electronic communication (and if you glance at the screen to make sure Siri correctly transcribed your message, you’re reading it).
This is ridiculous. Sure, it’s a good idea to discourage texting behind the wheel. But the laws’ failure to anticipate voice-texting illustrates the larger problem with legal strictures on automotive technology: The laws are narrow, annoyingly arbitrary, and inconsistent across state lines. What’s more, they’re minimally enforced and consequently ineffective—there is no evidence that texting laws have reduced accident rates…
The worst thing about these laws is their opacity. Because enforcement is spotty—I see people talking into handheld cellphones all the time—and because few of these specific tech questions have been raised in court, nobody knows how we can use our devices. In some ways, the mish-mash of rules makes enforcement more difficult. If you see a guy typing on his phone while driving, should you call the cops? If he’s otherwise driving safely, I wouldn’t—he could just be dialing a number, which is legal.
…but he then proposes a solution that will make all of those problems worse.
A better system wouldn’t make distinctions about what we do on our gadgets, but would instead look at the effects of our actions. The best rule would simply say, Don’t do anything in your car that could be unsafe. In 2009, Maine adopted just such a policy. Its law doesn’t make any particular technology illegal in the car. Instead, it bans “distracted driving”—driving while you’re engaged in any task that could impair you. This obviously includes texting, but the law is expansive enough to outlaw other bad driving habits—eating, applying make-up, or reading a roadmap. Theoretically, it could also allow some safer uses of technology, like punching an address into your GPS while you’re stopped, or asking Siri to remind you to call your doctor when you get home.
Theoretically, sure. But you’ve just taken the problem of too many jurisdictions having varying definitions of distracted and made it exponentially worse. Now whether or a motorist has violated the law is at the individual discretion of every police officer in the country. You now have about 600,000 different definitions of distraction. Some studies have shown that having kids in the back seat is actually more distracting then a .08 BAC or talking on a cell phone. That in theory could now be illegal. So could fumbling with your CD player. Or glancing down to change songs on the iPod that’s plugged into your car stereo. I’d think you’d very quickly be looking at a logjam of cases in which traffic courts are asked to sort out what’s an acceptable distraction and what isn’t.
The idea would also make the enforcement problem much, much worse. How does a police officer look into your car to determine whether or not your eyes are on the road when you’re whizzing by at 55 mph? If the cops is actually driving next to you, isn’t asking cops to gaze into the interiors of other cars on the road itself a pretty significant distraction? Averted eyes aren’t likely to be caught on a police dash cam, either. In fact, the only time a cop would be able to clearly see what you’re doing, or whether you’re looking squarely at the road, is when you’re driving very slowly or stopped, which of course are the times when driver distraction is least dangerous.
When you put such a vague determination of lawbreaking solely at the discretion of cops, you also open the door to abuse. Pretext stops for drug profiling just got a lot easier. Meeting ticket quotas (yeah I know, those don’t exist!) and blanket revenue generating get easier too. Forget installing speed cameras. If the city needs revenue, just quietly instruct city cops to loosen up their definition of distracted for a while. Given the examples we’ve seen of cities jeopardizing public safety by shortening yellow lights in order to generate revenue, or cops in New York City planting drugs on people to meet arrest quotas, it hardly seems far-fetched.
The simplest solution here is to only pull over and ticket people when they commit actual traffic violations. If you want to raise the fines for people who commit infractions likely caused by driver distraction–swerving into other lanes, for example–go for it. It might even make sense to add some extra punishment for people who cause accidents while distracted, provided you can prove they were distracted at the time of the accident. Or just raise fines and penalties across the board. Though it’s also at least worth asking why we’re having this discussion in the first place. It isn’t at all clear that this is an urgent problem. Roadway fatalities per passenger mile have fallen dramatically over the last 20 years, the same period that all these new driver distractions have become so common.
- In defense of jury nullification.
- Income inequality in perspective. More from Will Wilkinson.
- Florida man arrested for recording conversation with cops; newspaper misstates the law in Florida.
- The sweet, sweet demise of Righthaven.
- At least it wasn’t the Virgin Mary.
- Headline of the day.
- The National Motorists Association takes down a hysterical Boston Globe report that judges are going easy on drunk drivers.
- More insanity from NYPD: Woman arrested, jailed for two nights for being in a public park after it had closed, then not having ID.
- Peter Schiff dialogues with Occupy Wall Street. I’d like to see more of this.
- An opera about collard greens.
- Headline of the day.
- This Harris County, Texas grand jury is going rogue. And that’s pretty great. Love this line: “If [DA] Lykos appears, she could be cross-examined by one of her own prosecutors.”
- Wonder if this will cause the Occupy folks to question their support for public service unions.
- Thought: The Tea Party groups, largely portrayed as anti-government, largely sought permits, paid fees, and followed protest regulations. The Occupy movement, largely portrayed as pro-government, has largely thumbed its nose at protest rules and regulations. Not passing judgment on either strategy. Just interesting.
- Classic songs that were intended as jokes.
- You can’t tell by the pixels.
- Very little about the police version of this story makes sense.
- This is almost certainly illegal under Indianapolis v. Edmond.
- Two Illinois teachers union lobbyists teach for one day, get fat pensions for the rest of their lives. Bonus: One of them helped write the law that made them eligible.
- Attempted puppycide . . . by defenestration.
- Kanye’d by the Bell.
The D.C. police department has released preliminary statistics on the controversial practice of arresting drivers whose vehicles are unregistered or have expired registration. The numbers indicate that the practice is more widespread than previously thought, with several arrests per day on average.
In the one-year period starting Oct. 1, 2009, records indicate that 2,163 persons were arrested in the District for expired tags. In the subsequent year, ending in September, arrests declined dramatically, to 1,334.
Funny thing about numbers. The article notes that of those 3,500 people arrested, only about 250 were actually put in a jail cell. The disparity between the two numbers first evoked in me an, “Oh, well that’s not so bad” reaction. So just consider that latter number on its own: Over two years, 250 people were jailed in D.C. for having expired license plates. Absurd.
- Non-existent DOJ study repeatedly cited to justify police benefits.
- Stuff Siri says.
- Pat Buchanan: Black people were more American back when they were second-class citizens.
- Remember the high school principal arrested for DWI despite blowing 0.0 on the breath test? There were no drug or alcohol in his system. Still, the cop swears he smelled alcohol. And the DA says he believes the arrest was made in good faith.
- If only this could actually happen.
- Trucking gets a little freer today. The usual suspects predict mass calamity.
This isn’t the first time something like this has happened.
Thousands of people in Florida convicted of DUI may not have been drunk at all. They very well may have been under the allowable blood alcohol limit. The problem may have been law enforcement not calibrating the breathalyzer called the Intoxilyzer 8000.
Now, the 10 News Investigators have uncovered documents and emails that prove the state knew there were problems and didn’t do anything to correct it for more than two and half years . . .
The 10 News Investigators obtained letters where a Sarasota deputy noticed there was a problem recording breath samples and breath flow levels as far back as 2007. He wrote in his notes that he even alerted an inspector who agreed there was a problem.
Those notes prompted an email from the head of the breath testing program, Laura Barfield, telling inspectors not to write down flow sensor problems in their field notes. . .
“As we found, almost half of every Intoxilyzer 8000 used in the state of Florida is not properly calibrated. There are enormous implications. I would tell anybody convicted of DUI using the breath test over the past few years they may want to talk to their lawyer because this information the state wouldn’t tell anybody about,” says Harrison.
While several people, including Bob Marois, who were arrested for DUI using faulty machines have had their convictions thrown out, they ended up losing their licenses for up to a year, having their mug shot forever online, and spending thousands defending themselves.
Not to mention that a DUI can get you fired from your job, ruin your reputation, and have all sorts of other extra-legal implications. It’s really astonishing (in a moral way, not a surprising way) that these idiots could allow people’s lives be seriously disrupted, sometimes ruined—and for more people to continue to be falsely implicated—rather than admit to a fixable mistake.
In a just world, the people who covered all of this up would suffer the same sort of repercussions those falsely convicted of DUI did. That isn’t going to happen.
This is really one of the scarier recent assaults on the Fourth Amendment.
California Gov. Jerry Brown is vetoing legislation requiring police to obtain a court warrant to search the mobile phones of suspects at the time of any arrest.
The Sunday veto means that when police arrest anybody in the Golden State, they may search that person’s mobile phone — which in the digital age likely means the contents of persons’ e-mail, call records, text messages, photos, banking activity, cloud-storage services, and even where the phone has traveled.
Police across the country are given wide latitude to search persons incident to an arrest based on the premise of officer safety. Now the nation’s states are beginning to grapple with the warrantless searches of mobile phones done at the time of an arrest.
Brown’s veto message abdicated responsibility for protecting the rights of Californians and ignored calls from civil liberties groups and this publication to sign the bill — saying only that the issue is too complicated for him to make a decision about. He cites a recent California Supreme Court decision upholding the warrantless searches of people incident to an arrest. In his brief message, he also doesn’t say whether it’s a good idea or not.
Last time I posted on this, commenter “Puzzling” made a very good point.
Cell phones are also not simple “containers” to the extent that modern phones show both local data and vastly more data information stored in cloud services, often all integrated together seamlessly to the user. These law enforcement searches are actually retrieving information stored in “containers” elsewhere.
So a traffic infraction can now lead to a search of your email (much of which may be stored on off-site servers, but still downloadable from your cell phone), GPS history, cell phone photos and video, web browsing history, history of phone calls placed and received, text message history, and anything else you do with your cell phone. Troubling, to say the least.
- Scalia is apparently concerned that capital defense attorneys who screw up their clients’ cases don’t face any professional sanction. Maybe he’s right. But it would also be nice to see some concern over the lack of discipline for misbehaving prosecutors, too.
- “When the officers showed up at the city jail to book Hill a short time later and turn in their evidence, the five pounds of marijuana they bragged about an hour earlier somehow had become a pound and a half.”
- Obama administration cracks down on medical marijuana marijuana dispensaries. Again. At this point, his campaign promises on this issue amount to damnable lies.
- Another isolated incident. What the hell is going on Fullerton?
- California appeals court upholds warrantless cell phone searches during a traffic stop.
I’m speaking at Tulane law school at noon today. The talk is free and open to the public. So come on out.
- Fred Shuttlesworth, RIP. You probably haven’t heard of him. I hadn’t. Go read about him.
- Steve Jobs, RIP. Not sure what to write that others haven’t already written. The man made our lives immeasurably better. And that’s true even if you’ve never owned an Apple product.
- Who was the rhetorical Hitler before Hitler?
- Federal judge lets CIA off the hook for destroying interrogations videos . . . because they’ve promised it won’t happen again.
- This is a thing of beauty.
- D.C. is throwing drivers in jail for expired tags.
- The saddest thing you’ll read today.