Traffic Tickets Are A Shakedown

Yesterday we got a letter in the mail. There were big red letters on the envelope that said “Traffic Violation. Do Not Discard.” As soon as I saw that, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I knew that the local government was going to steal some money from us. I also knew that I was defenseless to stop it.

The “crime” that we committed was even pettier than I imagined. The punishment was much more extreme than I could have guessed. My wife, while going out to give bible studies in the community, drove 29 mph through a 20 mph school zone. A camera took a picture of her in the act. A copy of the picture was sent to us in the mail with the ticket.

Looking at the picture is extremely revealing. There is literally not a single soul anywhere in sight. The picture is a good shot. It gives a good view of the panorama. It is easy to see that nobody was put in harm’s way. Nobody was around. In short, my wife obviously did nothing wrong. The evidence is clear.

Yet, now we have to send in a sizable chunk of cash. The money due on the ticket is equal to roughly 10 hours of work at my wife’s wages. Got that? 10 hours. The City of Issaquah just robbed 10 hours from our family. There is nothing we can do about it.

The other thing that bothers me is that a camera carried out the entire operation. A living, breathing, empathetic cop can make a judgement call. Yeah, you were over the limit, but not by much. There was nobody around. No big deal. Go ahead, just don’t do it again. Not so with a camera. The cold, hard, letter of the law will be enforced. That’s all there is to it.

Once cameras are being used to enforce the law, you know its no longer about safety. Its about shaking down the public. Its about trying to catch people in minor infractions so that the local government can take your money.

There is another sad fact that we’ve noted about our little town. Due to the lack of violent criminals, the police spend most of their time writing traffic tickets. Apparently, law enforcement around here is primarily concerned with shakedowns.

If there are no violent crimes, lets either a) fire some cops or b) pay them to do absolutely nothing. Having them bust people for driving a bit over the speed limit or not stopping completely at a stop sign is the worst of all worlds. We’re paying for cops and cameras so that they can make our lives worse. What could be more ridiculous?

Wouldn’t it be better to have an individual flipping burgers instead of stopping people needlessly on their way to work? Wouldn’t it be better to lower the sales tax and let the town’s citizens keep their money instead of putting up cameras to monitor their every action?

We moved to this town because we wanted to get away from the big city. The fact that there is no crime here was very appealing. We’re off the beaten path. If something bad goes down, we could easily disappear over the cascades and into some far off territory.

But, I must admit, this incident has me boiling mad. As zealous as I am about these types of issues, an egregious injustice such as this is almost a deal breaker. It may not seem like  a big deal to most people, but for me it is a huge deal. Yesterday, for the first time in a while, I’ve seriously started to consider moving out of the United States.

We’re in a place with no criminals. I ride my bike around and I feel safe. But now I know that there could be a camera or a cop waiting to write me up for something. In reality, the cops and the courts will take more from an average citizen around here than any criminal ever would. That is a crying shame.

What’s worse is that the city seems to be a pretty well run little city. We’ve got a salmon hatchery in town. The streets are clean. The trash get picked up on time. The rent is affordable. There is so much good happening here. But a proclivity for shakedowns puts a dark cloud over the whole place.

So now what? I guess we could go down to the court and try to reason with the judge. I doubt we have a worthwhile case. My wife did break the law, that is clear. But the fact that needs to be argued is that law itself is bad. Can you do that in a municipal traffic court? Would the judge even care? No on both counts. Plus, we’ve already been shaken down for ten hours of time. Do we really need to give the city a couple of more hours.

I guess I could run for mayor or get involved in city council races. I could run on a “Take down the cameras and fire some cops” platform.  It hardly seems like a winning slogan. Plus, it seems unjust that my only recourse is to dedicate my life for a period of time to fighting for this puny cause. Why is it so hard for people to simply respect each others rights? Foremost of which is the right to be secure in our person or property. Instead of taking money from us because of victimless crimes, just let us be.

Finally, let us attack the notion of a victimless crime. If there is no victim, there is no crime. There is no such thing as committing a crime against society. Society is nothing more than a word to describe a large group of related individuals. Crimes can only be committed against individuals, not against society. Period. If nobody has been harmed, and frankly nobody cares, then there is no valid reason to prosecute anybody.

Let’s take the down the cameras and demand an end to the shake downs. Its uncivil, its unjust, and it is quite ridiculous.

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