Speed Traps 2002
The assault on justice happened when I was peaceably driving to Cleveland, through the town of Northfield. A police officer turned on his lights and siren and pulled me over, and said, "did I know what I'd done wrong?"
I had no idea, there was a car in front of me and one beside me traveling the same speed, I was only doing 40 MPH on a major 4 or 5 lane thoroughfare (route 8), and last I'd seen it was a 55 MPH zone.
Well, it turns out that that in Fairfield, Ohio it is a crime to drive a safe speed, as they've decided to drop the speed limit to 25 MPH - not because of schools or public safety, but because of revenue. (This is a 4 lane highway). I assume I was picked from the flow of traffic because I had recently relocated and still had out-of-state plates, and an expensive car, and prey on out-of-towners is encouraged.
My friends and coworkers all laughed and commiserated at my retelling of the story and explained that Northfield is infamous as a speed trap.
I was curious about the insensitivity of this town, and so instead of just paying the graft, I showed up to "court" (with a lawyer) to see how the system worked. It was amazing.
- The town demanded their payments in cash
- They set immediate court dates only a couple weeks after incidents assumedly to inconvenience victims into just paying up
- I watched people pleading their cases before a magistrate, only to have their pleas ignored
- I watched dozens of people's lives get negatively impacted, because it was easier for the township to attack travelers than it was to raise their own taxes.
As I was paying the extortion, I read on the bulletin board the list of fees for various infractions; Broken lights, no front license plate, recklessly breaking 25 MPH speed limit, and other such crimes were all fines of $40 - $60 or so, with an additional court fee of $90 tacked on to everything. Things only got worse if someone missed a date, with the bill climbing to many hundreds of dollars.
I was able to afford the hundreds of dollars it cost me (though I was not pleased by it). But I watched hard working people brought to tears of frustration, anger or hurt, at having to give up money that they couldn't as easily afford - for the atrocity of passing through the wrong town.
I was truly saddened that we as a society, as well as that town, have cheapened our laws and our entire judicial process into that mockery. I felt disgust at turning Police Officers and law enforcement into hooligan tax collectors and turning our courts into bridge trolls of lore, demanding fees of passers by and ruining their lives for the all mighty dollar. Justice has not only become blind, but inhumane. Our entire state, nation, and our concepts of justice is brought into question. The entire rule of law is cheapened when we tolerate such shenanigans.
I sat there reading, on another bulletin board, a bunch of letters of protest written in response to an article that was printed on this subject a while back. The townsfolk railing against a verbal attack on their bad name. Instead of the townsfolk understanding the wrong of their action, they were protesting that they had a nice town, and how they should be allowed to be unreasonable and predatory - completely missing the point of their actions.
If you're a pro-liberty person, you should hate this, because it's what Social Injustice looks like (big government bullying on innocents, or relatively innocents, and teaching contempt for the law). If you're a pro-government progressive, you should hate this, because it paints authority in a bad light. But alas, corruption exists, and will continue by those such as myself, unwilling to beat myself bloody pounding on city hall, and demanding better.
It reminded me of the story of Robin Hood. Not the moral that many mis-teach, "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor", but the true point of the story. About how there was once a corrupt government, that used the law unjustly to attack the innocent and tax them unfairly. And about how that corruption went on until finally one man was angered enough to risk everything to stop the injustice and take back what was the people's.
How many more centuries until Northfield learns this lesson?