Sunday, February 07, 2010


Fine for unbuckled seat belt, January 2009.

A sign of the country's dysfunction failure is the escalation of fines as a way to squeeze money out of the populace.

A selection from today's news tab:

A bill before state lawmakers would increase fines and add driver's license sanctions for red light violations. -- DesMoines Register

Large increase in penalties for anti-social behaviour in Lincoln ... PNDs are fines issued by police to people over the age of 16 who commit low-level anti-social behaviour, such as harassment, being drunk and disorderly in ... -- The Linc

State and local budget crises are causing more municipalities to increase fines for driving and parking infractions as a way to boost revenue ... -- Los Angeles Times

During its Tuesday night meeting, the Selectboard had a first reading of a change to the town's traffic ordinance that would increase fines ... -- Brattleboro Reformer

Report: LA County red-light camera fines soar ... the fine has jumped from $271 to $446 and increased at about three times the regional rate of inflation. ... -- San Jose Mercury News

State and local budget crises are causing more municipalities to increase fines for driving and parking infractions as a way to boost revenue ... -- Los Angeles Times

Total fines bring in close to $600000 a year. With fines of $5 for the first two tickets in a year, $10 for the third through sixth tickets and $25 for each ... -- Appleton Post Crescent

The city of Madison plans to increase fines next month for most of the 11 dozen ways motorists can receive a parking ticket ... -- Wisconsin State Journal

Bayless says last December, city council agreed to increase civil infraction fines as a way to offset a bottoming-out budget -- WILX

In California, the government in Sacramento is paralyzed by the same circumstance now halting all things in the nation's capital. The minority party can, through legislative rules which require an unreasonable majority, destroy the government's ability to raise money sensibly.

Unable to raise taxes or doing anything to combat fiscal crises, very mediocre local politicians immediately turn to increasing fines for all traffic violations, whether serious or trivial.

The citation stub at the top article comes from DD's unbuckled seat belt at a stop sign infraction from last year.

That original post is here.

At the time, I wrote:

As if to emphasize the broken and irrational nature of US life in 2009, note this month's exhibit, DD's $720.00 ticket for having an unbuckled seatbelt in Pasadena.

Punish the bad scofflaw!

Here's the story: Around Thanksgiving, your host was stopped at a stop sign. A police cruiser was turning into the street and the officer looked into my car as he went by. And my seat belt was not buckled. He turned the cruiser around, flagged me and wrote out a citation.

Now, there was no amount for the fine on the citation. And in the past, when I once received a speeding ticket, a citation was sent in the mail around a month later with an envelope and bill.

This time, no citation arrived until the yellow piece of paper with the $720.00 fine.

The local government does not have to send out a bill informing the guilty of the amount of the fine and an envelope to pay it. That is merely a courtesy, one that is not always extended. If one does not get the bill, it is your duty to report to court by the date on the back of the original citation.

What is the original fine for an unbuckled seatbelt in Pasadena? A bit over ninety dollars, DD is informed.

Does no one think it is unreasonable to slap an extra six hundred dollars to this fine?

Silence ... DD is informed of a deal, which is also on the back of the original $720 ticket. If you pay right now (or seven days from the notice), California will take off three hundred dollars. If you don't, the Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke your license and it will go to collections.

DD assumes this will play out all over California and in other states in 2010.

Since sending out ticket notices costs extra money, count on not receiving any until your fine is jacked up for missing the due deadline, at which point you will be threatened with further sanction or offered only a slightly less impoverishing deal.

On its editorial page yesterday, the Los Angeles Times seemed to notice that something is wrong with a system that escalates fines for infractions everyone winds up guilty of at one time or another, for the purpose of squeezing out money for failed governmnent.

But the newspaper doesn't complain very loudly. Just don't break the law if you don't want to suffer, it implies. Obeying traffic law is a must.

"Traffic fines as cash cow..." it begins.

"Raising traffic fines has become attractive to politicians because, unlike hiking taxes, it seldom attracts much opposition. That's OK with us but it's possible to raise fines to the point that they're grossly disproportionate to the infraction. We're getting perilously close to that in LA and in some cases have probably exceeded it."

Yes, DD would say $720 for an unbuckled seatbelt, no matter how many days after issuance of the ticket, was and is 'grossly disproportionate'. It is extortionate policy and it spawns contempt for government by existing only to criminalize lots of people who aren't criminals.

"As a matter of principle, it's usually smart to tax socially destructive behavior such as bad driving ... But if the punishment doesn't fit the crime, it encourages public cynicism and lawless behavior," the newspaper continues.

Here's how that works.

Over seven hundred dollars for a seatbelt infraction, or the reduced 'bargain' of $420, on someone who is just hanging on by their fingernails, or who has just lost a job, carries a substantial risk of inability to pay. At which point the person's license is revoked.

Do they stop driving?

No, they don't. And with no license, they now stand a good chance of being jailed if they're pulled over because they still have to ... like ... drive, either to work or to try and find a job.

"For a low-income driver, a $500 traffic fine -- the cost of running a red light in LA when traffic school is factored in -- is a devastating expense," the newspaper concedes.

Extortion of funding through traffic ticketing was discussed here by columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle last year.

Blog readers should be sure to read the comments. The outpour of the pure milk of human kindness raging satisfaction, even glee, over the meting out of such fines is eye-opening.

Eye-opening but not necessarily surprising. When Americans talk about being revolutionaries and fighting the government, they have an unusual view of what this means.

As said last week: After a year of Glenn Beck, everyone's ready to ... hand out punishment for our awful state of affairs.

Filled with populist vigor and the burning desire to set things right, we'll riot and make sure that tax cuts are made and the government paralyzed so local offices are closed ...

Then when state and local government sneak in stealth taxes by unreasonably raising fines and the numbers of things for which one can be fined, it becomes time to scream when the revolutionary gets his. At which point calumny and ridicule are heaped upon him by his formerly comradely revolutionaries, still carrying the fire to burn down government and all social services in our big banana republic.

Until they get their tickets, too.

At the new old Dick Destiny blog.


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