Carnival of thieves

What’s the difference between paying off a cop and paying off a prosecutor? The prosecutor is the one who decides whether to charge you with bribery.

Louisiana District Attorneys have a deal for you. Pay $175 and they’ll make your speeding ticket go away. And they won’t charge you with bribery.

Corruption is a state tradition. I read a good book, Inside the Carnival, explaining how Louisiana politics evolved. One of the reasons is, for a long time the state budget was largely funded by oil producers. Politicians never felt accountable to the people for mismanagement of state money. It wasn’t the people’s money. Ticket revenue doesn’t feel like the people’s money either.

Corrupt is not the same as criminal. I don’t know Lousiana law on extortion. It’s possible this bribery program is not a crime. It’s possible it is not an ethical violation.

But maybe it is. I’d like to see a federal prosecutor take a closer look. Unfortunately, federal prosecutors are traditionally subject to approval by the state’s Congressional delegation. They have to be on good terms with local politicians and work with local prosecutors. Revenue enforcement is not a favorite target of the Justice Department.

I don’t know if Louisiana ever seriously pretended speeding tickets were about safety, but they have definitely abandoned that pretext now. Speeding tickets are the piece of meat being torn apart by a pack of dogs. Some of the dogs are defense attorneys, who got a law giving them a bigger share of court costs. Others are prosecutors, who moved half the cases to their own private justice system where they keep all the court costs.

If you ever felt guilty about gaming the system, warning of speed traps, using electronic countermeasures, and doing just about anything to avoid or beat a speeding ticket, stop. Stop feeling guilty.

Do you feel guilty when a burglar can’t break into your safe?

The opinions expressed in this post belong to the author and do not necessarily represent those of the National Motorists Association or the NMA Foundation. This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of this post or the included links.

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2 Responses to “Carnival of thieves”

  1. George_C says:

    How about we follow the law? Speeding tickets only apply to commercial vehicles.

    That means, what 90% of the people on the road, can NOT ‘get’ speeding tickets.

    Then this whole world of corruption dissolves.

    • John Carr says:

      That sounds like one of the old tax protester arguments I haven’t heard in a while. Whatever appeal there may be in the idea that only commercial driving is subject to regulation, the judges who decide what the law means do not agree and if they ever did the legislature would instantly overrule the decision.

      Last year the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that “upskirt” photos taken in public places were legal. I agreed with the judges’ legal analysis; the voyeurism law clearly did not apply to that situation. It took about a week for a bill overruling that decision to pass through the legislature and be signed by the governor. Because lawmakers wanted such photos to be illegal. And they want non-commercial drivers to be able to get speeding tickets.

      I also want non-commercial drivers to be able to get tickets. Abolish speeding tickets if you like, but there needs to be some way to deal with drivers who are actually dangerous. Your 90% reduction in tickets sounds like a good goal, but a commercial vs. non-commercial distinction is not the way to get there.