Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Legal Extortion – Fine on Suspicion

[Update below]

“Assessed immediately” and “held accountable” Police Chief Garr Nielsen says. You can read the latest “guilty by suspicion” from Allison White for The Times-Standard in the Friday, October 2, 2009, edition: “EPD to fine DUI drivers for emergency response.”

This is as clear-cut an example as you can get of how the government perverts the law and uses their taser-wielding enforcers to extort money. It starts by picking some part of our socially-rejected underclass, in this case supposedly drunk drivers, and singling them out for special treatment. Then authorize any unfortunate encounter with any of these “enforcers” as a suspicious situation, thus making the reject a suspect and now it's open season. Oh! There's a minor regulation supposedly regulating what can and can't be done, but the general outcome has proven they are mostly ignored.

Notice how it's all justified by saying the small fee, $350 is authorized by CA State Law. Just make sure you are in Eureka and the EPD is handling your “emergency response.” Get the CA Highway Patrol involved and you could be paying $12,000!

It's the perversion of the law that is astounding. Eureka City Attorney Sheryl Schaffner says that this fee collection on suspicion is “civil and not criminal.” That's why the “threshold for evidence is not as great.” And takes the cake, “The stakes are also different. Civil consequences are generally money; it not going to cost you your liberty.” Really? We'd like to know just exactly how she defines “liberty.” I guess it's okay with her to walk around naked, homeless and starving – just don't get thrown in jail.

More importantly, how is it that the individual police officer now has the authority and legal right to be accuser, prosecutor, judge and jury in civil matters bypassing all the safeguards the “law” is supposed to provide? Notice how she hedged answering how the “suspect” gets their money back when found “not guilty” of anything. She said, “it is unclear how someone would contest the fee, but there is usually an administrative appeal process through the EPD.” The EPD is going to admit they took the money when they did not have the legal right and then give it back? Not likely. That's what proves the extortion.

Here's the definition of "extortion":

The 'Lectric Law Library's Lexicon
EXTORTION - The use, or the express or implicit threat of the use, of violence or other criminal means to cause harm to person, reputation, or property as a means to obtain property from someone else with his consent. USC 18

The Hobbs Act defines "extortion" as "the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right." 18 U.S.C. S 1951(b)(2).

Don't get us wrong, here. We believe drunk drivers as well as all criminals, either admitted or judged and convicted by a just court should be held accountable. That's why we have judges. They are to dispense punishment whether physical loss of freedom, financial or both in accordance with the law when the law justifies such punishment. Not put it off on the police to enforce some vague civil law, that according to them, won't fill the “general fund” coffers. What it won't do is get a serious backlash for fines sufficient to deter drunk driving should the general populace that drinks and drives realize their jeopardy.

But then how can you not justify this kind of knee-jerk, “the end justifies the means,” way of trying to deal with the lawlessness that pervades our streets? It starts out with “money.” What's next? A summary beating or multiple taserings because the suspect is disobedient and uncivil? More importantly, whose next? The homeless?

[Photo source - Brian Fairrington, Cagle Cartoons]

UPDATE :: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Here is this opening portion of the "Taser Policy" posted at Civil Liberties Monitoring Project:

When properly applied in accordance with this policy, the Taser is considered a non-deadly control device which is intended to temporarily incapacitate a violent or potentially violent individual without causing serious injury. It is anticipated that the appropriate use of such a device will result in fewer serious injuries to officers and suspects.
Notice the words emphasized: "control device" "incapacitate" WHO? "violent or POTENTIALLY violent" WHO? "suspects" -- Suspicious individuals with a "potential" for "violence." Does that include the potential for verbal violence? Or are they talking about simple non-cooperation?

Be interesting to know what the EPD guidelines are. Couldn't find them posted on the Internet.


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