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A Nation of Fibbers

I got a ticket in Indianapolis recently. I was driving on a 10-lane highway at 7:30 am on a Saturday, going 72 mph. Much to my chagrin, I found out the hard way that the speed limit was 55. 55! Let's be honest, it would have been insane to drive 55 mph. People would have been passing me left and right. Nevertheless, I received a ticket. We all know that cities use traffic tickets less to protect public safety than to financially support their police departments. But when I called an Indianapolis lawyer (I live in St. Louis, Missouri), he informed me that since I was only 17 miles over the speed limit, I could take advantage of something called a 'diversion'. A 'diversion' allows you to pay an extra $60 on top of the ticket price, promise that you won't get a ticket in that county in the next 6 months, and not be charged with the offense. No points on your license, etc. As a person who can come up with $226 fairly easily, I was relieved. But about 10 minutes later, I got really, really mad. Why?

We've become a nation of fibbers. Cities, police departments and (middle and upper-class) citizens are all playing a shell-game and winking at each other. You'll pretend this has something to do with public safety if I just shut up and cough up the money. But this 'diversion' option, as convenient as it is for me, is only further proof that going 72 miles an hour on a 10-lane highway is a totally safe and reasonable thing to do. No one is actually worried about me having a license or having too low of an insurance rate. Instead of finding some legitimate way to fund our police departments, we're charging people with trumped-up 'crimes' so that we can fine them indiscriminately.

But the situation is far more dire for poorer citizens who can't afford to pay these tickets. Check out the great work of Missouri treasurer Eric Schmitt on these matters. But don't pretend this is the rule of law. And remember that every time we violate the nature of the law in this way, we set up innocent citizens for abuse. Truth matters.

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