July 13, 2012

Click it or ticket or stop resisting motherfucker bang bang oops

Yes, people should wear seatbelts, but do we really need yet another pretext for police to stop and "investigate" motorists? Jacob Sullum on "primary enforcement" of seatbelt laws:

[P]rimary enforcement of seat belt laws provide[s] an excuse for stopping anyone at any time, especially since the cop can always claim you buckled your belt only after you saw him. And once you've been pulled over, there are further opportunities for harassment investigation, such as vehicle searches based on an odor the officer claims to have smelled, a drug dog's alleged "signal," or your "consent" to a "request" from an armed agent of the state who has the power to deprive you of your freedom. A search might not even be necessary if the cop claims to have seen something suspicious "in plain sight."

Assuming you're not carrying anything that justifies detaining you further, in some states, including Texas, you can be arrested (and maybe, if you're lucky, strip-searched!) simply for driving with your seat belt unbuckled—a violation that rests entirely on an officer's word. In Arizona, you can be detained based on suspicion that you are in the country illegally, an authority that is apt to disproportionately affect people with dark skin and foreign accents (which is why the Supreme Court, in rejecting a Supremacy Clause challenge to this provision, left open the possibility of a challenge based on the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause). Elsewhere police might decide to confiscate your cash, jewelry, or car based on a hunch that it is connected to drug dealing in some way—a hunch you then have to disprove through a process that probably will cost more than the property is worth.

Posted by Dr. Frank at July 13, 2012 03:26 PM