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CA Public Employees' Magical Immunity to Traffic Tickets

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If you dream of never paying another traffic ticket for the rest of your life, become a government employee in California. The OC Register reports that, thanks to a long obsolete program, hundreds of thousands of drivers in California can run red lights, drive down toll lanes without paying, and park illegally—with total impunity.

Those drivers have special license plates that were introduced 30 years ago to ensure police anonymity and protection; cars bearing them are registered without any home address appearing on DMV records. They eventually became unnecessary once laws were passed making all DMV information confidential. But the plates have since become a widespread perk of government employment: hundreds of thousands of judges, district attorneys, jail guards, National Park Service rangers, city council members, city attorneys, lawmakers, and other officials who face little threat of being targeted by criminals now enjoy the privilege:

“They’ve exempted themselves from the rules they’re enforcing,” said Chad Dornsife, director of the Best Highway Safety Practices Institute. “They know it, is what’s really sick about this. This isn’t some surprise that when the camera comes out they don’t have to worry about it.”…

“It’s a courtesy, law enforcement to law enforcement,” San Francisco Police Sgt. Tom Lee said. “We let it go.”

The plates have sometimes served as a perk negotiated by unions for members:

In some cases the secret plates have been negotiated as part of a labor contract. For example, museum security officers were added as part of an employment agreement with the state’s public safety union in 2001.

Officials can pass the plates to spouses and children, keep them when they retire, and can even retain them for three years after switching  to private sector work. And government oversight is so ineffectual that protected plates have been obtained by people with no connection whatsoever to government employment. One woman with the plates was found not to be a government employee nor related to one. She committed 411 violations without penalty.

It seems that in blue California, some people are more equal than others. Our guess is that similar shenanigans are taking place in other states, red as well as blue. Journalists should be on the lookout for routine abuses of power like this. If not exposed and kept in check, the culture of entitlement behind them will grow, feeding higher level corruption.

[Image of California license plate courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • David Lobron

    On my last trip to San Francisco, I parked a little too close to a residential driveway. My car was towed, and the bill was…$600! To add insult to injury, the functionary at the city impound told me to take a number before he would talk to me, even though I was the only person there.

    This strikes me as a very short-sighted way to raise money. I, for one, don’t ever want to visit that city again or spend money there.

  • bigfire

    The public employees are simply a class above the serfs that pays their bill. Rules does not apply to them.

  • http://foobarista.blogspot.com foobarista

    I often wonder if these types of benefits could be challenged under the “no titles of nobility” clause of the Constitution. They seem to behave as noble title in that they appear to belong to persons and not offices (although they seem to be typically granted as part of offices), and are inheritable.

  • koblog

    “Journalists should be on the lookout for routine abuses of power like this.”

    Ha. Journalists ARE the coverup. They have become the Sgt Schultz of information. If it has anything to do with Democrats, “I see NOTHING” is the order of the day.

    You could say journalists are the reason this cronyism is going on. The perps are friends of journalists.

    See: NBC producing a series touting Hillary Clinton; major media scions married to Obama administrators; Clinton’s Chief of Staff hosting ABC’s This Week “exposing” Washington DC. Riiiiight.

  • mrkwong

    This has been reported on repeatedly over the past few decades, like so many unethical public-sector practices the cockroaches hide for the few hours the sunlight is on them but the light soon fades and they’re back to business as usual.

  • harkin

    Laws are for the little people…..you know the ones puling the wagon while the politicians and their cromies crack the whip.

  • Diggsc

    California has the laws and law-breakers that they deserve. Any state that is so into the Democratic Party as to make every other political party meaningless is going to go this route.

    See: Michigan. Massachusetts. Rhode Island. Washington DC. New York.

  • cubanbob

    What is the rational basis for this law? Where is the public interest in this law? How can a law have a carve-out for a contractual agreement? I wonder how many laws are out there like this and not just in California.

  • Arch

    Here’s a thought.

    California has severe revenue shortage caused in part by a bloated government payroll. If I were a resident, I would propose a referendum on this practice. Public servants should set an example and not hold themselves to standards of behavior that differ from the average citizen.

    Think of the taxes they would not need to raise.

  • jmatt55

    ST FU and get back to work! We’re trying to move the government union retirement age back down to 48 and you’re belly-aching isn’t helping!

  • Jon_Roland

    From Bouvier’s Law Dictionary (1856) entry on “nobility”:

    An order of men in several countries to whom privileges are granted at the expense of the rest of the people. 2. The constitution of the United States provides that no state shall “grant any title of nobility; and no person can become a citizen of the United States until he has renounced all titles of nobility.” The Federalist, No. 84; 2 Story, Laws U. S. 851.

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has denied persons not particularly injured from suing to enforce the Constitution on this point. Frothingham v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 447 (1923).

    The next time you suspect officials are being treated as privileged nobles, they probably are. The question is what are you going to do about it.

  • Malik Ashar Azeem

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    is very complete and very helpful the and really good posting.

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