Cycles of Debt
Debtor’s Prison Revival, Ferguson Edition
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  • Boritz

    In Texas a speeding ticket can be handled for less than $100 by completing a defensive driving class which can also be filed with the insurance company for a discount. But that is a red state hell hole that will soon turn purple then blue and then implement better policies.

    • Corlyss

      You must not be a Texan or else you live in the Austin bubble. You jes’ keep holdin’ on to that thread. /chuckle/

      • Boritz

        You sound like you’re from Rode I Land yourself. 🙂

        “If you have received a traffic ticket in Texas, then a Texas State Approved Defensive Driving Course is a great way to dismiss your traffic ticket and lose the points from your driving records.”

        http://www.dmv.org/tx-texas/ticket-dismissal.php

        • Corlyss

          Born in San Antonio, loooooong paternal line in Texas. While I’ve never gotten a traffic ticket for anything worse than speeding in a school zone, personally I use plea in abeyance. I can stay clean for at least six mos. I recommend it highly. 😉

  • lukelea

    Definitely an abuse. A distraction however from the most serious issue at the moment, which is mob justice vs. due process.

    • LivingRock

      If you rant and rave about the media, I probably won’t disagree with you. But to dismiss this point made saliently by Mr. Tabarrok and TAI as simply a distraction is to ignore the deeper context of recent events in Ferguson.

  • LivingRock

    This is a good litmus for those who claim to be Libertarian. It surprising how many people dismiss this point.

  • Corlyss

    I don’t suppose staying out of the justice systems ever occurred to any of the alleged victims of this “injustice.” It’s not rocket science. According to other more timely and less fraught reports (“Ferguson! Ferguson!”), most of the crimes these morons are getting hauled into court over are low level stuff like repeated marijuana violations, or parole violations, or shoplifting, or public drunkenness, or in this case speeding and driving on expired or suspended licenses. ALL of those involve casual willful indifference to responsibilities, scofflaw-ism if there’s such a word. Regrettably I don’t think their plights are worthy of pity, only contempt. Instead of cleaning up their own acts, they come whining to the legislatures for relief from prejudicial if not “racist” laws. I have a better idea! Why not avoid the behaviors????

  • Andrew Allison

    Whilst there can be no question that the situation described is outrageous, missing from the commentary is the fact that in many States, no attorney is required to avoid points. In CA, an online course can be had for $20 including forwarding of the completion certificate to the DMV. Needless to say, the payment of court fees can be avoided by not breaking the law: if you can’t pay the fine, don’t do the crime.

    • dan

      You miss the point. If everyone is guilty of some misdemeanor/crime, because the web of regulation/law is so broad, then you may not be able to avoid the crime. And do you know the rules and regulations to which you MAY be subject? Have you read all the regulations at the local, county, state, and federal levels (and water district, sewer district, etc. levels) that MIGHT pertain to you, your pets, your house, your car, your boat, whatever? And if you travel, what about the rules of those other jurisdictions? And then, of course, the police can always charge you with driving ‘dangerously’ . . . and it’s their word against yours.

      • Andrew Allison

        As I wrote, the situation in the three cities studied in the report is outrageous. However, three cities do not justify the conclusion that “. . . a combination of coercion and systematic injustice is bringing the functional equivalent of debtor’s prisons back in America. That said, does anybody with a driving license not know that moving violations can result in a ticket and that non-payment of fines and court costs results in additional costs and possibly jail?? That if the city tells you that trash service is mandatory you need to sign up or pay the price?

      • Corlyss

        While I take what I assume to be your point, I.e., that there are a lot of obsolete and/or silly picayuney laws that ought to be taken off the books, some have not lost there social worth, and it’s completely backassward to say “this law nails too many blacks and Latinos, therefore it is inherently prejudicial and therefore has no social value and should be repealed.” If the premise is to hold, it would require us to get rid of murder and robbery laws because those ethnic groups disproportionately commit those crimes. That way lies rump of skunk and madness and a reversion to the true Law of the Jungle

        • dan

          Corlyss: Where did you get your quotation? No one here is saying anything about “inherently prejudicial.” The debate is about there being too many laws/regulations so that the police / prosecutor can use their “discretion” to get anyone.

          • Corlyss

            From the lingo of “disparate impact” claims, not from something anyone here has said.

          • Andrew Allison

            Sorry, but the debate is not about the red herring which you introduced, but about willful violations of everyday laws and the failure to pay fines and court costs. These are not

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    Big Government is Evil.

  • Thom Burnett

    I think there are two separate government bads in this situation.
    1. The constant small fines that come from living in an over regulated city. I don’t know anyone in my home city who doesn’t get a few fines per year – parking, garbage pickup, driving tickets, etc. The most concientious citizen makes an occasional mistake or misread of the rules.
    This comes partly from bureaucratic control eagerness and largely from the government reliance on the money – without taxes or other political costs.
    2. The other problem is that once people with low resources fall behind in these situations it gets worse and worse for them. Making it very hard to clear themselves. Some, quite reasonably, decide it’s not worth the effort. Better to be a ward of the state. When I get an annoying ticket, I can write the check and forget about it. Someone with kids and little income finds these fines much more difficult.

    The first part of the solution should be to outlaw the reliance of local government on fines, asset seizures, etc. If you must fine someone to prevent anti-social behaviour, at least make sure that the one doing the fining doesn’t benefit from it.
    The second part of the solution might be to put some limit on the consequences or how far in to debt people can get. $30 dollar fines should not get to double and redouble every 10 days (the law in my home city). And no amount of debt should ever lead to imprisonment.

    • Corlyss

      “The first part of the solution should be to outlaw the reliance of local government on fines, asset seizures,”

      How would you enforce such a thing? How could you tell?

      “The second part of the solution might be to put some limit on the consequences or how far in to debt people can get.”
      I favor some kind of flexibility to negotiate repayments which would freeze the amount owed at the amount the debtor owed when he first approached the city, assuming that he/she doesn’t get any more fines for similar offenses. IRS does that routinely. But it would have to be enacted by legislation. Common sense flexibility should prevail. The problem with that solution is that 99% of the time people caught in these traps are of subnormal or marginal intelligence, poorly educated, have poor impulse control, poor work skills, and lousy judgment. You can almost predict who will end up permanent guests of the system. It’s likely that is why they can’t avoid the behaviors, no matter how simple that solution is.

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