Don’t Trust, But Do Verify

Jon Rowe

Jon Rowe is a full Professor of Business at Mercer County Community College, where he teaches business, law, and legal issues relating to politics. Of course, his views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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59 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    The average Joe can’t understand the arcane and labyrinth procedures of private bureaucracies like banks, credit card companies, or even ITunes. A lot of libertarians seem to have no problem with this and the accompanying screwing that occasionally occurs because a person did not read all the little fine print. They will usually say caveat emptor and that it was the customers own fault for not reading and mastering all the fine print. I’m really not sure why getting screwed by a private bureaucracy is any better than a public bureaucracy, they might not be able to imprison you but they can deal out an immense amount of damage. Why shouldn’t what you write about public bureaucracy also apply to private ones like Citibank or American Express?Report

    • Jon Rowe in reply to LeeEsq says:

      So here’s a Saul Alinsky inspired idea Lee, that social justice types of the liberal, libertarian, independent, and even conservatives might be able to get behind.

      Like “Creative Commons” for folks who want to fight fine print private bureaucracies. The UCC has a rule relating to “battle of the forms” because when dealing with “business to business” contracts both businesses often have forms. The little guy never has his or her own forms.

      Why don’t we create an open source movement of “forms” with our own fine print. We can use their self addressed stamped envelopes but mail in our own fine printed forms.

      One big problem with this idea that came to me probably around 5 years ago is the world of papered forms is becoming increasingly obsolete and replaced with one click contracts.

      But still when you have to meet face-2-face and physically sign something (there’s still a great deal of this) we can come armed with our own “forms.”Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Because American Express can’t arrest you and beat you up a little bit when the cameras are off for giving the cops a little attitude and then throw your ass in a jail cell when you miss a payment.

      Until they sue you for breach of contract and get a process server who does the sewer service trick and Amex takes your default and then sits on the judgment for 10.01 years and then O-Raps you and sewer services that summons too and then applies for a body attachment order because you ducked your O-Rap, and then “discovers” your real address and sends that information to the actual police who proceed to send a couple of deputies out to your house and arrest you and beat you up a little bit when the cameras are off because you gave the cops a little attitude and then the cops, not American Express, wind up throwing your ass in jail at 6:15 p.m. on a Friday evening before a Monday holiday for an unpaid credit card bill from 2004 so your spouse can’t post bail until Tuesday morning.

      Now, bear in mind that I’m not saying that I heard that story from a person seeking my legal services. Just last week. If I were to say that, it would potentially violate the attorney-client privilege of the person who told me that story who I’m being careful not to name or identify in any discernable way here. And If I were to say that, I’d of course caveat it with the standard “there might be more to the story than this portion,” and after all let’s not forget that this bill did go unpaid for eleven years without so much as a bankruptcy filing to discharge the liability (assuming, of course, that this was a story I’d actually heard from an actual person, which is an assumption you should most definitely not be making).

      So, just treat it as a hypothetical. And that’s why it’s okay for a private company like American Express to handle your consequence-laden issues with a falliable bureaucracy staffed by falliable human beings, but it’s not okay for a governmental entity to handle your consequence-laden issues with a falliable bureaucracy staffed by falliable human beings — because the government screws up everything it touches. Everyone knows that.Report

      • Jon Rowe in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Again: Modern day versions of debtors’ prison = not kosher. But still not as bad as what government can do.

        For example, in PA civil creditors can’t garnish your wages. But the tax man (and the family law man) still can.

        Bankruptcy dissolves civil creditor (contractual) debt. But what about government debt?Report

        • Burt Likko in reply to Jon Rowe says:

          Right. Can’t discharge tax liability, etc. owed to the government. This poor sod in my purely hypothetical scenario could and should have filed bankruptcy if (s)he really was unable to either pay the Amex bill or work out a repayment schedule.

          If only (s)he had been sophisticated enough to know those were options.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

        This was the point that I was trying to make. Private bureaucracies are capable of screwing people just as badly as government if they want to and they often do. Health insurance companies have or at least used to have even more life or death power of people by being able to deny insurance because of pre-existing conditions or deny treatment. A lot of libertarians seem to be in a state of denial about thins or assume that things would be less bad with less government because the market.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

          “Private bureaucracies are capable of screwing people just as badly as government if they want to and they often do. ”

          Let me know of the first private bureaucracy that opens up an extrajudicial detention center on Cuba before we start talking about equivalence. Or even the first one that shoots at you for not having a front license plate.Report

          • John Howard Griffin in reply to Kolohe says:

            Too late. From my link below:

            “A horrific example of this happened in South Carolina in 1995. Ricky Coleman, an unlicensed and untrained Best Buy security guard with a violent criminal record, choked a fraud suspect to death while another security guard held him down.”Report

            • Kolohe in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

              To steal someone else’s phrase from another site, complaining about private police and private prisons is the ‘defund NPR’ cry of the left. Sure, they’re not particularly good ideas, but they’re a tiny portion of what is actually oppressing people in The System.

              (yeah, you’re link says ‘outnumbered 5-1’. most of those are just people in a Securitas uniform manning a desk – or in a chair – and are armed with nothing more than a radio)Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

              Did the security guard union begin an aggressive PR campaign to defend the guards? Do the guards have a special “Security Guards Bill of Rights” that grants them all sorts of special considerations? Do judges generally treat Security Guard testimony as nearly unimpeachable?

              Or did that guard go straight to trial & jail?Report

              • John Howard Griffin in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Oooh, I like this. This is fun. Can I try, Mr. Gordon?

                Did the corporation begin an aggressive PR campaign to defend itself? Does the corporation have a special “Corporations are People set of Rights” that grants them all sorts of special considerations that normal, regular human people don’t have? Do judges generally treat corporate testimony as nearly unimpeachable?

                Or did that corporation go straight to trial & jail?

                How many corporations are on death row, or life in prison? I keep forgetting.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                Sorry John, that falls flat. You started with the suggestion of a security guard as an agent of the corporation. I countered with the comparison of a police officer as an agent of the government.

                You return with a corporation as a person? Nope, sorry, doesn’t work. Now a corporation re: a government entity, being able to wiggle out from any kind of responsibility because of favoritism and cronyism, that would work better.Report

              • John Howard Griffin in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Corporations are People.

                I heard that somewhere.

                Same comparison. The blade cuts both ways. You can not like it, but it is more correct than you want to admit.

                I get it. You think (police) unions are worse than Hitler. I think corporations are just as bad as what you think about unions.

                Let’s just leave this here, ok? Or, I’ll just leave this here. You can have the last word. This disagreement is going nowhere fast.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                I think the line should be “Corporations are People, too!!!” accompanied by a vootshtomp, followed immediately by a wipe of the nose, a dabbing of the eye, and an under-the-breath grumbling about why there’s so much hate in the world.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

                Actually I don’t think that about unions or corporations, but you go right ahead imagining all sorts of stuff your Oscar shaped strawman thinks.

                If a guard can commit violence in the course of his duties and implicate his employer, then the same stands for police & governments. But only one of those two will be many times more likely to suffer significant consequences.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Kolohe says:

            The private juvenile detention center in Pennsylvania that paid two juvenile judges so they could get state money?Report

            • Kolohe in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Who did the state judges work for, again? It’s on the tip of my tongue, but I can’t seem to place it.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to Kolohe says:

                Seems like they worked for a couple of private kid’s prisons, in this case.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Alan Scott says:

                Yes, this. Public officials that accept bribes and other forms of corruption from private individuals or corporations to do the bidding of that corporation while abusing their authority as government employees is not an argument against government.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Nobody says it’s an argument against government. It’s an argument that government is the greater threat to liberty and thus needs tighter monitors & controls.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


                I would agree.

                The thing is, had Jon not sought to exploit a rarely used provision in the law — had he gone to court to deal with his summons like most other people — he’d have had a much better go of it. Honestly, I can’t think of a system of monitors and controls that ensures that cop properly filed that form that isn’t its own clusterfuck. But the court system leaves a much thicker paper trail and ought to be the preferred — if not only — option for resolving such matters. Or something more than talking over the phone, at least.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’m sorry. That seems to unfairly blame Jon for him availing himself of a viable option. What I meant is that tighter monitoring and controls would probably have meant he would have had to appear. Which maybe he would have been okay with if he knew that from the get go.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

                The actual preferable thing would be to have the police funded well enough that they could actually spend the time and effort *contacting* people before sending charges to the DA.

                The ideal situation is not Jon having to prove his innocence in court, because charging someone with a crime and forcing them to appear in court *cannot* possibly be the most efficient way of, essentially, getting someone’s alibi.

                Which also, I must point out, leaves the *actual* villains long enough to cover their tracks and totally disappear. It’s an interesting question if the people who *actually* committed the crime of abandoning a vehicle are going to be punished for it.

                In a way, the problem is literally the opposite of what Jon seems to think it is. The problem isn’t too big a bureaucracy or too complicated one, the problem is that the ‘traffic’ police seem to operate by looking up owners of towed cars in online databases and charging them with crimes without any investigation done at all, probably because it’s literally one guy at a computer.

                That’s some good police work, Lou. Nice work typing in that VIN in the query and pasting the result into an email to the ADA.

                Uh, no. Seriously, no.

                Which *also* would solve, to some extent, the problem of people who unknowingly gets warrants out for their arrest by missing court dates they never knew about, because the legal system has decided that *a letter* is the correct way to communicate in 2015.

                And it would also solve the absurdity that if your car gets towed you get a *letter* telling you that. So…several days then before you know where it is? At a car lot that charges per day? That seems reasonable.

                Hell, with actual funding, the police could call people *before* their car was towed. ‘Your car has been sitting on the side of the road for 36 hours. In 12 hours, if it’s still there, we’re towing it, *and* it’s a $500 fine on top of that. Move your damn car.’

                This is, perhaps, postulating a hypothetical universe where the job of the police is to keep the peace, instead of making as much money as possible from things that make money, direct any money they aren’t allowed to get to private businesses like towing companies, and generally please the wealthy citizens. And do everything else in as trivial and perfunctory manner as possible.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to DavidTC says:

                Do you honrestly think this is an issue of inadequate funding? Or is it more likely skewed enforcement & budget priorities?

                I mean how much does Trenton spend on misdemeanor drug enforcement, or buying or maintaining military hardware?Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Offhand, how often is a vehicle found wherein the registered owner is not, in fact, the current owner?

                This seems a rather edge case, does it not? The car was not listed as stolen. There was a registered owner. Should we have complicated procedures and spend the time dealing with it when simply issuing the ticket (with the attached summons that apparently he still thinks as jail time over an abandoned car, rather than ‘show up at court or we’ll make you’ which is sorta kinda required) and then letting the former owner simply show up with a “This is no longer my car, I sold it X months ago” explanation?

                How often does that really happen? A sold car remaining registered to it’s previous owner and then ending up involved in some misdemeanor or crime?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

                It’s happened to enough people on this site that it’s something that there should be a process for.

                (And one I think there is a process for elsewhere. Formally or informally. This notion that it logically must be a pain in the ass doesn’t seem to be the case.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Morat20 says:

                Found this from 1999 (didn’t look very hard though for current statistics).

                I guess if I wanted to commit a crime involving a car that I did not want traced back to me, an anonymous private purchase would be a way to do it.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

                A sold car remaining registered to it’s previous owner and then ending up involved in some misdemeanor or crime?

                As others have pointed out, doing that actually *is* a good way to get your car used in a crime, which is why so many people leaped in in the original discussion and said ‘Man, I’d never sell my car like that on the side of the road without making sure the government knew’, presumably because we had someone who taught us that paranoid lesson.

                However, in this case…it actually wasn’t used in some other crime, it was just abandoned, presumably after a mechanic looked at it and said ‘Nope’. But, anyway, this car was abandoned with, and this is actually the fact that should make the police look twice, fake plates. (Here’s a fun paranoid question: Was it *intended* to be used in another crime, but then couldn’t be made to work?)

                There are basically two forms of abandoning a car. 1) it breaks, and people leave it where it’s broken long enough to have it towed, and 2) someone is deliberately attempting to dispose of a car that way.

                And these circumstances of ‘fake plate’ point to a professional #2. In fact, Jersey law *specifically* has the special rules about abandoning cars with no or fake plates (They can be towed immediately, not after 48 hours), so this appears to be the sort of thing the government is actually aware of.

                And, when the police were *told* this is what had happened, they went ‘Alright’ and agreed the case should go away! This happens enough that the police just sorta shrug and say ‘Fax us the bill of sale (that you could have easily forged) and we’ll believe you’.

                So it really does seem to be the sort of thing they should check with two minutes of a phone call before passing it up to the DA. I understand *why* that doesn’t happen in the system we probably have now, but it *should*.

                (In fact, as I’ve argued, if the job of the police was to ‘maintain the peace’, they’d be calling up *everyone* with an abandoned car, before it was towed, and saying ‘Come get your damn car off the side of the road or send a tow truck, or we’ll have it towed at your expense’. But the job of the police there is to funnel profits to tow companies.)Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Do you honrestly think this is an issue of inadequate funding? Or is it more likely skewed enforcement & budget priorities?

                I’m not sure how those things differ, or what you’re trying to compare.

                What I am saying is that I suspect the *traffic people* have no budget to do anything more than issue citations. They drive around all day giving ticket, and, look, this abandoned car has fake plates, so order it towed, and later, once a week during ‘paperwork duty’, they type in the VIN and look up the owner that way and pass that name up the chain to the prosecutors.

                I’m actually a little baffled that no one seems to have looked at this from the *police* POV, to try to figure out how the system must actually work, which seems a rather important thing to do if you’re arguing the system is broken and needs to be fixed.

                Whether this lack of dedication to bothering to do any actual police work is the fault of the police or someone else is unknowable from this position.

                I mean how much does Trenton spend on misdemeanor drug enforcement

                Which they get all sorts of Federal funds for, *and* probably all sorts of goodies from civil fortitude.

                or buying or maintaining military hardware?

                I was under the impression that was being sold to localities almost for free.

                You want to imply that the Fed are at fault here for seriously warping police priorities, I won’t argue with you in the least. You want to argue that this is instead mainly the fault of the Trenton police department, I also will not argue with you. I have no idea.

                My premise is simply ‘the priority of the police is screwed up’. And it’s not just traffic…the police often do *completely slapdash* jobs on all sorts of smaller crimes. The big stuff like homicide, sure, the police will *actually* try to track down the actual criminal, if only because the DA doesn’t want a loss. The little things…just, whatever. That guy has his name on it, let’s grab him.Report

      • John Howard Griffin in reply to Burt Likko says:

        Because American Express can’t arrest you and beat you up a little bit when the cameras are off for giving the cops a little attitude and then throw your ass in a jail cell when you miss a payment.

        Nope. Not even a little bit correct.

        In Raleigh, N.C., employees of Capitol Special Police patrol apartment buildings, a bowling alley and nightclubs, stopping suspicious people, searching their cars and making arrests.

        Sounds like a good thing, but Capitol Special Police isn’t a police force at all — it’s a for-profit security company hired by private property owners.

        This isn’t unique. Private security guards outnumber real police more than 5-1, and increasingly act like them.


        Sometimes they operate as ordinary citizens and can only make citizen’s arrests, but in more and more states they’re being granted official police powers.


        Most obviously, there’s the problem of agenda. Public police forces are charged with protecting the citizens of the cities and towns over which they have jurisdiction.


        Private police officers are different. They don’t work for us; they work for corporations. They’re focused on the priorities of their employers or the companies that hire them. They’re less concerned with due process, public safety and civil rights.

        Also, many of the laws that protect us from police abuse do not apply to the private sector. Constitutional safeguards that regulate police conduct, interrogation and evidence collection do not apply to private individuals. Information that is illegal for the government to collect about you can be collected by commercial data brokers, then purchased by the police.


        For example, a federal law known as Section 1983 allows you to sue for civil rights violations by the police but not by private citizens. The Freedom of Information Act allows us to learn what government law enforcement is doing, but the law doesn’t apply to private individuals and companies. In fact, most of your civil right protections apply only to real police.


        • Kim in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

          And god forbid anyone start citing The Consumerist, which Delights in explaining exactly why you should never go anywhere with store security. In detail. Repeatedly.Report

        • I wanted to actually get to my day job but I saw this and I’m horrified.

          My thought was that to the extent a private security force is deputized to exercise police powers it is a police force and is subject to civil rights lawsuit. I confess I don’t know if that’s right.

          To the extent they’re not, they’re subject to tort claims for A&B. Granted that it’s unlikely to get a prosecutor to file criminal charges against them, but there’s no (formal) bar to private suit. And there are attorneys who like going after private security companies.

          None of which makes it even remotely right to be rousted by thugs in corporate uniforms.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

            The best way to limit the harm done by private security guards is to sue their employers repeatedly under the doctrine of Respondent Superior.Report

            • Richard Hershberger in reply to LeeEsq says:

              the doctrine of Respondent Superior

              God bless auto-correct!Report

              • John Howard Griffin in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

                Amo, Amas, I love a lass
                As a cedar tall and slender;
                Sweet cowslip’s grace is her nominative case,
                And she’s of the feminine gender.

                Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
                Harum, Scarum divo;
                Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
                Hic hoc horum genitivo.

                Can I decline a Nymph divine?
                Her voice as a flute is dulcis.
                Her oculus bright, her manus white,
                And soft, when I tacto, her pulse is.

                Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
                Harum, Scarum divo;
                Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
                Hic hoc horum genitivo.

                Oh, how bella my puella,
                I’ll kiss secula seculorum.
                If I’ve luck, sir, she’s my uxor,
                O dies benedictorum.

                Rorum, Corum, sunt divorum,
                Harum, Scarum divo;
                Tag-rag, merry-derry, periwig and hat-band
                Hic hoc horum genitivo.

                (Some Latin is never lost. Don’t know why that is.)Report

              • Seriously, JHG, when are we getting a guest post out of you?Report

              • John Howard Griffin in reply to Burt Likko says:

                Well, I sort of did one with Will Truman here.

                I also sort of did one with Jaybird here.

                In a general sort of way, I have a tendency to suck up all the oxygen in threads. Like your “Questions From The Headlines” post.

                And, many moons ago, I tried writing a post (about equality, particularly racial, and what to do about it) with Jaybird, James Hanley and Murali (in email). But, I never posted it. I didn’t think it would have really done anything. We (the royal “we”) would have gone on the merry go round together, and agreed on problems, but solutions would be forever beyond our grasp, or on our agreement of what to grasp.

                It’s nice of you to say, and I thank you for thinking and writing it, yet I think it is best to have JHG in small doses.

                Memento, sola dosis facit venenum. 😉Report

  2. Jon Rowe says:

    It’s the idea that government has a monopoly on force and can jail you. That’s a distinction with a difference. It doesn’t make private bureaucratic gobbledygook okay. Just less bad than government.

    Likewise I can always choose to “opt out” of a private service. We can’t “opt out” of government.

    But yes, those banks especially; they are snakes.Report

    • Kim in reply to Jon Rowe says:

      It’s when the government doesn’t have a monopoly on force that’s the problem.
      We have how many guns in this country? How many of them are hired guns?Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jon Rowe says:

      Private bureaucracy may not be able to jail you but they can make your life really miserable by ruining you economically or screwing you in some way. Before the ACA, health insurance companies had near life and death power over people that was used just as arbitrarily as any government bureaucracy. The opt argument is a cop out one. It might be theoretically possible to buy a house without a loan or live without a credit card but in practicality it is impossible unless you want to live a very un-modern life. This makes private bureaucracy gobbledygook just as bad as public ones.

      I also think your misunderstanding why a lot of bureaucratic gobbledygook exists. The usual purpose isn’t to make things more complicated for their own sake. It is that creating simple and easy to fill out forms creates more problems because people do not disclose all necessary information or fill out the forms incorrectly. You need to nitpick to get all the necessary information from the person filling out the form.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The gobbledygook might be necessary, but when it isn’t coordinated between agencies, that is a problem, especially if the end result of that failure to coordinate is an innocent person gets arrested & jailed, or worse.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jon Rowe says:

      Both sides do it, Jon.

      This makes it okay, I think. Or, at least, it makes it so you shouldn’t complain? I’m unsure what pointing this out is supposed to demonstrate.

      Oh, maybe it’s this: what you are complaining about is endemic to the system. Therefore it’s like complaining about human nature.Report

      • John Howard Griffin in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jaybird. I get the short end of the stick, on both ends of the stick. And, I complain about both ends.

        Please, complain about the government. Please.

        Occasionally, someone might say, during that discussion: “It isn’t just the government. Corporations can be bad too.”

        Do NOT immediately jump on that person and say what they are worried about does not exist, or that they shouldn’t bring it up because corporations can’t do violence. Corporations can do violence even better than the government, just differently. It’s more subtle, because it has to be.

        You’re (most of y’all) being dismissive here, not inclusive. From my perspective, I’m just trying to be inclusive in these discussions.

        Government AND …


        Government OR …

        You, and many of the other commenters, are better than this. I expect better. Me included.Report

  3. Richard Hershberger says:

    The truth is specific answers turn on the specific sets of rules in place in each bureaucracy.

    In this age of the Internet, it’s easier to find them. But your average Joe still might not be able to learn and understand them (I consider myself way ahead of the learning curve in being able to find information through search engines and understand complex topics).

    Ah, but can you tell which are the real rules and which are not? I see this all the time with deadlines in the rules of court. Complain that someone answered interrogatories a day late and people will point at you and laugh. Complain that someone was a day late in noting an appeal and you just won yourself a case. This is perfectly obvious to anyone in the business, but you wouldn’t know it from merely reading the rules.

    Furthermore, some marginal cases aren’t so obvious. Some firm, which might or might not be one I worked for, was late in propounding interrogatories. The other side refused to answer them on these grounds. Nobody at the firm, possibly including me if I in fact worked there, had actually known that the rules give a surprisingly short timeframe for propounding them. Someone at the firm, possibly me, wrote a motion laying out the sob story and throwing around “unduly prejudiced” and sent it in. The other side responded with “rules is rules” and sent that in. The order came back that they had to answer them. So now we know that this is a fake rule, at least some of the time with some judges. Good to know. I suspect that the other attorney already knew this. He was quite apologetic about the initial objection, telling us that the client insurance company insisted.

    I have a friend who does criminal defense work. She got a client who was in the clink for a DUI. Worst case scenario would be that she can get him out in under 48 hours, and usually less. But some family member also knows a guy who works in a downtown white shoe firm, and brings him in. He naturally didn’t know squat about handling DUIs, so he read the rules and then lectured my friend about the proper procedures to use, tossing in a mention of a judge who belongs to the same country club. The upshot is that the client was in jail for a couple of weeks. I expect that the white shoe guy actually did know the formal rules better, having just read them. But he didn’t know the actual rules, which is what you actually pay a lawyer for. We assume the white shoe guy billed his hours at a handsome rate.Report

  4. In addition to “don’t trust, but do verify,” I’d say, “get names, times, and dates of who you spoke to.” That won’t always or even usually help, but it doesn’t hurt.

    Also, and not directly relevant to this post, I just can’t get the image out of my head of someone, apparently happy, singing “Barbara Anne” and not hurting anybody, being slammed to the ground by a thug. It bothers me more in retrospect than it did when I first watched.Report

  5. Kazzy says:

    I agree that people should not go to jail for minor clerical mistakes.

    Would you agree that we should not entirely dismantle the state because of them?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kazzy says:

      I’m not exactly sure Jon has committed himself to providing a different answer regarding the two issues. It could be that he’s not interested in dismantling the state as much as dismantling this part of the state or somesuch. What usually trips folks up about libertarians – speaking subjectively here as a person who was (and prolly often still is) routinely tripped up by this – is that the libertarian approach to state-stuff is that the burden is on the state to justify its actions and that that justification must go beyond the mere appeal to electorally-based decision-making (or convention or whatever). From their pov (and I agree with them about this!) it could be that the majority of people have it wrong. And that may be the case in this issue.

      It reminds me of an old Steve Martin joke about the death penalty for parking tickets.Report

  6. DavidTC says:

    Someone at the court, apparently, dropped the ball or didn’t understand “the system.”

    Or the wheels move slowly very, and you ended up getting a notification you were scheduled in court even *after* paperwork was filed.

    Hell, it’s entirely possible that ‘charges are dropped’ doesn’t result in ‘case going away’ unless *someone asks* the court about it, that what would have happened is the case actually starts, and the judge looks at the piece of paper in front of him, announce the charges were dropped, and gavels out.

    Yes, this would be an incredibly stupid system and wasteful. It is, however, par for the course. Blame underfunded courts.

    So I am waiting for confirmation that the charges are dropped and will again contact the parties to get absolute assurances that I don’t need to show up to court.

    Yes. You must get this some sort of official notice. The courts do not magically know what police officers have promised you.

    I understand mistakes being made and balls being dropped. After all, I’m not perfect.

    You don’t seem to understand it was not failure to follow rules that happened to you. There *were* things that would have made the police perhaps not suspect *you* of the crime, but that doesn’t mean anything you did was not allowed. What you did was *fine*. (Well, you *are* supposed to turn the license plate in, but that would not have helped you much if there hadn’t been a new owner on record.)

    If I sell someone my cell phone, and two weeks later it’s found at the scene of a murder, and the person who bought it didn’t get a cell plan yet in their name, the police will look at the IMEI and track it to me and are going to assume it was still *my* phone and I will be a suspect. This is not because there’s some complicated law about transferring cell phones, it’s because, in trying to track down criminals, sometime the police end up looking at the wrong person.

    In the case of a car *sale* there actually *are* ways to make sure the government doesn’t do that, but failure to follow them isn’t some crime and isn’t something you *have* to do. (Although a lot of people were amazed at your sheer *outrage* that government would assume that you, the person who literally filed a piece of paper with the government telling them you owned a specific car, owned that specific car.)

    Because you didn’t do those things, the police pointed their suspicions at you. The only difference is that, here, because a) you were in an entirely different state, and b) this was a rather trivial crime, the police just *charged* you to make you show up in court, instead of questioning you.

    Now, *perhaps* you think they should have called you first, and, you know what, I’ll *agree* with that. They probably should at least *speak* to someone before charging them with a crime. I’m on board with that. It would *also* cut down on random warrants also.

    And the actual conclusion from that: The police are underfunded, or possibly just lazy.

    There’s no conclusion that actually leads to ‘There are too many laws’ or ‘the Bureaucracy is too big’, because that was not, in any manner, the actual problem you faced. The ‘problem’ you faced was ‘Police didn’t bother really investigating this, just looked up the car owner online, so end up filing charges that would have been trivially disprovable at trial, although you managed to disprove them in advance of the trial via some phone calls and faxes.’

    But it’s not kosher when these mistake can lead to jail.

    Dude, seriously, stop saying that. You are in no danger of going to jail. You’re ‘in danger’ of having to make a stupid-ass court appearance in another state for no reason, and, if things go *horrifically* wrong and you’re found guilty (which seems really unlikely), you could lose your your driver’s license, absolute worst case scenario.

    People would take all of this a bit more seriously if you’d stop your ‘I might end up in prison’ silliness. That is not a possible punishment for abandoning a car in New Jersey, as far as I can tell.

    You want to complain about the *hypothetical* universe where you didn’t get this notice, and then you end up with a warrant out for you, and then end up arrested, go ahead and do that, but stop posing it as something that *can* happen at this point, instead of something that *could have* happened if you didn’t get the notice you *did* get.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    @jon-rowe, @kolohe and others looking for an instance of private bureaucracy screwing people over in ways worse than a public one. Here is a little story of a private bureaucracy using trickery to steal the settlements from victims of lead poisoning. The victims of lead poisoning suffer from very big cognitive disabilities.