26 January 2006

Trading my civil rights for a used Protege

Let me start this off by saying that the used Protege in question used to belong to Brett and Cate and that I am very grateful to have her and she's a reliable, spunky (at least when she doesn't need a new fuel pump the way she does now), great little commuter car. And cute as the Dickens. But my civil rights are actually pretty neat, too, and what with the way things are going these days, possibly collector's items.

* * * * *

We had a burglary in the building where I work (by which I mean "The act of entering a building or other premises with the intent to commit theft" not "marrying two wives at a time"). We also had the actual theft as the perp entered an unlocked office suite (not ours), grabbed an unguarded purse, and absconded. Chase was given and the purse and its contents (minus some cash) were recovered and the perp is apparently wandering around Montgomery County looking for more unlocked doors and, possibly, slower citizens.

So because of all of this, a nice officer from the Montgomery County police stopped by to talk to us about building safety and the like. She brought pamphlets and fun green paper clip holders with the non-emergency number for the police printed on them. We learned that the Silver Spring association has after hours escorts (The kind that walk you to your car if you work late! Geez. You people.), which is good to know. We also learned useful safety tips.

But what really caught my attention was one of the pamphlets that the officer brought: It seems that the State of Maryland has a program where they will give you a pretty sticker to put in the back window of your car that allows the cops to pull you over without probable cause. Yep, let me repeat that: a pretty sticker to put in the back window of your car that allows the cops to pull you over without probable cause. They call it a "waiver of probable cause," in fact.

It seems that most car thefts occur between 1:00 and 5:00 am, so this, in theory, gives the police a jump on recovering your vehicle since most vehicle thefts are reported around 6:00 or 7:00 am, hours later. I think the sticker would only suspend your civil rights during the prime car-theft hours, but I'm not positive.

So, anyway, the officer herself pointed out that if one is driving around minding one's own business in the middle of the night (say, after a cast party) with that sticker and gets pulled over by MoCo's finest, then the officers in question are now free to look around for open liquor bottles and ask if one has been drinking, etc, etc. And, one would presume, to run the plates and one's license, etc, etc. Her fellow officers have pointed out to her that since they started doing this that they are catching many more inebriated citizens, which is good, but she still thinks we should be all clued up before we go sticking any stickers in any windows.

And I'm sitting there thinking that perhaps this sticker thing wasn't a bad idea. Heck, I'm a law abiding citizen - I have nothing to fear from random traffic stops. Hmmmm. And then I considered two things: 1. I don't drive a BMW or a Camry or a Prius - I drive a 6-year-old Mazda; and 2. I like my civil rights.

Which means that I did not opt for what's behind door number 3.

Although it does occur to me that if I were a parent of a teenager I'd be putting that sticker in the back window of said teenagers car in a New York second. Because these fictional teenagers of mine can have civil rights when they are all grown up and paying their own rent. And car insurance. Luckily, I don't have any teenagers, so that particular bit of hypocrisy can go unexercised.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


Maureen said...

Any fine print on that sticker or its accompanying brochure? I'd be very interested to see how it's being sold to the public. It would also be interesting to know how many folks are putting these on their cars (with parents of teenagers as a separate category).

Anonymous said...

Hey Leta,
Lori here. Our Volvo has had that sticker for a few years now & has not been pulled over the few times one of us has been out really late.
I was debating putting a sticker on our 2nd car, the mini-van I drive, but after reading your blog, I've decided against it.
But once Emma starts driving in 7 years, you betcha I'll sneak one on..

Brett said...

Trading my civil rights for a used Protege

Hmmm. I don't remember your civil rights being part of the package, but what the heck, we'll take em.

Jim A said...

"<"pedant mode">"
The Common Law defintion of Burglary has four elements:
1.)Breaking and Entering: mere trespass is insuficient, they have to have opened a door and entered.

2.)of a domicile: even with the hours you've been staying at work, unless you're sleeping at your desk it doesn't count.

3.)at night: dark enough that you can't recognize a face.

4.)With intent to do harm: robbery or assault or rape or what have you.

so technically, I don't think that your office was burglarized.
"<"/pedant mode">"

Of course when I first started seeing those stickers, I wondered why these cars had little ideograms of shifty eyed guys in blue DEVO energy domes http://www.clubdevo.com/mp/images/store/dome_blue.jpg was about.

Stacey said...

I was pulled over twice on my way to work a few years ago because, I was told, my plates didn't come up on the computer system when they ran the tags and 99% o' the time that means the car was stolen. Seeing as how I know we're registered and as I was running early for work, the first time I was friendly old me. Once it was cleared up (beaurocratic problem on the keying in of info from our form or some such) I was on my merry way. Mentioned it to a co-worker who asked why my tags were run at all as I was driving lawfully.
Next time (within a month of the first) I was less friendly. I knew the error wasn't mine and I objected to his running my tags at random. The officer was amazingly rude and said I was breaking the law by driving a car that had been mis-coded by some person at the MVA. (Not his exact words) Whatever. I wasn't late to work, which was all that mattered at the time.
I wonder if they had the sticker program then.

MacDurk said...

What an interesting choice - to potentially waive your civil rights in order to be better protected from theft, or to risk theft in order not to have your rights stolen? I am not aware of a similar program here on The Other Side of The Potomac. A Google search for "waiver of probable cause" brings up just a few references to US code, North Carolina and New Hampshire. Perhaps this sticker program is at the forefront of "The Law of Unintended Consequences" in which there are unexpected side effects of someone's attempt to do good. Would it be any less objectionable if the sticker were on a card, and could be displayed or hidden at will? Perhaps there is a one-act play in here somewhere....

Anonymous said...

I need to get some of these. Then I can go by the bars in Alexandria and put them on cars late at night. :-)