Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Sheriff has no standing to pull you over for a broken tail-light

New Orleans drivers are a creative bunch.

They pull over unexpectedly, they stop in the middle of the road to chat with their friend passing by on the sidewalk, they think signalling is optional, and many of them are engaged in dubious sobriety.

I never played video games as a child, but I imagine that the experience of operating a motor vehicle in the City of New Orleans is a similar one.

Driving here often resembles an obstacle course, especially when it comes to avoiding law enforcement attention.  The dedicated officers of the Orleans Parish Police Department may be negligent in preventing most violent crime, but they will not let you off the hook for traffic offenses.

Indeed, there are so many traffic-related tickets and summonses issued in a given year, neither the City clerk, a NOPD public information officer, nor a Traffic Court representative was able to say with certainty how many were paid or unpaid. [The NOPD is currently under investigation for falsely issuing traffic tickets, and the City is currently pursuing an estimate of $91 million in unpaid parking tickets dating back 20 years.]

With such diligence at play, imagine my surprise to find an official public vehicle belonging to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Department - the agency charged with enforcing all laws relevant to Orleans Parish - with a broken tail-light.

The broken tail-light, as most New Orleans drivers know, is anecdotally one of the main reasons that cops will pull you over.  They do this as an excuse to check licensing, registration, insurance, immigration status, and body cavities, as unknown threats to public safety are apparently revealed once the drivers are pulled over.  It is also a big money-maker for the City and its brake tag (that's "inspection" for all you non-Louisianans) industry that sets prices seemingly based on the changing alignment
of the stars.

So I am considering it my service to the City to alert the general public to the hazards presented by the driver of Sheriff's Office car license number 193515.  I urge you all to practice your civic duty to place this delinquent under citizen's arrest until the authorities arrive and do what's right.  And if I know New Orleans, what's right will be to excuse public employees for unlawful behavior.

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