We need a little more anarchy. I’m late in posting this because I had to write it from a New York jail.

See, I made a serious error in judgement. I texted my friend Liz Arden from my car. “On my way to Plattsburg Airport,” I wrote.

I was about to pull back out onto entrance ramp from the shoulder where I had stopped when I noticed flashing lights in the rear view mirror.

“May I see your license and registration, sir?” the trooper asked politely.

“What’s the trouble, officer?” I said.

“You are in violation of section 1225-d of the vehicle and traffic law of New York state,” he replied. “Texting while operating a motor vehicle.”

“I wasn’t moving, officer. My speed was zero. I pulled over and stopped deliberately to sit here so I could use my electronic device safely and legally.”

“New York does not require you to be speeding for me to consider that you are operating your vehicle, sir.”

I found that interesting, since motion is defined as the act, process, or state of changing place or position and some ΔV is necessary to effect that.

Sir Isaac Newton compiled his laws of motion in the 17th Century, some years before we started regulating vehicular communication. In fact, some years before we started thinking about vehicles powered by much other than hay. His three laws describe the relationship between the forces acting on a body and its motion due to those forces; they form the basis for classical mechanics.

Newton’s First Law: The velocity of a body remains constant unless the body is acted upon by an external force. It is often expressed as “a body in motion stays in motion and a car sitting dead on the street ain’t moving.”

“Now wait just a darned minute,” I said. Troopers like being told that. “Imagine this scenario, officer. Imagine that I am sitting in a public park, motionless, with a butter knife. A ground squirrel has chewed on my nuts. I am seriously enraged and am plotting the hideous death of that squirrel. Foam is coming out of my ears. Steam from my mouth. But the squirrel is still sitting in the tree, chattering. And I haven’t moved from my park bench.”

He moved his hand to the side of his utility belt.

“Step out of the car, please, sir.”

“You can’t arrest me for murder for sitting in a public park, motionless, with a butter knife,” I told him. “So you also can’t arrest me for a moving violation when I am sitting in my stopped car, motionless.”

Or not.

Vermont’s 2009 “Texting Law” (23 V.S.A. § 1099) states, “A person shall not engage in texting while operating a moving motor vehicle on a highway.” New York’s law is similar but longer winded. Police in New York can stop drivers for using handheld devices while driving, making it a primary traffic offense. That state’s law also increased the penalty from a two- to a three-point offense with a fine of up to $150.

The trooper is using a definition of “operate a motor vehicle” that means more than just “drive,” “driving,” or “driven.” Their definition seems to cover all matters related to having a car near a highway, whether you be in actual motion or at rest.

Under those circumstances, the New York law that states that “no person shall operate a motor vehicle unless all front seat passengers under the age of sixteen are restrained by a safety belt…” means that the trooper can cite me for sitting at the foot of my friend’s driveway in Rouse’s Point with my granddaughter if she’s not belted in.

“I’m thinking it’s time to tune up the law,” my friend Denny Crane might say.

Fortunately, the cursory examination of my car didn’t turn up the butter knife in my glove box.

8 thoughts on “Anarchy

  1. For the record, I am not in jail in New York or anywhere else. That was poetic license but the way the laws are enforced (and written), you or I might do well be there soon.

    A classic: Denny Crane gets robbed. Of course, he was a Massachusetts lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV.

  2. Your comment re sitting in your friend’s driveway reminded me of your other comment re a discussion about someone who was arrested for DWI while sitting in a stopped vehicle in his own driveway. The reason that was wrong (and you’re wrong now) is not because the vehicle was stationary; it’s because the vehicle and traffic laws are enforceable on *public* highways. If you’re legally on your own or a friend’s property, you can be hammered, un-belted and buck nekkid, yet not in violation of the v&t laws.

    Good luck in jail. Say hello to Big Bubba for me. Tell him to use lube.

  3. Most states own a right of way that is a car length or more beyond the edge of the paved highway. “The foot of one’s own driveway” is in that no-man’s land, installed and maintained by the homeowner but claimed by the state.

    Bubba waved and asked “How’s my bud Stan doin’?”

  4. Prohibiting the use of a handheld device while driving would preclude men shaving, using a CB mic or a two-way radio such as used by cabbies. Male drivers who give new meaning to the term auto-eroticism could also be subject to a citation — depending on the legal definition of “device”; but there’s probably already another law against that.

    Years and years ago Limbaugh read the story on his show of a woman who was arrested for farding on her way to work. She got a hefty fine.

  5. Stan, I love and respect you. Seriously. You know that.

    But fuck you very much. That is the same horseshit that has people being awarded a DUI, which ultimately costs you your drivers license, while riding (intoxicated, of course) on a BICYCLE for which NO LICENSE is required. (Of course, if you have no license to begin with, I guess it doesn’t matter.)

    Don’t you think that “equal protection” under the Constitution might SOMEHOW apply here?

    You criminal justice types need to seriously tune up your logic. Right now it is nonexistent. And that is VERY SERIOUSLY counter-productive.

    Your friend,
    Rufus Rawass

  6. My neighbor Mr Totenhilde got a ticket for sitting in his car at Burger King, eating and drinking beer in the parking lot. The charge was public consumption of alcohol with the intent of driving a motor vehicle (paraphrased).

    Although Burger King had signs posted which prohibited the consumption of alcohol on the premises, Totenhilde’s successful defense was based on a Texas State Law which allows a citizen to carry a gun in his/her car because the vehicle is considered an extension of their abode.

    He further claimed that his son of majority age was with him — and not drinking beer — and would have been the operator of the vehicle.

    Although the trial cost him $3,500, he was awarded the verdict and avoided paying the $200 fine.

    Burger King has not removed the signs.

    — George

Comments are closed.