18 Feb 2006

Can You Get Through One Day Without Breaking the Law?

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asks the Liberator Online in the February issue.

Before you answer, consider:

In January, an Atlanta man was arrested and handcuffed for selling a subway token at face value. Donald Pirone observed another passenger having difficulty with a token vending machine, so he gave him a $1.75 token. After the man insisted on paying him, Pirone was cited by a transit officer for a misdemeanor, since state law prohibits selling tokens — even at face value. A MARTA spokesperson denied that handcuffing a customer for helping another customer was excessive. “There are customer service phones for people who are having trouble getting tokens out of the machine,” she said.

Meanwhile, in late 2005, an Ohio man spent three days in jail because he didn’t put identification tags on his family’s pet turtles and snakes. Terry Wilkins broke a state law requiring owners of native reptiles to tag them with a PIT (personal-integrated transponder). The tags, which are the size of a grain of rice and can be inserted under the animal’s skin, contain a bar code readable by a scanner. Wilkins refused to tag the animals because he said PIT tags cause health problems in small reptiles.

It goes on. In Kentucky, Larry Casteel was arrested for not attending a parenting class for divorcing parents, as mandated by state law. He spent the night in jail. In New Jersey, police are giving tickets to people who leave their cars running for more than three minutes in store parking lots. Stopwatch-wielding police hit the offenders with a $200 fine for violating the state’s anti-idling law. In northwest Georgia, 49 convenience store owners were arrested for selling legal products to customers. The owners — mostly of Indian background — sold cold medicine, baking soda, table salt, matches, and lantern fuel. Police said the ingredients could be used to make methamphetamine. In Burlington, Vermont, police are ticketing people for not removing keys from the ignition and locking their cars. Police said the state law prevents car thefts. Violators are fined $79.

So — are you still sure you can get through a day without violating a law? If so, don’t worry. Legislators are making more things illegal. In New York City, a city council member wants to make it a crime to ride a bike without a registration number tag. Violators would face up to 15 days imprisonment. In Illinois, a state senator wants to make it a crime not to have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home. In Pennsylvania, a state senator filed a bill to allow police to fine drivers $75 if they don’t clean snow off their car. In Virginia, a state legislator wants to make it illegal to show your underwear in public. Girls (or boys) with low-rider pants would get hit with a $50 fine if their thongs show.

Novelist Ayn Rand once wrote: “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible to live without breaking laws.”

Have we reached that point? Is it impossible to live without breaking laws? Before you answer, better check to make sure that your pets have transponder tags, that you didn’t leave the keys in your car, and that your underwear is not showing.

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