Friday, January 6, 2012

If You Can't Do the Time . . . Stand Back from the Closing Doors

Flavio Uzhca stood too close to the door on a Number 7 subway train last March so police forcibly took him off the train, demanded ID, then arrested him.  
It turns out that it's a crime to stand too near the doors on a subway in New York.  Or to put your feet on a seat.  Or to take up even part of a second seat.
Some things are just illegal and you get a citation and go on your way.  That can happen for a subway riding violation.  But they can arrest you for it, too.  And, according to an article by Joseph Goldstein and Christine Haughney in the Times, they do just that.
Ask William D. Peppers. 
William D. Peppers recalled how empty the subway car was. It was not yet 4 a.m. on a Friday, so most of New York was still asleep, but he was already late for his job at a Bronx bakery. As his train passed through Midtown Manhattan, Mr. Peppers stretched out, closed his eyes and nodded off.
Then came the tap. It was a police officer.
Mr. Peppers had put his feet up on a subway seat, and that, the officer informed him, was a crime — one that in his case would lead to his arrest. He spent 12 hours in jail before he saw a judge, and was released after pleading guilty.
Or ask Michael Weaver.
Michael Weaver, 20, a construction worker, was heading home to Harlem after having Thanksgiving dinner with his girlfriend’s family. As he rode an empty E train, he said, he nodded off and his right knee and thigh leaned on the empty seat next to him. Just before 1 a.m., he said, he was jolted awake by a police officer who accused him of taking up more than one seat. Mr. Weaver said the officer called his unit and asserted that Mr. Weaver had a prior violation.
“He said that it was big enough to get locked up,” Mr. Weaver said.
After he spent the night in a cell, a judge offered to dismiss the case if he stayed out of trouble for six months.
But, hey. You never know.
Paul J. Browne, the New York Police Department’s chief spokesman, said enforcement of subway regulations had made the transit system much safer.
“One of the reasons that crime on the subways has plummeted from almost 50 crimes a day in 1990 to only 7 now is because the N.Y.P.D. enforces violations large and small, often encountering armed or wanted felons engaged in relatively minor offenses, like putting their feet up, smoking on a platform, walking or riding between cars, or fare beating,” Mr. Browne said.
It's a second cousin of the broken windows theory of crime control:  Take care of the petty stuff and the quality of life will be better and there'll be less tolerance for the major stuff. 
Another branch of the same tree calls for rousting every black or Hispanic because you'll nab a few bad guys along with the hundreds of thousands of innocent folk.
And we might as well grope granny and the kids at the airport while we're at it.
And let's put GPS monitors in everyone's car.  Or maybe implant them at birth.  Hey, you never know.  You can't be too careful.
We can, after all, never be too safe.
Today he's rest your foot on the empty seat in front of you.  Tomorrow he's shooting up a Safeway.
Besides, the cops have a quota.
One police officer who works in the transit system acknowledged that there were a lot of “petty arrests,” but he said that officers were under pressure from supervisors to “bring in one collar” each month.
In 2011, the cops issued more than 6,000 citations for these social faux pas.  Sigh.
But they actually arrested another 1,600.
Taken to the pokey.
Hauled 'em before a judge.
Because what the hell.
Harvey Silverglate explained that we all commit at least Three Felonies a Day.  And Scott Greenfield, via Radley Balko, pointed out the other day that we begin 2012 with 40,000 new laws we can violate.
It's called overcriminalization.  And it doesn't make us safer.  And it sure doesn't make us more free.
But it gives the cops something to do besides munching donuts solving real crimes - or preventing them.
And really, it's important to keep the subways free from terrorists like Flavio, with whom I started this little rant.
See Flavio was a serious danger to public safety, and the cops caught him red handed.  With a bomb  Standing stood too close to the door.
He'll tell you about it if you can find him, which might be tricky since he's been disappeared to Ecuador.
Mr. Uzhca, a line chef from Ecuador, was returning home from his gym before 8 p.m. on March 10. When he stood at the door of a packed train, an officer escorted him off and asked to see identification, he said in an e-mail. Mr. Uzhca said he showed identification from Ecuador. By the time he was arraigned, the authorities learned that an immigration judge had issued an order in 2002 for his deportation.
Mr. Uzhca called his bosses to tell them he would not be at work that day. He never did return.
I feel safer already.
Bet you do too.
Blawgs are made by fools like me.  But only cops can keep the subway free from terrorists leaning against the doors.


  1. What you describe is how the "law" has become so twisted that "law" enforcement now has complete freedom to decide who to arrest, and under what conditions.

    I have had this hammered into my own head just two weeks ago. California has Penal Code 977, which allows an attorney to appear in court without his client needing to be present under certain conditions.

    Two weeks ago, a judge in one of my cases where I made such an appearance attempted to get me to plead my client guilty to an infraction, in exchange for a misdemeanor being dismissed, without my client being advised, or consenting. When I objected on the grounds that I could not do so without communicating with my client, the judge's EXACT words were, "Don't give me that b.s., counselor. You're here 977. That means you have authority to accept the offer."

    This is absolutely not true. Knowing the county I was in is completely lawless, I simply responded, "I would prefer to set a pretrial hearing for" and gave another date.

    The country that has taken the place of the United States of America is a completely lawless country. It does not matter that "sometimes" the result comports with what used to be the law. That's just an accident. It gives support to the old saying, "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in awhile."

    The nation has not fallen into anarchy. That may or may not be a good thing.

    But the rule of law is truly dead.

  2. The Law of Rule v. the Rule of Law is, as you likely know Rick, a theme of this blog. While I'm not quite as sure as you've become that the Rule of Law is wholly dead, I'm also inclined to doubt that it ever really lived except in myth.

    The Golden Age, Eden, Camelot's "one brief shining moment," the framer's commitment to personal liberty (for white male property owners), it's all of a piece with the Rule of Law.

    Maybe it's time I just laid all that out in a post.

  3. think if i'd been one of those individuals the new york transit authority would have one of their keystone koppers violating the same rule once i laid them out over a few seats after the a specific application of violance against their CRIMINAL STUPDITY!