What’s the difference between paying off a cop and paying off a prosecutor? The prosecutor is the one who decides whether to charge you with bribery.
Louisiana District Attorneys have a deal for you. Pay $175 and they’ll make your speeding ticket go away. And they won’t charge you with bribery.
Corruption is a state tradition. I read a good book, Inside the Carnival, explaining how Louisiana politics evolved. One of the reasons is, for a long time the state budget was largely funded by oil producers. Politicians never felt accountable to the people for mismanagement of state money. It wasn’t the people’s money. Ticket revenue doesn’t feel like the people’s money either.
Corrupt is not the same as criminal. I don’t know Lousiana law on extortion. It’s possible this bribery program is not a crime. It’s possible it is not an ethical violation.
But maybe it is. I’d like to see a federal prosecutor take a closer look. Unfortunately, federal prosecutors are traditionally subject to approval by the state’s Congressional delegation. They have to be on good terms with local politicians and work with local prosecutors. Revenue enforcement is not a favorite target of the Justice Department.
I don’t know if Louisiana ever seriously pretended speeding tickets were about safety, but they have definitely abandoned that pretext now. Speeding tickets are the piece of meat being torn apart by a pack of dogs. Some of the dogs are defense attorneys, who got a law giving them a bigger share of court costs. Others are prosecutors, who moved half the cases to their own private justice system where they keep all the court costs.
If you ever felt guilty about gaming the system, warning of speed traps, using electronic countermeasures, and doing just about anything to avoid or beat a speeding ticket, stop. Stop feeling guilty.
Do you feel guilty when a burglar can’t break into your safe?
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