The Answer Is Always A More Intrusive State

Radley Balko linked this article about Virginia drivers being fined for not having proof of insurance, something that is actually not illegal in the state.  Apparently, it is illegal to drive without having insurance coverage, but there is no requirement to carry proof of insurance or any crime defined in law for not carrying such proof.

SO there is some "confusion", but note that the only confusion is in the mind of state law enforcement officers, who are attempting to exceed the law.  The obvious solution, to me, would be to educate the officers and prosecutors on the damn law.   Of course, agents of the state have a different solution (emphasis added)

Lynchburg Commonwealth's Attorney Michael R. Doucette agreed that failure to have proof of insurance while driving is not illegal.

"Rather, the offense is having an uninsured motor vehicle and not paying the uninsured motorist fee of $500 per year," Doucette said.

Doucette said requiring drivers to present either proof of insurance or proof of payment of the uninsured vehicle fee would go a long way to clear up the confusion. The General Assembly has considered such a mandate at least three times, but has never passed it.

Get it?  The best way to solve the problem of the state exceeding its authority is to just give the state new powers and criminalize more things so its actual authority matches it's desired powers.  I fear that this will also be the state's answer for the fact that photography is not a crime.

  • Roy

    1. The state must have some intruding powers. Otherwise it cannot accomplish its sole reason for existence: restraining meanness. The state gains intrusive powers counterproductive to civil health when something other than both those two statements controls the decisions regarding state power.

    2. There certainly exist a number of methods to restrain growth of state power and even reduce it. But the far and away most effective method for both ends flows from making those who abuse power suffer personal monetary consequences. For example, consider someone getting arrested for the not illegal act of having no proof of insurance. If the arresting officer's action was both de facto and de jure evidence sufficient to make that officer responsible for the incurred costs, such arrests would cease. If the same idea got extended to false prosecution, the rapidity of cessation would be epic. I have argued on Photography is not a Crime for the creation of a cottage industry, where people don't bellyache about abuse, but profit from it. If getting abused officials costs the state enough, that abuse will lessen. But if the lessen lesson gets extended to officials rather than civil coffers, that abuse will cease.

    3. For those paying attention, the above reasoning result from taking seriously the Bible's prescribed method of restraint: restitution.

  • Noah

    How does this differ from requiring a vehicle tag and requiring it being displayed on the vehicle?

  • steve

    "How does this differ from requiring a vehicle tag and requiring it being displayed on the vehicle?"

    It doesn't. But, the existence of one petty annoyance isn't automatic justification for another. Some job's require a license, it does not follow that every job should.

    Would a statist accept identical reasoning with an opposing conclusion? Since, no proof of insurance is required, then no proof of a driver's license should be required? It is identical reasoning. Yet somehow government cheerleader's can't acknowledge it.

  • marco73

    The "No Proof of Insurance" citation is just one for the favorites for LEOs at DWI checkpoints.

    No drinking - no ticket
    Plate valid - no ticket
    Driver's license valid - no ticket
    You can't produce the receipt for paying your insurance? - $$$ for the state

  • caseyboy

    If you have ever been hit by an uninsured motorist you appreciate a law that requires insurance. And if you are going to require insurance wouldn't you expect that proof of insurance would be a prerequisite to drive? The problem here is that they have been tardy in passing a practical and necessary companion law.

  • Roy

    Caseyboy, while you surely have a legit point, it is beside the issue of Coyote's original post. I can make, I think, an unassailable argument for at least part of your conclusion. Accidents can have such large costs that only those with lots of liquid resources could afford to pay them. In order to make more certain that people can take responsibility (note can, rather than willing to), society reasonably expects them to either have a huge bond or else an insurance policy. I'd argue that the costs to a victim are enough that even another step is reasonable: caught driving without bond or insurance, one loses the vehicle to a trust fund. I'd even agree to the extra step of fines imposed if it costs the state extra to find out (= prove) whether the person is insured or not, say if the state authorized inspector (aka traffic cop) doesn't get shown a proof of insurance carried in the vehicle. All of the steps in this line of reasoning hinge on assuming legitimacy to expecting people to bear responsibility for their actions.

    But Coyote did not contest that line of reasoning. Did not even mention it (tho it might be implicitly involved). Coyote noted that the state in question had no law requiring proof of insurance, and that, in absence of such a law, folks were getting fined. He pointed out, that an official said it would clear up confusion if a law were passed to justify what the arresting officers and courts did. That line of reasoning is not at all the same as what I argued above. I get to the conclusion the official did. But I get there by reasoning that flows from imho a legitimate imposition of intrusion rather than a reflexive addition of intrusion.

  • TXJim

    Roy- I second the idea of restitution.

    Caseyboy- Getting hit by an uninsured motorist is slightly more aggravating than getting hit by an insured motorist. In each case there is a good possibility you are eating some of the cost, at least the deductible.

    Insurance companies are the money boys behind all of these nonsensical "proof of insurance" laws. Most policy holders buy uninsured motorist coverage, as they did prior to these laws. Uninsured motorist pay everyone but the guy they damaged - bail bondsmen, lawyers and the govt. Pretty much the same way it was before these laws were passed. The fines are a handy cash cow for state & local govts. Just as designed.

    At some point, some cronyist asshole (like Ray LaHood) will leave govt to join a company that sells an insurance-confirmation kill switch for cars. Congress gets the lobby cash and one day we wake up to learn we must have a little device that will prevent your car from starting if you can't prove you are paid up on your insurance. Sadly, some people will think this is a great idea.

    If we think lapsing on car insurance is a costly no-no, wait until that mofo Obamacare hits the ground.

  • Roy

    TXJ, you've left me confused. You second the idea of restitution (presumably from my first post, where I used the word). But then you deny that second by your second and third paragraphs (which starkly contrast with the drift of my second post, which, while it does not use the word restitution, using instead "responsibility", nonetheless hinges on the concept of restitution). Perhaps you can elaborate how you think it reasonable not to expect someone to be able to pay for damages they might cause (in contrast to willing to pay).

  • http://harqueb.us Mike S

    We always lose freedoms when the police can't be bothered to obey the law. Not only are they not punished for breaking the law, but they are rewarded with more power.

    Roy - do you think restitution means you are not responsible for your own financial well being? Does restitution mean you would not get uninsured motorist coverage, because you reasonably expect the other party to pay for any damages they cause you? What about hit-and-run accidents?

    It is not contradictory to believe in restitution, and also despise the Big Insurance industry and the creeping intrusive state which declares everyone guilty and requires you to carry documented proof of innocence.

    The problem is, the whole concept of auto insurance is backwards. It's like buying life insurance to cover in case you kill someone else rather than your own death. We buy insurance to pay other people for the harm we might cause them, instead of insuring against the possibility of something happening to us.

    And since the insurance is backwards, we put in place laws requiring people to have insurance or bonds. And then we require proof be shown at registration time. And then we require proof be shown any time a cop appears. It doesn't matter if the driver is very safe and cautious and never runs into anyone -- the crime isn't causing damage, the crime is not buying insurance and carrying proof.

    The right way 'round, you'd assume the risk of driving by insuring against damage happening to you. And if someone caused you damage, you'd take civil action against them for restitution, and they'd be criminally liable for harm caused. Neither insurance nor proof would be required because you are responsible for the risk you're taking, and the state would be a little smaller and police a little less intrusive & abusive.

  • Roy

    Mike, I like your reasoning because it flows from expecting one to take responsibility for themselves. But it does not include taking that responsibility to the point where one is responsible for what one does to others. Suppose we agreed on your scheme for insurance and use of civil courts to regain damages: what would happen if one wins a case against someone who does not have resources? Put a little differently, why should I pay a higher premium for insurance covering uninsured drivers? Why should I carry their load? I do carry such insurance because I know that others scorn responsibility for there actions and will attempt transferring costs to me. But I assume you agree with me that transfer involves a kind of theft on their part. When one drives one does not risk only one's own life and property. One also risks others' lives and properties. Same sort of thing with, eg, fire insurance and building codes. I think we can justify those sorts of actions as groups of people wrestle with what are acceptable risks. Anyone can build something that will not burn and will not cause any neighbors harm. But either one could not use it for any practical purpose or else one could not afford it. Insurance and codes involve trade offs among people who realize finiteness. Note, in passing, that traffic analog to fire codes is not only vehicle standards, but traffic laws.

  • Zach

    "At some point, some cronyist asshole (like Ray LaHood) will leave govt to join a company that sells an insurance-confirmation kill switch for cars. Congress gets the lobby cash and one day we wake up to learn we must have a little device that will prevent your car from starting if you can’t prove you are paid up on your insurance. Sadly, some people will think this is a great idea."

    We have just that situation in Kansas. Kansas recently made its DUI laws tougher, to include an ignition interlock device, required even for first time offenders; installation cost born by the convicted, for 6 or 12 months (I forget which). They cost somewhere between $500 and $1000 to install, and have to be periodically calibrated, again, cost to be born by the convicted. In related news, a major sponsor of this legislation is also heavily invested in a company that makes the only ignition interlock device allowed by this law. But MADD and the like only see "required ignition interlock" and get right behind this law.

  • TXJim

    Roy - Your question regarding my point about restitution was explained so well by Mike S I can't improve on it.

    Zach - I'd bet MADD is cronyed up right along with the rest of the usual suspects. Five dollars says the companies that are the beneficiaries of this law are big donors to MADD. The game is played for us to see every day. An advocacy group, e.g. Sierra Club, PETA, MADD, et al, agitates for something that requires a law that magically benefits a like-minded group of supposed outsiders.

    I mentioned Ray LaHood because I read he was pushing to get a kill switch law for cell phones in cars. After he leaves govt, he may (magically!) end up with a cushy gig at the company that makes the kill switch technology! Kind of like Michael Chertoff, after doing his part to get the law passed in the Bush admin, cashed in by representing the companies that sell body scanners to the TSA. This quid pro quo crap has to stop.

  • http://www.rashynullplanet.com/blog/ Matt

    "The state must have some intruding powers."

    In other words, the state (duly delegated, of course, by you and your fellow delegators) *must* intrude to prevent intrusion.

    Must the state murder to prevent murder?

    Keep your stupid violent state to yourself and out of my life.

  • Roy

    TXJim- Yet I responded to Mike S, showing that his paradigm needs, umm, at least a little refinement. My request to you remains. Perhaps you can elaborate how you think it reasonable not to expect someone to be able to pay for damages they might cause (in contrast to willing to pay).

    Matt- While I share your sentiment, you yourself raised the reductio that proves it no more than sentiment. You admitted that the world has meanies who would do mean things and whom nothing short of violence will restrain. The question is not meanness or none, not violence or none, but who will exercise it and under what conditions (aka restraints). You very correctly observe the conundrum, "the state (duly delegated, of course, by you and your fellow delegators) *must* intrude to prevent intrusion". Do you know a way to avoid that problem? At some place your solution has to wrestle with the reality that the issue is not "law or no law, but whose law".

  • http://www.rashynullplanet.com/blog/ Matt

    Hey there Roy.

    It's wrong to restrain everyone because a tiny minority does violent things.

    I don't have all the answers, but the past few hundred years proves the hell out of this: large scale institutionalized violence (i.e., the state) isn't doing anything except begetting more large scale institutionalized violence.

    Please tell me you don't vote in government elections.

  • TXJim

    Roy - I get your point but I object to where your reasoning leads. If you follow your approach to the logical conclusion and include all areas where Average Joe presents a risk to his fellow Americans, Joe must be forced to buy a umbrella policy for everything, not only for his car.

    The bigger problem is as Mike S pointed out: car insurance is backwards today. We are forced to insure for another persons loss. As it stands, insurance policies are a sunk cost for the vast majority of purchasers who are forced to pay for far more risk than they actually present.

    In my state (TX), there are provisions that permit you to post a bond in place of mandatory liability coverage. To do this, you simply hand over 55k to the state and they give you a piece of paper saying you are golden. Or if you have more than 25 cars, you can self insure. Naturally, Average Joe is stuck with the insurance companies.

    BTW, government vehicles are exempt from the laws the rest of us have to live under.

  • chuck martel

    At least in this jurisdiction, if a legally intoxicated person is found in a situation in which he could drive, ie. asleep in the back seat with the keys in his pocket, he is DUI, even in a private parking lot. It's just a matter of time before someone is arrested for being seated in a stationary vehicle without the seatbelt fastened. The logic in the two cases is identical.

  • Roy

    Matt- Do you think anarchy would prove less violent? Do you think that the "tiny minority" remains a fixed group absent group enforced restraints? Suppose no force existed to restrain Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, ......? I do not take my position because I like or trust gov't, but because I realize the necessity of restraint.

    As far as elections are concerned, you might get your wish this next election. I'm nauseated nearly enough to not vote.

    TXJ- how much risk does the "average driver" actually represent? I'd defer that question to free market insurance actuarial calculations. For eg, I'd trash all laws with gov't penalties for no seat belts, and turn that question over to insurance company. No seat belt? And you got hurt? Aw, tough. No payments from us. For eg, who do you think came up with the amount for that posted bond you mentioned? Where do you suppose the amount came from for Public Liability policies? That is, the cost vs the total protection one can purchase? Do you think that if the average Joe opens up a movie theatre you would find it reasonable that he scorned fire codes and refused to buy insurance against accidents and refused to post bond? Gov't vehicles exempt from insurance = recognition of gov't deep pockets = self bonding. That is, the exemption certainly does not make gov't drivers and vehicles immune from responsibility to bear costs for accidents those drivers caused.

  • tomw

    Chuck:"At least in this jurisdiction, if a legally intoxicated person is found in a situation in which he could drive, ie. asleep in the back seat with the keys in his pocket, he is DUI, even in a private parking lot."

    Does this apply to firearms also? Can one be found guilty of murder if found with a handgun even on private property? One "Might" fire such, and injure, maim or kill another being.
    There was a Tom Cruise move about this very thing...

    Same thing must hold true for McDonalds eateries. One could cause a heart attack by eating fries, shakes and greasy burgers...
    Fridiculous. Like 'reading my mind to discern intention and hate'. Impossible.
    tom