All posts tagged crime and punishment

Harriet took us here.

Guys, Harriet has died.  This is very sad news.  She didn’t go out doing what she loved. She didn’t go down fighting.  She quietly rolled away in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

I loved that Ford E250 cargo van.  Yes, she was white.  Yes, she had a sliding door.  Yes, she was what people around the neighborhood horrificly referred to as a “molester van” or a “creeper van.”

Harriet in Wisconsin

Harriet in Wisconsin

I still loved that van.

It was a sadly short relationship for Harriet and I- we only came together in June.  Even so, we had some great times together.  In July we spent a week hauling The Boss, and Bacon the Vizla around Lake Michgan (seen above).  Harriet helped me moved bikes and canoes and all sorts of fun stuff.

Harriet hauling toys.

Harriet hauling toys.

I’ll never forget that van.

Sadly, though, we grew apart.  By late September I had the opportunity to make an even better buy on a truck that probably would run for more than another six months without leaking oil (and all sorts of other fluids) everywhere we went.  So, Harriet was parked.

I had intended to either sell Harriet for cheap to some young person who, hopefully, was getting into the trades or was starting some sort of business who could use cheap wheels.  If I couldn’t do that, I was going to donate her to charity.  I tried to list her before Christmas, but couldn’t find her title.

On the 26th, while sifting through my things getting ready to take a little trip, I happened upon the title.  As soon as we came back, I listed her.  Sadly, it was over between us.

Then it got weird.  Before I received much action on the ad, the cold and snow came.  Lots of cold. And lots of snow.  With a dead battery, I couldn’t fire her up to move her to safety before the plows rendered her immobile.

“No problem,” I figured, “snow melts… I’ll sell her when I can move her.”

Snowed in!

Snowed in!

Shortly after stepping out one night, I got a frantic text from The Boss- the cops had come to the house complaining about Harriet.  The Boss told me that she thought it was a cop and she thought he was talking about the van but she couldn’t be positive because, well, she didn’t open the door far enough to look out (or, even better, for him to look in… THAT’S MY GIRL!).

What, exactly?

What, exactly?

When I got back, I saw this little notice.  Even though the officer marked the completely wrong time on there (he was there in the pm) and even though he didn’t let me know if it was days or hours,  and even though the van was absolutely not abandoned, I think I understood what he wanted.  He wanted Harriet gone. Quickly.

So, I obliged.  I called the closest towing company I could find, offered to sign the truck over to them if they could get there within the hour.  Then I hung up and wept- even though it was over between Harriet and I, it wasn’t supposed to end like this.

An hour later, Harriet was gone.

I’m not intending to relay this touching, heart wrenching, somber tale to ruin your day or make you sad.  I’m sorry if you’re as broken up reading this as I am writing it.  I know how bad it hurts.

I’m also not intending to have this come off as some sort of complaint about the police or how silly the laws are when there’s snow.

I am intending to highlight, however, that there’s one law none of us control and all of us are subject to: the law of unintended consequences.

I’m sure that when the founding fathers of this little village so bravely signed their names to the aggressive parking ordinance which caused the departure of Harriet, they figured they would just be keeping the roads clear and safe for the children.  I doubt they had any idea that a car would never get donated to a charity devoted to, say, fighting juvenile diabetes or breast cancer.  I’m sure they had no idea that they might be hampering the ability of a young man to get his new business off the ground with a cheap van.

And so it is with every law passed.

Laws passed to keep drug dealers away from schools actually increase crime near those same schools.  Being tough on DUI gives drunk people more incentive to speed home than to pull over and sleep it off in a parking lot.  All the traffic laws that have been increased to misdemeanors for illegal immigrants have cost millions in taxpayer dollars by giving those illegal immigrants the right to free (to them, not the taxpayer) attorneys.  There is no end to it, no matter what the law seeks to punish.

And so, Harriet is gone. Not to a charity. Not to a startup business.  To capitalist vultures who roam the streets at night looking to prey on scofflaws like myself.  Nobody is immune from the law of unintended consequences. Not even Harriet.

Godspeed, Harriet.

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

Harriet took me to this sunset over Lake Michigan

First I would like to thank all of the people at Excessive Bail for having me here.  I have never had an executive staff and and a corner office suite (and truthfully I still don’t) but it’s still nice to be here.  As the title of the blog suggests Execessive Bail is a site that discusses how criminal courts and the procedures and people who surround them  don’t operate on the principles we were taught in law school, the Constitution (or sometimes any principles whatsoever).  I’m sure we’ll discuss how the law shouldn’t differ from one county to the next, but it does (a lot).  And, how sometimes simple legislative ideas become nightmares to those of us who work in the court system and those who are processed by the system.

I often hear from you out there about how you think the system works.  It’s so amusing to listen to your high moral principles.  For example, if a defendant hasn’t been read his or her rights that acts like a ”get out of jail” card.    I shrug my shoulders go back to work and have to deal with, “take the minimum or risk the maximum.”  And you would think that judges would just step in and put a stop to that (but sadly they are sometimes the source of the problem).  Many call this a trial tax where the judge will add to the sentence just because the defendant chose to go to trial.  Or set Excessive Bail which keeps the defendant in jail awaiting trial so there is pressure to complete the case.  It turns out it is more important to get the case disposed of quickly.

I am sure it will be a fun ride.  As an old lawyer once told me after I had appeared before a judge with my client, “This is theater, man, you have got to make it look more difficult if you want to make a living.”  As it turns out there’s a lot more theater to this whole system and hopefully we will get a chance to pull back the curtain and see the dancing girls changing, so that you can appreciate that not all of the dancing girls are girls.