Friday, March 23, 2012

Overcriminalization Folly of the Week: Felony driving without a license

Grits went to read an important new US Supreme Court opinion (pdf) out this week, Missouri v. Frye, related to whether a plea deal never submitted to a client by his attorney was grounds for post-conviction relief because of ineffective assistance of counsel. It's an interesting question, but I did a double, then a triple take when I read the opening lines describing the underlying case in the opinion, then couldn't get past it: "Respondent Frye was charged with driving with a revoked license. Because he had been convicted of the same offense three times before, he was charged, under Missouri law, with a felony carrying a maximum 4-year prison term."

Huh? A max four-year prison term for driving without a license? Even for the fourth offense, that seems extreme. According to this source, actually, in Missouri it's a felony on the third offense. That seems borderline totalitarian - "Show me your papers, comrade, or I'll slap you in prison for four years." Yikes! You can fill up a gulag pretty darn quickly that way! Even with that extreme penalty, though, one in ten Missouri drivers have no license.

This is overcriminalization run amok. With incarceration costs running in the $20,000 per year range, it'd be a lot cheaper to remove barriers to licensure and spend the money you would have spent on prosecution and incarceration to give out free bicycles and bus passes. The absurdist cost-benefit analysis behind making driving without a license a felony worthy of prison time boggles the mind.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Several articles mention he was offered a 90 day sentence on a misdemeanor charge.

Sounds like a generous deal.
But Frye says he never had a chance to accept it because his lawyer never bothered to tell him about the deal, and the deal expired.

Well, that's an easy story to make up.

And then the lawyer says he cannot recall if he ever mentioned the plea deal. That's convenient.

Frye eventually was arrested for a 5th time for driving with a revoked license less than a week before his preliminary hearing on his fourth charge of driving on a revoked license.

Sounds more like the ineptitude of a defense lawyer.

Daniel Simon said...

Somebody ought to ask how exactly the ability to move around freely became a "privilege" presumably "granted" by your Master, the State?

Originally, with horses and buggies...and even in the early days of mechanized personal property, you simply traveled as you wished...no tags, no license, no registration, etc.

You still were expected to obey the rules of the road..out of courtesy if nothing else, and could be held responsible criminally or civilly if you harmed another.

From one of the links in the article:"1 in 10 driving illegally"

"This statistic includes some people who never had driver's licenses to begin with, and others who lost their licenses but kept driving anyway. In this economic climate, licenses are lost for financial reasons even more often than for negligent behavior behind the wheel."

My comment: So if you are a victim of what is damn close to a DEPRESSION...even if we pretend it is not, you should just stop "driving" and go completely under....BECAUSE of some of the reasons the article states below:


Not paying parking tickets, neglecting child support payments or missing a court hearing can trigger a license suspension.

My comments: Yep money extorted by the State for your meter being expired or a tail-light burned out, or missing a hearing in a Kangaroo State Court, or having been driven broke and out of your children's life by a vindictive spouse with full help of the State, and not having "money to "solve" all this means you should just roll over and die!!

"Fines (extortion) can pile up, leaving many without the financial means to restore their legal driving privileges. Many people feel they have no choice, and are therefore justified in driving without legal licenses.

NO what these people should understand is that a RIGHT TO TRAVEL HAS BEEN CONVERTED TO A PRIVILEGE TO "DRIVE" as long as you grease our palms and do everything we say...but a greedy and corrupt State, and yes they have the fundamental right to resist as best they can! It is called, and often is "survival".

In fact, AAA estimates that as many as two-thirds of people who have had their driver's license either revoked or suspended keep right on driving. Their statistics show that one fifth of fatal car accidents involve an illegal driver.

WOW and 4/5s of fatal accidents are caused by "legal" "drivers" showing that being legal is four times as deadly as being "illegal" if you want to pervert statistics!!1

Of course what it really shows is that licenses and registration, and all the legal stuff does not make perfectly safe "drivers".

The simply truth is that you are as "safe" (in relation to your ability to "drive") the moment you lose a license as you were the moment before when you still had one.

What you are not "SAFE" from is harassment from an army of cops and "officials" that think they are free to harass you to whatever degree they wish.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:59, sure Frye's attorney was to blame, but the prosecutor went ahead with felony charges after the deadline expired, and their Legislature passed the stupid law in the first place. Surely there is some responsibility there for the cost-benefit implications of making (and charging) that offense as a felony? I'm not debating the merits of the opinion, just marveling at the stupidity of the Missouri law underlying the case.

Anonymous said...

Hey Daniel...I would agree that a licensed and insured driver does not necessarily make one a safe driver but rather a legal driver..... but who would you rather get hit by, a licensed driver with liability insurance or one without both?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Having a license doesn't mean you can afford insurance, either. In Texas nearly one in four drivers are uninsured.

Lee said...

Our responsiblity should be to SAFETY and JUSTICE and NOT the law. If it is safe and noone is being harmed then go for it.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:53 Grits.....I agree about the 1 in 4. I also agree with your proposal reference pay by the mile.

I'm with you on abolishing the surcharge too. It's double dipping.

See, we do agree about some things.

Daniel Simon said...

This is in response to Anonymous at 8:25 a.m.

Obviously, I would rather not get hit at all.

But it begs the question, at what point do people have the inherent right to do what is needed to survive?

After all, they might drive for years or their whole lives without an at fault accident.

It would be nice if everyone were covered head to toe, cradle to grave with every sort of insurance under the sun..but real world economics comes into play.

As a member of the private sector who trades his skills to people who want to by them and they have every right to refuse, I resent Government workers, who have padded their nests very well, and force me at gun-point or threat of gun point to do a whole slew of things I would rather not.

I am a Roofing Contractor that just went through a historic record drought.

As a result I got behind on "child support" (actually extortion for ex wife who kidnapped kids with help of State).

Understand that I fought an uphill battle to stay part of their lives, have them the maximum amount of time I can get them without HER agreement (extended standard) and that it amounts to around 42% of the time.

I feed, clothe, shelter and entertain them during my time, yet get no credit and am potentially facing jail-time and license suspension if I cannot catch-up.

Like it really helps anyone if I am jailed or cannot go look for/do work.

So if they suspended my license...should I go deeper, and farther under...or "drive" if I have a roof to do?

The answer of course is 50/50 joint physical and legal custody and no money switching hands...but divorce would plummet and Shyster Attorneys would lose money...the ultimate evil.

The Country is almost toast anyway...deeeep down, anyone with intelligence knows we cannot go on like we are, and I have never seen an uglier mood among the average Joe, and Jane.

Unfortunately they are to ignorant to see the real villains are government itself at all levels that see them as tax cattle, in bed with BIG business...not the small to medium businesses that desperately are trying to hang on and survive.

But things are changing, and peoples back are up against the was and they cannot back up any further.

What is really needed is mass civil disobedience and a roll-back of laws and government to about what it was a hundred years ago.

You know when America was the most free country on earth1

Phillip Baker said...

About the lunacy of these surcharges. My son graduated from college in '08. The whole family had struggled to pull together the money for him to go. He graduated into the worst recession since the Depression- meaning no jobs. Broke, he could not pay to have his license renewed, registration and inspection updated. So he gets ticketed- about $750. THEN they add the surcharge- and those tickets cost him an additional $1000 a year for THREE years. He finally found work and paid off this larceny. Recently a friend was arrested for DWI- even tho he blew a.04 and passed the field sobriety test. But the cop insisted he thought the guy was drunk. Even without a conviction and only on the basis of the arrest, he must pay a lawyer, lose his license for 6 months, get a "work only" one, pay for that special insurance the state requires, take the DWI classes(for fees, of course), plus court costs and $2000 surcharge PER YEAR for THREE years!! Total about $13000! This surcharge is absurd and targets esp the poor or unemployed. And if you have the money to pay it all at once, you can't! MUST be paid in 36 installments, none can be missed or late even a day (even if not your fault). A single missed/late payment is grounds for revocation of license and more charges.

Let's face it- we are already a police state. All the above is absurd and should be repealed.

Phillip Baker said...

About the lunacy of these surcharges. My son graduated from college in '08. The whole family had struggled to pull together the money for him to go. He graduated into the worst recession since the Depression- meaning no jobs. Broke, he could not pay to have his license renewed, registration and inspection updated. So he gets ticketed- about $750. THEN they add the surcharge- and those tickets cost him an additional $1000 a year for THREE years. He finally found work and paid off this larceny. Recently a friend was arrested for DWI- even tho he blew a.04 and passed the field sobriety test. But the cop insisted he thought the guy was drunk. Even without a conviction and only on the basis of the arrest, he must pay a lawyer, lose his license for 6 months, get a "work only" one, pay for that special insurance the state requires, take the DWI classes(for fees, of course), plus court costs and $2000 surcharge PER YEAR for THREE years!! Total about $13000! This surcharge is absurd and targets esp the poor or unemployed. And if you have the money to pay it all at once, you can't! MUST be paid in 36 installments, none can be missed or late even a day (even if not your fault). A single missed/late payment is grounds for revocation of license and more charges.

Let's face it- we are already a police state. All the above is absurd and should be repealed.

Anonymous said...

These laws on Drivers are made to keep the poor man poorer or in jail. The only people that can afford plea bargains are people with money. Put a sign on the highway that says " drive at your own risk" and leave people alone!