Saturday, December 24, 2016
Bill to limit Class C arrests target of red-herring arguments
With momentum building in support of Texas legislation to eliminate arrests for non-jailable offenses, Grits should respond to a red herring argument being trotted out in reaction to Sen. Konni Burton's SB 271 and Rep. James White's HB 567: That Timothy McVeigh, bomber of the Oklahoma City federal building in the '90s, was arrested at a traffic stop and might not have been captured if the incident were governed by the proposed statutes. This is such horse-hockey, Grits at first didn't consider the point worth countering. But a couple of folks have brought it up now and apparently it's a principle argument opponents are trotting around in response to the bill, so let's get the obvious rebuttal out there.
As anyone would discover through the most cursory examination, Timothy McVeigh was arrested not for a non-jailable traffic violation (although that's why he was pulled over), but because he informed the state trooper who stopped him that he was in possession of an illegal firearm. That's what triggered his arrest.
Under Texas' proposed legislation, police can still arrest individuals who are in possession of illegal weapons or who are committing other crimes if they fall into higher offense categories. So, because McVeigh wasn't arrested for a non-jailable traffic offense, his example just isn't applicable. Police at traffic stops always have the opportunity to watch out for more serious crimes, as happened during McVeigh's arrest. The Texas legislation merely protects drivers from arrest when the traffic offense (or other Class C misdemeanor) is the only alleged criminal act, as happened when a Texas state trooper decided to arrest Sandra Bland.
If that phony argument is the best opponents have got, this bill's chances are looking pretty good. Go here to tell your state legislators to sign onto these bills as supporters and help pass them during the 85th Texas Legislature.