A Sentence Just Isn’t Bad Enough

Hi, all of you nice folks who believe that if courts would only allow the open discussion of jury nullification, the system would right a great many of its injustices.  After all, the platitudes favor the constitutional right to a jury of one’s peers, and your fellow citizens would certainly see things your way, right?  All justice-minded folks see things your way, right?  Because you are rational, thoughtful, normal, and what could go wrong?

In Newsday, it appears that Nassau County has decided to reinstitute the boondoggle of seizing the cars of people arrested for drunk driving.  Not convicted, mind you, but arrested. Because they wouldn’t be arrested if they weren’t guilty.

Nassau County police have begun seizing the vehicles of motorists arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and holding the cars as cases proceed through the courts, county officials said.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey said the new system “gets the car off the road after the arrest and hearing and keeps the car available for forfeiture.”

Nassau previously returned vehicles to motorists after arrests. But by the time of convictions, the driver’s lease or financing agreement on the vehicle had expired, preventing the county from reaching a monetary settlement, Foskey said. Under the new system, Nassau could have a better chance to collect because it will already be in possession of the vehicle.

But even when they waited until after conviction, it was a disaster.

But delays occurred because the county’s attorneys failed to promptly file the extensive paperwork needed to obtain the cars, leading to a backlog of vehicles rusting in county impound lots.

Cars sat neglected in pounds. People were denied their cars, which meant they couldn’t drive to work, keep their jobs, earn an income to feed their children.  If they prevailed later, they got two tons of neglected junk in return. Cars aren’t meant to sit for a couple of years with feral animals sleeping on the rich, Corinthian leather.

But they’re drunk drivers, so screw ’em, right? Except the cars didn’t have to be owned by the arrestees. They might be their spouses car, their neighbor’s car, anyone’s car, but driven that moment by the accused. The exceptions for lease companies and banks saved big business, who deserved to be saved mind you, but did nothing for small children who depended on the accused for their existence.

But they’re drunk drivers, so screw ’em, right?  Except some cars were worth $100, and others were worth $100,000, but they were all treated the same as an additional penalty, a fine, to be piled on top of whatever punishment a judge meted out.  Because the law imposes a sentence, separate and apart from secondary forfeitures laws exact whatever retribution under the guise of “instrumentality of the crime” it seeks.

But they’re drunk drivers, so screw ’em, right? But at least the money goes to a good cause, a worthy cause, like whatever the car is worth after having sat abandoned for a couple years, and then a third of the auction value goes to the outside law firm hired to handle the forfeitures.

Settlement proceeds go the county’s general fund, while forfeiture money from auctions goes to the police department.

In May, Nassau hired the Merrick law firm of Campanelli & Associates to represent the county in the hearings, which are held before State Supreme Court Justice Norman Janowitz. The firm, which is paid a third of the proceeds from the sale of the vehicle or the financial settlement, did similar work for Nassau from 2001 to 2003 under then-County Executive Thomas Suozzi.

So there can be no doubt that the locals have brushed the cobwebs off their pitchforks and lit their torches to march on the county for this outrageous decision, right?

Gina: Nobody should be driving while high or intoxicated. They are dangerous on the road. More dangerous than someone going 26 mph in a school zone for pete’s sake. I am all for this. Just don’t drive high or drunk & you will have nothing to worry about. Simple.

W.J.: Easiest way to avoid seizure of the vehicle is don’t drive if you’ve been drinking!!! No sympathy here, whether it is a $1000 or $50,000 car. They are selfish people and a menace to the rest of us and deserve the loss.

CLWalsh: If you don’t drink and drive you have nothing to worry about. My feeling, you drink and drive, you should never be aloud to drive again. Throw away the key.

LPerry2: If you are drunk and fail a breath test, you are guilty. If you are caught with illegal drugs in you car, you are guilty. However, caution needs to be made that a driver is not medically impaired ( seizure/ diabetic reaction, etc) before the car is impounded and sold. However, there are so many repeat offenders and these people could start carjacking or breaking into cars more often. Criminals think they are above the law.

mmm227: wow reading all these posts and only a few agree with the county. what a surprise. if you drink and drive, you dont deserve the privilege of having a car. apparently just arresting someone doesnt send the message anymore. there are so many repeat offenders out there who will still drive drunk and god forbid kill one of your loved ones. then what???? it amazes me how many of you side with the drunks!!!

In fairness, there were many who recognized this practice as a cheap, politically-movitated money-grab, cavalier treatment, if not a violation, of civil rights and just a horrifically bad idea.  But for the most part, it’s just a matter of cost and the political shenanigans for which the county is famous.  What failed to make it onto most commenter’s radar is that the seizure and forfeiture of vehicles is a secondary punishment above and beyond any sentence to be imposed under law.  And frankly, your neighbors don’t give a damn.

What few see, and fewer still care about, is that anyone convicted of drunk driving will be sentenced by a judge in accordance with the law. That’s not enough to soothe the angry townspeople.  If it was up for popular vote, there would not only be a death penalty, but one that applied to any crime more serious than jaywalking.  Until it’s them or their loved ones, they are more than happy to flip the switch.  If you think otherwise, you don’t get out enough.

11 thoughts on “A Sentence Just Isn’t Bad Enough

  1. David Woycechowsky

    Post: good

    Moneyquote: Excellent:

    “That’s not enough to soothe the angry townspeople. If it was up for popular vote, there would not only be a death penalty, but one that applied to any crime more serious than jaywalking. Until it’s them or their loved ones, [at which time] they are more than happy to flip the switch. If you think otherwise, you don’t get out enough.”

    SHG FTW.

    [Ed. Note: I fixed that for you.]

      1. David Woycechowsky

        No.

        The way you wrote it they are constantly flipping the switch from now until the time the loved one becomes accused. The way I proposed to fix it, they are in one state now, but flip a switch at the time the loved one is accused.

        I may not write about criminal law for a living, but I do write about flipping switches for a living, and I know what I am talking about here.

        1. SHG Post author

          No? So you think it’s your place to tell me what I write? Tell you what, you write whatever you want to write any way you want to write it. But not here.

          1. Mike

            I don’t think he understands the meaning of “flip the switch”. That is, the one on the wall, next to the chair.

  2. Jesse

    Based on the comments to the article, jury nullification would potentially be just the ticket to right this wrong. Sure, there will always be some subset of myopic jackasses that think being accused of drunk driving should result in an immediate life sentence, but if the commenters are representative of the “peers” that will sit on one’s jury, it looks much more promising than I would have thought.

    1. SHG Post author

      If you read them carefully, the vast majority have neither concern for, nor recognition of, the secondary, disproportionate punishment. They only care about the money, and they only care because of their own issues with the county’s greed. Few care at all about the accused, and the few who do care only about their getting a hearing, which is worse than worthless prior to the disposition of the criminal case.

  3. Bruce Coulson

    Why would anyone think that a semi-random selection of people would somehow reach a different (and better) answer than a group of people (presumably) trained in the Law?

    1. SHG Post author

      There are plusses and minuses on both sides. Too many people assume their “peers” to be more inclined to be fair and understanding. Some jurors are. Some are bloodthirsty morons. It goes to show how simplistic solutions rarely solve anything.

  4. Mark McAdoo

    I’ve think that those who write jack-boot loving, hate-filled screed in the comments section of newspapers are disproportionally represented amongst the universe of potential comment-writers. This is because rational people are less likely to see the utility of arguing with morons (don’t feed the trolls); any feelings they hold on the issue are less likely to be so fervently held, as they are more able to recognize both sides to an issue–thus ameliorating the desire to post a comment; and, their horizons are extended far enough so they live a fuller, more complete life. This allows them to not only carry less hatred for their fellow man, but also have less time to waste screwing around in the comments section of the local daily rag. That being said, as you voire dire your panel on their reading habits, slip in an innocuous question about posting in the comments section; you may be able to weed out a few of the mouth-breathers.

    1. SHG Post author

      I agree with you. Also, sites tend to gain a character by becoming a “home” for certain perspectives, which tends to draw more of the same when it becomes too hospitable to their perspective. My point here is that a lot of people refuse to recognize that there could be any significant group that doesn’t share their views, and rely upon this belief in formulating their solutions to problems.

      Jury nullification advocates tend to see things this way, and this is offered to show that their reliance on juries as the solution to government excess might be misplaced.

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