Pulled Over in a Rental Car

 

 

 

This post relates to an article in yesterday’s New York Times.

 

“Pulled Over in a Rental Car, With Heroin in the Trunk”

By Adam Liptak

The New York Times

January 1, 2018

 

The story is based upon the conviction of and sentence of ten years in federal prison given to Terrence Byrd, a black man from Pennsylvania, for dealing in heroin and illegal possession of body armor.

Byrd’s arrest and conviction occurred in 2014. State trooper David Long said that he began following Byrd’s vehicle on a Pennsylvania state highway because “he noticed the driver’s seat was heavily reclined, and he said Byrd violated a law that prohibits drivers from using the left hand lane of a roadway except for passing maneuvers” (Courthouse News Service, September 28, 2017).

Byrd was driving a rental car. His fiancée, Latasha Reed, had rented it, and he was using it with her permission. But he was not listed on the rental agreement as an authorized driver. (Seems like a minor detail? Not in the eyes of the law.)

Trooper Long testified that Mr. Byrd had aroused his suspicion by holding the steering wheel, as driving instructors recommend, at the “10 and 2” position and by sitting far back in his seat. The effrontery! Can you imagine such audacity? Such lawlessness? Why, it’s almost as bad as __________ (can you think of something?).

As noted in the Times article, Trooper Long pulled Mr. Byrd over for failing to move into the right lane fast enough after passing a slow-moving truck.

To quote from the Times: “At that point, the car rental company’s boilerplate contract collided with the Fourth Amendment, which bars unreasonable searches. Because Mr. Byrd was not listed as an authorized driver, Trooper Long said he was free to search the car without Mr. Byrd’s consent. He found body armor and 49 bricks of heroin in the trunk. After a judge refused to suppress the evidence, Mr. Byrd was convicted of federal drug charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison.”

Mr. Byrd and his fiancée have five children and were engaged to be married. None of this matters in the eyes of the law, to the architects of the criminal “justice” system, which is designed to inflict maximum pain and cruelty on ordinary people and which is actually barbaric. (It hasn’t advanced since less “civilized” times.) The law does not really weigh the scales when it comes to ripping apart families and destroying lives. It does worse harm than a “perpetrator” such as Mr. Byrd would be capable of.

Which is worse? A stash of heroin in the back seat of a van or a family of seven (minus one) without a father?

 

 

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As is sometimes said when arguments get out of hand, that’s enough! I didn’t really need to read any more.

The case has gone to the Supreme Court, which will take it up again next week. It should go into the dustbin, and Mr. Byrd should be freed.

You know what the “crime” was, what alerted the trooper’s suspicions? Driving while black. Mr. Byrd moved into the left lane to effect a passing maneuver and did not immediately get back into the right lane — in other words, not fast enough. I see drivers do this all the time (have done it myself) without being followed or stopped. Have you ever seen the video of Sandra Bland, the 28-year-old black woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in Waller County, Texas in July 2015 being pulled over by a state trooper? Same thing. She was driving at moderate speed on a road with what appeared to be no other traffic, did not pull over to the right fast enough for the trooper’s satisfaction, and was tailed, whereupon she pulled over. Most people have focused (not wrongly) on how Ms. Bland was treated after the trooper gave her a citation, but the reason for the stop was incomprehensible.

 

 

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To return for a minute to the case of the notorious drug dealer (meant to be taken sarcastically) Terrence Byrd. Is he, was he, really a menace to society? What harm had he done up to that point? Does it deserve a sentence of ten years? He would have potentially been more of a menace if he had been driving while high or intoxicated.

Say, for the purposes of argument — to use an almost ridiculous example; I am exaggerating to make a point — that I am driving in a car with ten cases of beer or bottles of liquor in my trunk and I am stopped for some absurd reason. First, the police are supposed not to have the right to stop me and search the car without probable cause. (Or some such thing. I am not a lawyer.)

Well, what of it? Would this be worse than having heroin in my vehicle? If it were alcohol, nothing would have happened, because our society tolerates alcohol abuse. But drug users and drug pushers are regarded as vermin, as the lowest of the low. Because someone decided that drugs are a scourge that must be eradicated thorough incarceration of all and sundry and draconian sentences. (Lock ’em up and throw away the key!)

What if I had loads of chocolate bars in my back seat, intending to sell them at a discount? Or cigarettes for sale on the black market? Should I be indicted (very unlikely) and punished, it would be a slap on the wrist. (Of course, I wouldn’t be penalized for the chocolate bars.) My point, which may seem absurd, is that there are all kinds of things that are deleterious to human health and wellbeing that are craved by some and that, when they are illegal, there will always be an underground or black market for.

 

 

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Think my rant is crazy? The premises underlying my argument are no more wild or crazy than the points upon which law enforcement and lawyers base their case and over which they contend like medieval theologians, points so offensive to common sense that there is a Swiftian quality about the whole arrest and courtroom scenario (in TV parlance, “drama”). Supposedly, cool headedness, sober mindedness, and logic are what underlie the outcome of court cases. Right will prevail and the wicked will be punished according to the dictates of reason (oops, the law, and who can make sense out of it?). Would that a Victor Hugo or Charles Dickens were still around. They would see the absurdity and unfairness plainly and know how to convey a sense of it.

The criminal “justice” system and the prison system are God awful institutions designed to perpetuate human misery rather than ameliorate the human condition. The law is anything but fair. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about driving while black.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   January 2, 2018

 

 

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See also my post

“drugs”

https://rogersgleanings.com/2017/02/23/drugs/

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
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One Response to Pulled Over in a Rental Car

  1. haycarol says:

    The small man
    builds cages for everyone he knows,
    while the sage,
    keeps dropping keys all night long
    for the beautiful rowdy prisoners.

    — HAFIZ

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