I live a relatively simple life. (That’s because I hate drama.)
I’m not perfect. I don’t always do the right thing, but I try to. I’ve never been arrested (knock wood). As a homeowner in an upper middle class neighborhood, I’ve never been ticketed by the township (knock wood). And I have great relations with my neighbors (knock wood).
I won’t say whether I always follow the law, rather will note the law often outlaws things that are perfectly fine. In law school we learned the difference between “malum in se” (things legally prohibited because they are bad in themselves) and “malum prohibitum” (things outlawed simply because they are prohibited). So yes, maybe I will drive 65 in a 55 MPH area.
I think the issue I have with today’s bureaucratic tyranny relates more to how the law deals with “malum prohibitum” (a good source of revenue for especially state and local governments).
Here’s my long story short:
On Monday, July 27 of this year (2015), I received mail noting a complaint filed against me ordering to appear in Trenton, NJ Municipal Court. Such message informed 1. a warrant may be issued for my arrest; 2. my driving and/or registration privileges (in NJ) may be suspended; and 3. I may be subject to contempt of court and additional penalties, in the State of New Jersey, the Municipality of Trenton.
I have a PA driver’s license, which I don’t think the State of NJ could go after for this. However, it’s still possible they could suspend my driving privileges in NJ (a specific legal question, the answer to which I don’t know). That would be a problem for me given I work in NJ.
In late May of this year I received the official information from the Trenton Police Autotheft division informing what occurred.
And it was this: In August of 2014, I sold my car to an agent of Geico’s, who came to my house in Bucks County, PA, and I signed title to over to them. And they paid me cash. I was going to sell my car to “We Buy Any Car.” My car was not running so I needed a tow. I first called AAA, but they wouldn’t tow a car with an expired inspection. So I called Geico with whom I have towing on my regular insurance contract.
Geico’s agent, a local towing company, asked how much WBAC would pay. It was $200. The tow truck operator said something like, “hey, we buy old cars too!” They offered $300. (It was a 1999 Suburu with 130K miles on it; and, as noted, not running). I accepted and got a bill of sale. They towed the car away.
But this company apparently skipped title and it was later observed by the police parked on the streets of Trenton with a “for sale sign,” a PA inspection, and, fake NJ license plates. The registration, unfortunately was traceable to me.
So the Trenton Police ordered it towed to a local company (where it currently sits). In May when initially informed, I did my best to contact all relevant parties, give them every bit of needed information and let them know I did nothing wrong, that I am attorney, I wish to work this out properly, but I will hold all parties involved potentially liable; so it would be best we cooperate.
(The agent of the Trenton tow company informed me of the law of which I was previously unaware that has SERIOUS penalties for abandoning a car in the State of NJ. She seemed to be trying to light a fire under my ass so they could get paid. That’s when I told her, if anything happens to me, I’ll see what my options are under the law to hold them responsible, because we are in this together now. :))
Here’s a disturbing part of the story: My initial letter from the Trenton Police (again what I received in May 2015) instructed me to call their “autotheft” division. After speaking with the lead agent of that division, she informed me that (paraphrasing) “if you sold the car to someone else then disregard the letter.” I informed her of the skipping title issue, and it didn’t seem to phase her. She angrily gave me the information of a detective and acted like I was a crazy worry wart for questioning her advice.
After calling that detective and getting voicemail, I then called the Chief of Police in Trenton and talked to his administrative assistant. She seemed much more understanding.
Later that day I got a phone call from a detective — a seemingly very nice, good guy dedicated to doing the right thing. He told me if I sent him the requisite information (i.e., the Bill of Sale proving I didn’t have possession of the car during the event of the infraction), everything would be okay. So I did that.
Then a few months later (on Monday, July 27) I got a summons to appear in Municipal Court. So again, I sent out of flurry of carbon copied emails and made aggressive phone calls. I even carbon copied my work chain of command noting I wished to make this communication private, but given the potential consequences to my employment from something no fault of mine, I felt the need CC them.
Bottom line: The “good guy” Detective in Trenton helped me out, assured me my summons was pulled and to help in the future if I receive any more notices related to this issue. Even good guy bureaucrats can let things slip by them or have their efforts subverted by the complicated, convoluted “system.”
One reason I write this is because I am aware this happened to a number of other professional i dotters and t crossers. For instance, my Dad about 20 years ago. My Dad, also an attorney, is if nothing else a professional i dotter and t crosser (especially when it relates to money and managing risk). This also happened to a friend of mine at work who is an Ed.D.
It’s one thing when you sell your car to an apparently shady person who gives you $ and you sign over the title, but in my case I sold to a small business who was an agent of Geico’s.
A few friends with whom I shared this story told me how lucky I am that I am an attorney with advanced degrees. That this is the kind of stuff that makes ordinary folks shit bricks, as it were.
Not exactly. This is what makes ordinary folks who care about keeping their lives in order shit bricks.
Alas, there are a lot of folks out there who aren’t as good at i dotting and t crossing and thus will disregard these letters and summonses. And then come the bench warrants for their arrests. The number truly boggles the mind. In NYC alone there are 1.2 million extant arrest warrants for issues like this.
Both law and order conservatives and big government liberals are both to blame for this. (Yes, you lefties, this is an important way your big bloated state and local governments get funded.)
This is why 1. I often don’t vote; and 2. when I do it’s usually Libertarian.
I call bullshit on this system.