If somebody arrests you and throws you in jail, does that mean you deserved to be arrested and thrown in jail? Not long ago I discussed the case of Gail Atwater, a Texas mom who was not only fined but also arrested and briefly jailed. Her crime? She and her children were not wearing their seat belts while looking for a lost toy.
The experience was a traumatic one for her, and especially for her kids. Atwater thought the treatment way out of bounds and sued, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. But the Court ruled that although the officer’s actions were unreasonable, they were within his proper discretion. Most of us can put ourselves in the shoes of Gail Atwater. Most of us have gotten a ticket for speeding at one time or another. A ticket is bad enough. What if the police felt they had the right to arrest us too, even without reasonable cause? Most cops would never do that, but a few bad ones might.
Say if the motorist seems to be looking at them the wrong way. Most listeners took my point. But a couple said, hey, you wouldn’t need to arrest me to make me wear a seat belt! I abide by the law! In other words, the sheer fact that Atwater was arrested proves she deserved to be arrested and tough luck. All I can say is, there are countries where people get arbitrarily arrested as a matter of routine, and there is nobody, no media, no legislature, no court, to protest or stop it. These countries are called dictatorships. And that’s not a road we want to travel.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.