Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Annoying laws

Everybody does it....

That's the response from the City of Brighton. They cited some similar ordinances from Fowlerville and Green Oak, among other places.

From the Argus:

Brighton gained national notoriety for making amendments to its harassment ordinances, which were dubbed its "annoyance ordinances," but it's certainly not the only place with such rules.

Seventeen other communities in Michigan have similar rules, including Fowlerville and Green Oak Township in Livingston County.

Fowlerville has an ordinance identical to that of Brighton, and it states, "No person shall insult, accost, molest, or otherwise annoy, either by word of mouth, sign, or motion, any person in any public place."

Green Oak Township's harassment ordinance says it is unlawful for a person — with the intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person — to "engage in a course of conduct, or repeatedly commit acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose."

Although the laws are on their books, law enforcement officials said the rules rarely result in actual tickets being issued for civil infractions. Typically, police officers only have to show up to get compliance.

One common saying among gun owners is that there are over 20,000 gun laws on the books. One other saying is that everybody breaks the law every single day. Part of the reasons for that is that there are hundreds of thousands of laws on the books that are unknown, vague, unenforced, but still there.

That does not mean that we should ignore them. If it is a bad law - REPEAL IT! The POTENTIAL of a current law on the books being enforced in arbitrary situations that are vague, hard to define, and hard to defend, is bad enough. I don't care if it is "only a civil infraction" and I go irate when it is "only a misdeamenor." Misdeamenors are a very big deal for me. I do not have and can not get them on my record. I can go to jail for misdeamenors, and even civil infractions cost over $100 when court costs are figured into the matter.

Chetly Zarko, an Oakland County political consultant, covered this is depth on his site, Outside Lansing. There's some good reading there.

Green Oak's officials are going to get a call or visit from me real soon about this. Harassment I can understand. Annoy or Alarm are tough to define, and tough to defend against.

These "catch all" laws are ridiculous, especially when there is adequate laws for the real problems. Disturbing the peace has solid definitions. Disorderly conduct (Drunk and disorderly in some other states) despite it's vague sounding to the public, has solid legal foundations through statutes defining the conduct on the state level, as well is common law foundations and precident.

The City of Brighton continues to dig a hole with there comments.

First, from the Cops.

He said these rules help people resolve neighborhood disputes that aren't of a criminal nature. As a civil infraction, he said, police have more opportunity to use these rules to deal with problems "that seem to not be resolving themselves."

Civil Infractions are a ticket. Is this a budgetary measure turning law enforcement officers (LEO's) into revenue enhancement officers? (REO's) Tickets are rarely contested in court as well, since it often costs less to pay the fine rather than go to court and hire a lawyer to fight this. (And I never recommend being a fool for a client).

That doesn't account for the laws already on the books. Disorderly Conduct. Disturbing the peace. Etc.

Kinaschuk pointed out the rules are necessary today because society has changed.

"We don't go and talk to our neighbors, and we don't know our neighbors as we used to," he said.

Officer, who is "We?"

A more reasonable comment comes from Fowlerville, although they have the ordinance.

Although the laws are on their books, law enforcement officials said the rules rarely result in actual tickets being issued for civil infractions. Typically, police officers only have to show up to get compliance.

Fowlerville Police Chief Tom Couling said the harassment ordinances are "very infrequently" enforced with a ticket. He said cases typically involve neighbor disputes over noise or barking dogs.

Noise ordinances are constitutional, and dogs certainly can qualify. Those are different than these vague "annoyance" statutes. The more telling quote is that they rarely result in actual tickets being issued. That shows that frankly, this law is not needed.

It's time for the City of Brighton to man up and admit it did something stupid in following Royal Oak's annoyance law and repeal it.

1 comment:

RightMichigan.com said...

Careful, the Council might threaten to sue you for talking about it.

Wouldn't want to... annoy them...