The Truth About “Giving You a Break” . . .

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I’ve had people criticize my criticism of “speeding” tickets. They say I’m encouraging or at least defending wrongful, dangerous activity. But I’d like to ask them a question. If “speeding” is indeed such a thing – not just illegal, but genuinely anti-social in the way that, say, kicking a dog or stealing something or even worse than that surely is – how come cops so routinely give people a break?

Think about it for a minute. It has probably happened to you.

One day, you’re out driving. You are traveling faster than the posted speed limit – as almost all of us do every time we are out driving. This time, it’s your turn to be the first car past the radar trap a cop just set up around the next curve. Red and blue flashing lights in your rearview. It’s time to get out your wallet – and not just to get your driver’s license, either.

The cop comes over – hopefully without his gun drawn and without Tazering you. He takes your license and paperwork, asks if you know how fast you were going. (If you are smart you will be polite but noncommittal at this point). But today is your “lucky” day. The cop explains that even though you were doing 62 in a 45, he is going to cut you a break – and knock it down to 54 so that your fine is lower and your DMV points fewer.

Here’s where it gets weird.

No, wait. It already is weird.

A cop – a sworn enforcer of the law – is openly reducing the charge against you and therefore, the punishment as well – even though he believes he just caught you red handed doing the Full Monte.

Imagine you have just been arrested for shoplifting something. The cop has the video of you stuffing a Wii into your pants. But he says, “I’m going to cut you a break and only charge you with disorderly conduct. It’s a lower fine and you won’t have a record. Just sign here, pay this – and don’t do it again, ok?”

Apply the same test to any other offense – any other real offense, that is.

It’s as useful for getting at the truth of the situation as turpentine gets rid of road goo on your fender. It reveals – in all its liver-spotted, cellulite marbled ugliness – the banana republic-style corruption at the core of American traffic law. If the cops actually believed you had just done something genuinely dangerous to yourself or to other motorists, do you really think he would cut you a break?


But we – most of us – rarely have this epiphany. Instead, we are reflexively grateful to the cop who “cuts us a break” – even though we’re still stuck paying a fine and facing DMV points on our record that will very likely result in us paying more for our car insurance policy.

This is genius.

You manufacture Fake Crime – stuff everyone is going to do anyway because it’s almost impossible not to do it. Expecting people not to “speed” is like expecting them to shuffle instead of walk. People are going to do it anyway.

This means you’ve effectively criminalized normal, reasonable behavior. But you know people instinctively resent being jacked-up over what they sense at the gut level to be not just nonsense but unjust nonsense.

And, so, you give them a break.

You make the victim feel as though he’s being treated with special consideration. And more subtly, the cop who gives you a break becomes a sympathetic figure instead of the asshole who has just handed you a piece of paper that will force you to hand over a large wad of cash to your least favorite compulsory charity. It’s the same psychology that did its number on Patty Hearst. Remember Patty Hearst? The newspaper heiress? She was dragooned from her apartment by a group of thugs who styled themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. In no time at all, they turned Patty’s head around. By “nice treatment” – giving her a break – she became convinced the thugs who kidnapped her at gunpoint were in fact her allies.

She ended up helping them rob a bank at gunpoint.

The point, is if “speeding” tickets and other such traffic offenses really were dangerous and anti-social you would never in a million years hear about a cop giving someone a break. The proverbial book would be thrown, full force – every time. The fact that it is not tells you all you need to know about the true nature of the system.

It is a con – and we are co-conspirators, just like Patty Hearst was.

Maybe someday, we’ll be deprogrammed, too.

Throw it in the Woods?


  1. If one delves into the whole purpose of speed limit signs, one would find out that they are (in theory) about enforcing public safety first, they’re not absolute and change with the conditions. A sign that says 70 mph on a highway is telling you that that is the maximum speed one should go on a clear dry summer day, in rain or fog it will be lower than that. A cop can give you a ticket or give you a warning by quickly gaging your attitude and sincerity. If the cop pulls you over driving 75 in a zone marked 70, he can let you off because there is leeway taking into consideration you might have just glanced away from the speedometer for a few minutes, if you are going 100 though, the law kicks in and says that the cop can’t give you any leeway. There’s no way that you didn’t know that you were going that fast.

  2. please send me advice,,im in the right lane on i-5 the copper sitting on the curb cars are passing im in a truck so he gives me a ticket cars, are passing me on all lanes,,this is b.s and discrimination,,he is sitting,by the rocks on left and im on the right lane truckis 55 this is crap too,trucks should stop driving completely what a rip of way of life,

  3. Here in Virginia I never heard of them giving you a break. On one occasion my wife told the cop she was not speeding being the 4th car in a train so how could he radar her? He changed it to failure to follow a posted sign. She got it thrown out in court asking officer friendly where the posted sign was and did he know she saw it? Also, I see a lot of Arlington cops observing traffic through the radar gun and not observing traffic first and then using the radar gun. Anyone know the proper procedure here?

    • I live in VA (SW, Roanoke area) also. It’s definitely gotten worse in the Commonwealth and I bet it’s because state/county governments “need” more money and cutting people “breaks” means less “revenue” flowing into the kitty. Back in the ’90s, I caught a few breaks – including one situation (80-plus in a posted 55 outside of Warrenton) where I was sure I was going to get hit with a “reckless driving” beef. But the cop – a local – let me off with a warning. We BS’d about cars by the side of the road for about 30 minutes once he found out I test-drive/write about cars for a living. Maybe that’s what saved my bacon that time!

  4. I just threw up in my mouth, twice!

    I’ve heard that ‘cut me a break’ bullshit too many times.

    I’ve been pulled over in the middle of no-man’s land for running reds.

    I’ve been pulled for speeding on empty four lane highways! -small exaggeration


  5. The Daily Clover!

    Inspired by Swamp and Dom we are gonna have a new category/feature here called The Daily Clover.

    It will be the place to post pics, video and rants about lane-blocking, refuse-to-yield “drivers” who need to be taken off the roads for all our sanity’s sake.

    Details to come….


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