Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Failure to Perform My Civic Duty?

I have a feeling I failed to perform my civic duty today. But it isn't an obvious call, so I thought I'd share the story with you and see what The Citizens might think about it.

I was on my way to work this morning when a guy runs a red light and hits the side of my truck. My light had just turned green and I was pulling out into the intersection. He was moving slowly and couldn't have been going more than 5 or 10 mph when he hit me. The funny part is that I was clearly right there in front of him, and other cars were honking--and had the other guy stepped on the brakes at any time, there is no question that he could have stopped before collided with me. Unfortunately, since I was revving up from a dead stop, I had no time to move out of his way, so I just braked to ensure he only hit the very front of my truck instead the middle.

So I signal to him, and we both pull into a nearby parking lot. We both get out of our vehicles to inspect my truck... and the first thing I notice is that there's something weird about his mouth. There's a green paste around it, maybe a medicine of some kind. But there is no damage to my car as far as I can tell--clearly, he just hit my wheel with his (low) bumper. I am thinking that I'd like to just forget about it, but trying to be cautious, I say we should exchange information anyhow, just in case. He is nice enough and offers to give me his phone number, but he admits to me that he doesn't have insurance. This annoys me, and we talk about it for a minute or so, but the guy's car is old and poor, and I figure he just can't afford the insurance, so I feel a little bad for him. And since there's no damage anyhow, I decide to just leave it be. We shake hands and then we both head back to our vehicles.

But as soon as I turn around, there's an unmarked cop car that has pulled up right behind me, with two police officers inside. The young officer in the passenger's seat has his door half open and asks me if I smelled any alcohol on the guys' breath. I answered honestly that I had not. The cops say nothing, but watch the other guy climb into his car and begin to drive away. Although I cannot put my finger on it, I sensed that the cops wanted me to say "yes."

At that moment, as the other guy started driving off, I thought about mentioning that the guy told me he didn't have insurance. I thought about mentioning that there was something funny around the guys' mouth. After all, the guy had been driving funny and maybe he was on drugs or something. Maybe the cops had been following him, knowing he was a public menace, and just needed some excuse to stop him? I seriously considered lying and saying I thought I'd smelled something. But instead of any of that, I stayed silent and I did not volunteer any more information about my fellow citizen. So the cops in the unmarked car drove off when the other guy did, looking to me like they were following the guy.

As I resumed driving to work, I wondered if I had done the right thing. After all, the man was uninsured, had been driving funny, and the cops clearly thought there was a problem. Did I do the right thing by telling the truth and not ratting on the man about his lack of insurance? Or did I just allow my instincts to be "nice" and not get "involved" to override my civic duty to help the police investigate a dangerous driver? In retrospect, I think I may have failed in my civic duty. I keep thinking how bad I would feel if I read in the local paper some weeks from now that this man caused a serious accident that hurt someone. What would you have done?


Raised By Republicans said...

I think I would have volunteered the stuff about the green substance at least and probably said something about a lack of insurance too. But that's at least half because of my instincts to blurt out things without thinking much. Civic duty...Tourette's's a fine line.

But the other half of my reason for giving the guy up is that I tend to go with telling the truth whenever asked because not doing so has a tendency to cause regrets later on.

Dr. Strangelove said...

RxR says, "I tend to go with telling the truth whenever asked..." I agree--but in this case, the only question the police asked me was whether I smelled alcohol on his breath. If they had asked anything more general, that would have been a different story.

Raised By Republicans said...

Don't forget the blurting things out part. ;-)

Red Leader said...

First off, you should get an alignment to be sure that he didn't do some damage that isn't visible to the eye, but will cause trouble down the road (pun not originally intended).

I wouldn't say you failed any civic duties, but I would say that you demonstrated a personal bias to try to help out a money-poor guy by not giving the cops an excuse to question/harass him. While I'm sympathetic to this perspective, I would have told the cops that this guy was probably not in full control of his faculties (he had the opportunity to stop before hitting you and didn't) and that in your judgement he deserved to be pulled over and questioned. They would've found out he didn't have insurance quickly enough on their own, I would think.

US West said...

Would have mentioned the green stuff, not the insurance part. They would have needed to check that when they pulled hin over for the green stuff. I wouldn't worry. If the cops wanted him, they would find a reason to get him, a seat belt violation or something.