Saturday, July 15, 2006

867-5309 = 911?

This story got me thinking.

In short, a lady called 911 in order to meet up again with an attractive police officer who had just been to her house. The deputy was sent back to her residence, and after confirming that there was no emergency, he arrested her for "misuse of the emergency dispatch system." Sergeant Thompson highlights the underlying motive behind the law: "That's taking up valuable time from dispatchers who could be taking true emergency calls." I don't see her getting anything more than a slap on the wrist, but the law reads that she could get up to a year in jail.

It reminded me of a case I had to deal with when I was in undergrad. When I was in student government, we rented a bus for the graduating senior class to take to a booze cruise in Santa Monica. Over the course of the night, the bus incurred a significant amount of damage, such that it had to be sent somewhere for repairs, and therefore, taken out of commission for the time needed to fix it. When we were sent the bill for the whole ordeal, it included not only the amount for the repairs, but the cost of renting out the bus for the time that it spent in the shop. Their thoughts were that they couldn't rent out the bus while it was in the shop; ours were that it should be demonstrated that the bus would otherwise actually have been rented out if it were not in the shop. Having no spare buses at times would be a good amount of proof; would-be clients that had to be turned away would have been even better. The bus company provided neither, and ultimately, we didn't have to pay that portion of the bill.

Along the same lines, shouldn't the authorities be required to prove that her phone call did, in fact, tie up important lines that citizens in distress were trying to use? She's being prosecuted for "misuse of the emergency dispatch system," but shouldn't the law come into effect when someone is actually being harmed? Shouldn't that be the threshold for prosecution? What has a larger negative impact-- this situation, or a nervous citizen calling 911 for reassurance on September 11th?

If I punch the air in frustration after getting a low grade on an exam, should I be prosecuted for potentially hitting someone had they been in the way of my fist?

In the private sector, individuals or companies need to prove that actions taken had deleterious effects-- not that said actions could have had consequences. Having a monopoly on coercion certainly comes in handy in prosecution, eh?

1 comment:

Matt E. Ryan said...

"Laws are in place to prevent negative outcomes, not punish them."

I would sure hope that laws punish negative outcomes. I think the law would come into play if you steamrolled someone in the CRX, not only if you could have run someone over.

The potential consequences of the law IS the deterrence effect of the law. Moral sentiments aside, people don't steal from others because there exist consequences of doing so.

This site is double-blind peer reviewed; I am not Matt Ryan, nor is David Skarbek himself, nor pinetorum you-- but we all get judged. I trust my post got somewhere between a rejection and a revise and re-submit.