There was a recent article in the New York Times that talked about driverless cars and how they would impact city revenues. The article made an interesting point that city and county governments could be greatly impacted as driverless cars are introduced into the market. The article points to the fact that cities use traffic tickets and parking tickets as a large revenue source. Essentially, the cities are fleecing citizens by giving them tickets.
In thinking about this article I am drawn to three features of driverless cars and how they might impact the court system in Colorado:
- Reduced traffic crimes
- Reduced drug crimes
- The end of DUI
The changes that driverless cars would create are substantial. Perhaps the most important is the reduction in traffic crimes. Currently, insurance companies, civil lawyers, doctors, and the government all fill their pockets with money from auto accidents and traffic incidents. With driverless cars, these markets would either dry up or have to substantially change. In other words, the day of the ambulance chasing attorney are coming to an end. I am sure there will be a few sad people as a result, but I, for one, am looking forward to the change.
A more nuanced feature of driverless cars is that their perfection will take away a police officer’s ability to conduct vehicle searches through the use of pretextual stops. The most common way to conduct a search of a vehicle today (and one of the primary ways that police find drug offenders) is for an officer to pull over a suspected person for a traffic violation (or for what the officer says is a traffic violation). Following the traffic violation, the officer either searches the car for “officer safety” or conducts an “inventory search”. This gives the officer the opportunity to tear through the person’s car, looking for anything that might be related to drug activity. In Colorado, it does not matter how minor the traffic incident is, it almost always gives the officer the opportunity to conduct a fishing expedition to try to find anything drug related on your person or in your car. Ultimately, the police will no longer be able to conduct these drug searches without the pretext of a traffic violation.
Another interesting change is that there will no longer be the crimes of DUI, Vehicular Assault, or Vehicular Homicide in Colorado. This would be an excellent change as people would be allowed to live their lives again without police saying they cannot drink. It will also keep our society safe from a potentially dangerous drunk driver.
I am looking forward to a day when the billboards of personal injury lawyers are taken down, where police cannot violate someone’s constitutional rights because of a dubious traffic violation, and knowing that I am safe on the road, regardless of how much I or someone else has had to drink.
As for the city’s revenues, well, tough luck. The Golden Goose had to end at some point.
The information in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as the creation of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice, please contact an Attorney.