In theory, the justice system has been created to protect people, to prevent “bad” things from happening to “good” people by its set of rules determined theoretically on basic conception of moral principles.
However, the people assigned to the enforcement of these rules, including the ones who set them, are only human themselves, and therefore susceptible to the same inclinations towards a sometimes blurred line of “right” and “wrong” reasoning.
I am not a perfect person but in general I am a law-abiding citizen. I strive to avoid hurting others as well as prevent others from being hurt; I don’t do drugs or steal or even smoke cigarettes; I’m fairly health conscious (even though I like to indulge in wine and junk food at times); I like to dress up and dance and laugh and make friends. In life, I’ve been told that I’m too forgiving and too trusting. I’m also a mother to a four year old boy.
Quite recently in my life, I have realized the justice system to be less than helpful to me.
I will start with the police officers of Cranbrook, BC:
As I like to dress up and dance and drink wine, I went out with my friends and coworkers on a weekend evening and somehow ended up separated from everyone at the end of the night when everything was closed. There is a taxi shortage in Cranbrook on Friday and Saturday nights and it can be virtually impossible to get one. I was dressed up in a skirt and high-heels and even though it was summer, it was a very chilly night. The scenario that I found myself in was that I was intoxicated, wandering around by myself at night, trying to get a hold of a taxi or a friend. One police car pulled up, talked to me briefly but wouldn’t give me a ride and then left me there by myself again even though I had explained my predicament. Quite a while later, tears running down my face by this time, another cop car pulled up and told me a taxi is on its way. I tried to get into the police officer’s vehicle but he promptly refused me from doing so, and I was left there once again. I waited and waited but a taxi never came. I ended up taking a ride from a guy on a Harley (I wore a helmet as he fortunately had a spare) whom I had seen at the bar earlier. When my son’s father found out how I had gotten home, he was more than perturbed and angry at me for being so irresponsible and reckless.
A few weeks later I found myself in a similar situation where all my friends had gone a separate way, it was cold, the establishment we’d all been socializing at together was closed and not letting anyone back in, and I was on my phone trying to find out where everyone took off to. Then I had unwelcome, assertive invitations from men I didn’t know to go home with them. My car was parked nearby so I briskly walked to it to seek safety and heat while I put warmer clothes on (which I stored in my car), and continued on my phone to figure out where to go. Earlier that day while making plans with one of my friends, she’d asked to sleep at my place and I said since my place was a bit out of town, that we could stay at my other friends, as I would not be driving if I’d been drinking. I didn’t know at the time, but she had passed out in her vehicle which was also nearby.
I was sitting cross legged in the drivers seat, interior light on, keys in the ignition for heat, no shoes, in between digging out which clothes to wear, and still texting and making calls; I didn’t bother trying to get a taxi again. A police car pulled up behind me and my first thoughts were, oh good, I feel safer now; they’re checking on me and it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving. The police officer asked if I’d been drinking and I was honest and said that I had. Before I knew it, I was getting treated like a criminal and asked to take a breathalyzer which I politely refused as I did not understand nor appreciate what was going on while I was again standing outside shivering. I was not obviously drunk as the officer himself seemed to think I may only blow a warning if I’d accepted the breathalyzer, and in hindsight perhaps I should have. I was given a $500 fine for refusing, a thirty-day impoundment of my vehicle, and a ninety-day prohibition of my license, totalling nearly $2000 at the end of it all.
I have a little boy and a low income, but in the end it is only money and inconvenience. I try to have a positive outlook on it. However, what if I had not broken the law and stayed outside late at night, separated from anyone I knew or trusted, with nowhere to go, with intoxicated men who wanted to have sex with me? What if that guy on the motorbike a few weeks earlier had motives other than to simply rescue me from being stranded and cold? My punishment for breaking the law is not that bad compared to other things that could have happened, but yet, the punishment for breaking the law is meant to deter us from breaking the law. Why, you may ask, do you keep going out with friends who disappear at the end of the night? But that is beside the point. The point is, there seems to something wrong with the practical enforcement of a law that is supposed to protect and correct. How though, are these police officers who are only human (not psychic fortune tellers), supposed to know that I really wasn’t going to drive off in my vehicle? For all they know, they prevented drunk driving. So I can’t truly blame them.
Perhaps though, if they cared enough to listen to the whole story of why I ended up in a position where I unwittingly broke the law, their human discretion could be used to improve the dilemma that not only I have faced. Perhaps they should open their eyes to the valid point that it isn’t right for a person, especially a female, to be faced with the decision to either stay out in the cold, dark alone; or go to warm safety and break the law.
Years ago, a police car in the city of Halifax, Nova Scotia while my male friend and I were walking late at night, pulled up to stop us. We were teenagers and our first thought was, oh no, what did we do? But they were just checking up on us and insisted we get in the vehicle and accept a ride to somewhere safer. This is the kind of behaviour that law enforcement officers should have.
What I have come to notice about some government employed, law practicing individuals, is that they don’t listen enough. It isn’t that they don’t understand; it’s that they won’t. They are busy and well-paid. If the point of doing their job is to get paid, well then they’ve done the right thing.
There is an even bigger situation which the law has failed to help me with, which is that of domestic abuse and child custody. But that is a whole other long story.