A question posted recently on Quora asked, “Which laws do police officers least enjoy enforcing? The question attracted several responses. Check them out and add your own thoughts in the comments below.
By Tim Dees, a PoliceOne columnist and retired police officer
Laws that cops are required or strongly encouraged to enforce rigorously, but that are treated casually by prosecutors. For example, when I worked in Nevada in the 1980s, possession of any identifiable amount of marijuana was a felony under Nevada law. If we found a roach (butt of a MJ cigarette) in a pocket or an ashtray, we had to make an arrest and process it as if we had found a kilo of pharmaceutical-grade cocaine. When the case got to the DA's office, it would nearly always be either dismissed outright or dealt down to some unrelated "legal fiction" offense (one where the facts of the case do not justify the charge, but the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the charge as part of a plea bargain) that was satisfied by a fine.
In other jurisdictions, offenses like DUIs and domestic violence are often treated similarly. The police have virtually no discretion, but the prosecutors can dispose of those cases for political reasons or simply because they don't want to invest the time. Cases that justify a charge of grand theft under the law (usually defined by a loss threshold of $1000 or so--this varies with the jurisdiction) are prosecuted as petty theft until the loss reaches several times the statutory threshold.
By Justin Freeman, former police officer:
Leaving the scene of an accident. Just ganked that yield and crunched someone's car? If you stay, all kinds of benign to mild things can happen. First, the other person may not want to do anything — you might have had the good fortune of hitting someone with an active arrest warrant, who will forgo restitution for the car to keep themselves out of jail — it's happened more than once. Or they may just want to swap info. Worst case, I come, jot down some notes, and you get two municipal citations (here, Failure to Yield Right of Way and Striking a Lawfully Operating Motor Vehicle). It's like $150 after court costs. Sure, it sucks, but your driving sucks — it's car-ma.
Past residential burglary / Stealing from a vehicle. So you left your door unlocked, huh? Somebody exploited that fact and jacked your stuff? That bites. Oh, you want me to write about it? Hmm...'Vic neglected to utilize sole security feature in residence/vehicle's point of ingress. Unknown subject accessed residence/vehicle and stole ___. No further information.' That should cover it.
Petty shoplifting, especially juveniles. If a convicted felon is be-bopping out of your store with $1,400 worth of clothes, I am frickin' on that like dots on dice. However, if a fourteen-year-old girl palms a $1 bracelet with a kitty on it, I...sigh. Yes, I know it's corporate policy to press charges. Here's what I also know: I can't cite a minor criminally, so I get to call the county juvenile office. They'll obviously tell me to release to a parent. I'll call parent, who was invariably 1) at work or 2) out of town. Either way, I get to sit there and stare at a fourteen-year-old girl who is either violently sobbing or completely nonplussed to the point of eye-rolling and disdainful sighs. [Then] I write a meaningless report that goes to the JO. They flag her school file for administrative probation.
Fireworks calls on Independence Day. Hold the phone. Someone in your neighborhood is shooting fireworks at 7:30 pm on...the Fourth of July!?!? Please hold the line while we page the SWAT team.
I mean, come on — your neighbors save you the expense and second degree burns and put on a free fireworks show, so you call the cops on them, sitting in your smug little house with your smug little self and expecting me to be the [expletive] who sets all of the children to crying?