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More on Jayton, Texas

I noticed some people picking up links to Bitter’s post about our law enforcement encounter in Jayton. I just wanted to note that I didn’t have any intention to make the town look bad, or to malign the Sheriff’s deputy, who, as I said, was very polite, friendly and professional during the entire incident.

But I do want the message to get out to small town folk that they should not be automatically suspicious of out of towners. As a legal technically, even though I’m not a lawyer, I’m pretty sure that two people sitting in the parking lot of a public library, with out of state tags, doesn’t amount to probable cause for the police to stop someone.

I’m not upset about what happened to us, nor do I think it was outside the bounds of tolerable. Truth is, I find the whole thing pretty amusing, and figured it would be something fun to blog about. But the whole thing does kind of sit badly with me, mostly because I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to the law.

The law should not be created or construed in such a way that an ordinary, decent person going about his daily business has to pay much attention to, or worry much about it. Ordinary people should never fear the strong arm of the law. That should be reserved for people who are truly causing harm to others. That’s why we establish concepts like probable cause for stops, and why, at least in theory, we restrain the federal government and, to some degree, the police power of the states.

As we become a more increasingly connected world, the definition of “outsider” will become increasingly fluid. Consider that the old lady in the library that called us in actually knew Carrie’s great-grandmother who owned the farm. I know Carrie’s family through the magic of Al Gore’s modern Internets. It’s an odd meshing of the old world and the new, but the old world will have to get used to the new, and learn to tolerate the way it works. The end result will be a lot more out of town tags and strange people in places like Jayton, Texas.

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