Regulation of the Day 152: Locking Your Car Door

Most car thefts happen to unlocked cars. The government of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, thinks it can help. It plans to issue $25 fines to people who forget to lock their cars. First-time violators get off with a warning.

Bear in mind that enforcing this policy involves police systematically trying to break into peoples’ cars. First, that’s inherently creepy. Second, that’s a significant privacy violation. It’s also a Fourth Amendment issue. If an officer stumbles upon something illegal and decides to prosecute, he has performed a warrantless search.

It’s also a safety issue. If a thief decides to play dress-up and look like an officer, he could very easily steal valuables from parked cars in broad daylight and no one would be the wiser.

One more problem to add to the pile is corruption. A legitimate officer might be tempted to give himself a quick pay raise at a forgetful car owner’s expense. Policing for profit is all too common.

Better for the government to stay out of this one.

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