How the PPA Can Screw You

And other dumb laws on the books in Pennsylvania

Danielle Sheller recently had the car she was driving seized by the Philadelphia Police Department and towed by the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), after which she was left stranded in an unfamiliar West Philly neighborhood. Why? Was she a fleeing felon? An escaping convict? An eluding drug courier? Nope. And even if she were, she would have been treated a little better because she wouldn’t have been abandoned by the cops.

[SIGNUP]Instead, she was a law-abiding elementary school teacher whose father—a prominent Center City class-action attorney and the owner of the vehicle she was operating—had committed the apparently felonious capital crime of mistakenly mailing the auto’s registration renewal application to his daughter’s old address. She never received it, and the registration lapsed. When she called her father during the police traffic detention—known as Live Stop—he immediately logged onto PennDOT’s website and quickly completed the registration form. Despite that, the Live Stop monster went into its “kill, crush, destroy” mode. It kicked the young schoolmarm out of the car. It ticketed the car. It cited the car’s owner. It took the car. It towed the car. Then the police officers on the scene, who must have found her dangerous plight funny, laughed at her when she nervously asked them to transport her to a safe location, or wait with her until a family member arrived. They refused. She had now become one of about 23,000 victims in the past year to be eaten alive by Live Stop.

What the hell is Live Stop? Well, it’s a dumbass law. More specifically, it’s the illegitimate baby that was born 13 years ago when former District Attorney Lynne Abraham got in bed with the insurance industry, ostensibly as part of a plan to reduce the exorbitant insurance rates in the city. But guess what? The rates were never reduced. In fact, they remain outrageously high. The prosecutor is the one who jumped in the sack, but city drivers are the ones who got screwed. Live Stop allows the police and the PPA to jack your ride for heinous crimes such as driving an unregistered vehicle. Back in the good ole days, alleged violators had to be proven guilty. But Live Stop changed all that—and turned law-abiding drivers into criminals. Sadly, it’s not this Commonwealth’s only dumbass law.

Such laws are the result of influential lobbies, money-grubbing governmental agencies, and holier-than-thou crusaders who arbitrarily make up crimes as they go along. For example, take gambling—sorry, I mean gaming—which is cool if the state controls it. But if a bookie and his client are involved, it’s not cool, not at all. When it comes to prostitution, if the state’s the pimp (as in Nevada) it’s okay. But if Mack Daddy has the hoochie harem, then it’s not okay. And if the state dispenses marijuana because someone actually needs it for legitimate medical purposes, it’s fine. But if someone’s brother-in-law’s kinda shady friend sells some spliffs to someone who needs it for legitimate medicinal purposes, it’s not fine.

Tobacco is the number-one cause of death in this country, and alcohol abuse is number three. Yet both tobacco and alcohol are legal in Pennsylvania (as in every other state). Marijuana—as documented in extensive reputable medical reports—has never caused one single cannabis-induced disease or illness. And about 50 million citizens smoke it routinely. Despite that, it’s illegal here as it is in every other state, except for the few that allow for professionally prescribed medicinal marijuana in one form or another.

It shouldn’t be illegal in Pennsylvania for a supermarket to sell beer or wine while 31 states allow it. It shouldn’t be illegal in Pennsylvania to sell or trade cars on Sundays. But at least we’re not in Paramus Borough of Bergen County, New Jersey, which on Sundays bans all forms of “worldly employment,” including office-related work at home, no less. Open up! It’s the police! Drop that goddamn Blackberry and iPad and back away slowly, very slowly!