I Arrested the Car
I was a tad nervous as I read the gleaming nameplate on his door – Eustace Lowdham, Notting County Sheriff. But… I needed to talk with him before proceeding with this incident. I could see through the wavy glass; he was busy polishing his silver badge and I didn’t usually disturb him when he was doing that.
But I knocked, and walked in without any waiting. Best that way, I find, or he’ll leave me out there for an age. Doesn’t enjoy disturbances, Sherrif Lowdham; especially half an hour before home time on a Friday. He looked up from his decontamination labour – Jed Janevski vomited on him in Loga’s Bar at noon. His eyes swelled by the bottle-glass wire-rims he wore. ‘Better be good, Larry.’
That was a pretty dire threat, coming from him, and this time on a Friday p.m. I handed him the half-page ticket I’d written out – he can’t interrupt that like he would if I read it out.
Two minutes it took.
He re-read it… turned it over. ‘That it?’
‘That’s it, Sheriff; in a coffee cup. ‘
‘I’ve got this straight, have I?’ He summed up, ‘A self-drive car crashed into another car, and was repeatedly battering into it against a wall?’
He continued, ‘Shot at by a bystander… into the tires? And at the non-existent driver? He stepped closer and fired repeatedly into the electrics, reaching under the hood? He sees the wheels turning in his direction… empties gun into radiator… and it goes for him? Attempting to run him down?’
‘You got it, Sheriff. I would obviously have arrested the driver under Sections 4—’
‘I know the codes, Larry. Get on with it.’
‘But there wasn’t a driver. So I arrested the car itself.’
‘In the name of John Doe?’
‘Yessir, I kinda regarded the car as the personification of the unknown remote driver, who must consider himself under arrest and turn himself in. The penalties for evading justice mount on a daily basis. Arizona—’
‘Larry.’ He has that tone, late in the day. Fridays, especially. But I knew I was pushing my luck before I walked in.
‘Several citizens who’d gathered around had that feeling, too, Sheriff. Kinda ridiculing me.’
‘What about the passenger who rented the vehicle? Or is he the owner? Or an employee of the company. Can’t you arrest him… her?’
‘Lady. Unimpaired by alcohol or narcotic substances. Offered a demonstration ride by a would-be boyfriend who’s an employee of the rental company.’
‘So, who else could we charge? and what with?’ Sheriff Eustace was on the verge of returning to badge-cleaning duty.
‘The insurance company that certified it fit to be on the road? Or the state government that authorised experiments with driverless cars on public roads?’
‘As I understand it, most states have codified the common law rule that a warrantless arrest may be made… they even included a misdemeanor vehicular violation.’
‘My understanding, too, Sheriff, I believe the law originated among minor theft, prostitution, and playing card and dice games contraventions. Wouldn’t really want to be closely aligned with that level of history, would we, Sheriff?’
‘Perhaps the designers, or builders, of the vehicle… the steering mechanism, sensors… brakes? The programmers in general? Or the one for that specific journey? Come on, there must be someone to hold responsible.’
Well, we could apply for an arrest warrant for an occasion in which the arrestee has committed a felony, although not in the presence of the arresting officer.’
‘I was there, Sheriff.’
‘Fine if we’re arresting the car, but not for anyone else we hold responsible. We’d have to cite the Felony Persons Act – and roll them up with pickpockets, nightwalkers, gamblers and breachers of the peace.’
‘All punishable, as a maximum, by a fine.’ Minor felonies are my bread and peanut butter. ‘If we deal with it under those rules, Sheriff, there’s some vast corporation that would escape the deep examination that we can’t provide.’
‘Especially at the weekend,’ said the Sheriff. ‘That the right time? Five to six?’ He turned the ticket over again, considering. Deciding, as the minute hand slid towards the hour. Home-for-the-weekend time.
‘Aw, shit, Larry,’ and he commenced tearing up the ticket. ‘No crime.
‘Pass it to the insurance companies to sort out.
‘They get paid more than us.’