Up against the wall

Crissy Brown describes a nightmare that happened to her.

She was driving to work in Tuscaloosa (Alabama) and got pulled over for having expired license plate tags. The cop told her there was a warrant out for her arrest (for expired license plate tags???), handcuffed her, and searched her car. Then he took her to the police station.

As soon as I arrived at the police station, before I could make it through the metal detectors, I was pushed against a wall and made to stand there until a female officer could take the time to inappropriately touch – I mean frisk – me. As the woman ran her hands down my body and between my legs, three male officers stood behind me, watching the show.

From there, I was processed, which included stripping down in front of a female officer. While I stood before her naked, I asked the cop why it was necessary for me to be strip searched; she responded by calling me an asshole and deciding I needed to take a shower to, I suppose, wash the filth out of my mouth. I didn’t even get a towel to dry off with. She handed me a large, burlap-like orange set of scrubs, bedding, and a mattress. I was escorted down to population, made to walk along gray tape on the ground (it really pissed them off if you deviated from the “inmate line”), and then put in a holding cell that had more women than beds, two metal picnic tables, and an old fuzzy TV set.

For expired license plate tags.

This country has a completely crazy attitude to imprisonment.




  1. kevinalexander says

    Or it could be good news in disguise. If the crime rate in Alabama is so low that the security machine has to run practice drills then…..
    Oh, never mind. I was just being sarcastic anyway.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Crissy Brown got off easy.

    Imagine what would’ve happened if her skin were darker…

  3. R Johnston says

    This woman’s a Young Americans for Liberty chapter president–think Ron Paul fan club. While this may be an accurate recounting of what happened to her, I wouldn’t bet on it. I’ve never encountered or heard of an activist Ron Paul fan who isn’t rather delusional and a habitual liar, especially in service of tales of oppression at the hands of government.

  4. A Demonic Duck Of Some Sort says

    It doesn’t bother anybody else that her entire account drips with the subtext “I’m different, I’m special, I shouldn’t have been treated the same way everybody else is”? Like, she admits she let her tags expire, and then didn’t pay the fine, but she’s a waitress! She can’t afford it! If those men weren’t such sexists, they’d have made an exception for her!

    Sorry, this is weak tea.

  5. yahweh says

    It’s telling that so many of the comments in the original article are about whether she did or did not deserve to be arrested (as per A Demonic Duck above). Respondents on both sides overlooked the degrading treatment – which was the gist of the story (whether it was true or false) – as if in some way they were all used to it.

  6. Scr... Archivist says

    I was fired from my job for not showing up…

    But that’s just her betters exercising their economic freedom. If Brown really is a propertarian, she shouldn’t complain.

  7. dianne says

    For expired license plate tags.

    For expired license plate tags and a refusal to do anything about them. She’d been ticketed in the past and had refused to buy new ones. I’m sorry, but that’s illegal and clearly the ticket was not enough to change her behavior. What else could they do but arrest her? The degrading behavior, assuming it is accurately reported, is of course out of line and shouldn’t occur in any situation. But can we some time acknowledge that car related crimes are crimes, even if they’re often perpetrated by middle class white people?

  8. says

    Crimes? Crimes? Letting license plate tags expire?

    No, I’m not going to “acknowledge” that that’s a crime, because I don’t think it is a crime. I’m very willing to call some car-related behaviors crimes, and others criminal negligence, but that’s not one of them. What else could they do? Give her a new, steeper ticket. Clamp her car; tow her car. There are quite a few possibilities that don’t involve arrest and jail.

  9. Pieter B, FCD says

    I’m sorta torn. On the one hand, it seems that being arrested and strip-searched is extreme. On the other hand, she knew that the registration was due, and how much it was. She did not pay it. I have to assume that some time, likely a month or more, passed before she was cited for expired tags. She ignored that citation, which likely had 30 days to respond, for three weeks past its answer-by date. I had a citation when I was dead poor; I went to court, explained my circumstances and was given 90 days to pay up. She didn’t even show up to plead poverty. In the eyes of the law, another citation is not likely to make her comply; she’s now a scofflaw.

    I was in jail for a little over eight hours. For the last three, my family sat waiting for them to release me, wondering why it takes so long to process a bond.

    Why didn’t she ask her family for help paying the registration fee?

    One commenter ranted

    You didn’t commit a crime. Tags and licenses, these permission slips we’re given by the state, are just another means of control. Reject the entire system.

    I find myself wondering just how much she sympathizes with that position.

  10. says

    Well, I agree that people who have cars are obliged to pay the relevant fees. I’m very irritated by people who treat driving a car as an inalienable right. But still, people aren’t normally arrested for small debts, are they? I could see impounding her car, but I have a hard time seeing arresting her and putting her in a jail cell.

  11. Lyanna says

    Yeah, I don’t see how her scofflawery is relevant. Sure, she might be a libertarian, or just someone who thinks rules don’t apply to her, but so what? She’s entitled to basic liberty and dignity. She doesn’t lose all rights because of expired license plate tags. She doesn’t need to be arrested for that. She shouldn’t be strip-searched for it, let alone forced to shower for mouthing off.

    I really hate how people, upon hearing stories of high-handed or even outright malicious conduct by the police, immediately start jumping all over the victim’s flaws. (Rather like in sexual assault cases, frankly). There is no requirement for victims to be upstanding, or admirable, or good, let alone perfect. She might be a Ron Paul loon with bad tags but who cares?

  12. dianne says

    She shouldn’t get strip searched and forced to shower while being watched even if she were being arrested for baby eating. But if we’re going to arrest people for having outstanding warrants against them for possessing 2 grams of marijuana and deporting them for staying a day extra on their (tourist) visa, why not also arrest them for having out of date plates*? A car that isn’t properly registered and inspected is a potential hazard on the road. And yes, it’s a crime. A minor crime, but a crime nonetheless. I think it gets treated as something other than a crime because middle class and wealthy people use cars and they’re considered an entitlement.

    *Though if you’re going to say, “duh, that’s wrong too!” I won’t really be able to disagree. I’d rather impound the car, ignore the minor drug use unless it’s being done unsafely, and soundly scold people who slightly overstay their visas. But no one put me in charge of such things.

  13. Pieter B, FCD says

    As I said, I have mixed feelings about it. However, I must point out that the first time she was ticketed for expired plates, she was not arrested. She signed a promise to appear in court to straighten things out, but did not do that*. She was arrested on a bench warrant for failure to appear, not simply for expired license plates.

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court doesn’t have a problem with strip-searches for minor offenses, but states are at liberty to limit the circumstances.

    * a lawyer friend once told me that signing the ticket constitutes an arrest and a release on one’s own recognizance, so essentially when you fail to appear, it’s like jumping bail.

  14. footface says

    Oh, well! Now that I know she broke a promise, I think the strip-searching and forced showering are perfectly in order. We all know that promise breakers are 85% more likely to be concealing contraband and otherwise menacing society.

  15. says

    Oh. Well, failure to appear is different from failure to pay license tabs. That does make the arrest itself seem less bizarre. Not the way it was conducted though, but then Pieter was addressing the arrest, not the bullying. (The bullying is sheer Zimbardo, come to think of it.)

    And don’t be sarcastic at my friend Pieter! 🙂

  16. mark4nier says

    I have to agree that this is well beyond what is reasonable under the circumstances. It is possible, by the way, for the state to just seize her paycheck for the fine–that would have been more in line with the offense.

    But the reason that this is happening is that the prisons have been largely privatized, which means that there is a large industry whose interests are served by trumping up charges and putting as many people as possible in jail, and this has corrupted the system at every point (read Conrad Black’s opinion of it all after having experienced it from the inside. Black may not be as innocent as he claims, but he describes a system where all are guilty till proven innocent, and all citizens are merely on parole.)

    And yet, this story is an example of a libertarian reaping what they have sown. These are the same people who demand that government services be outsourced to private enterprise, and never realize what the consequences will be till they have to suffer them themselves. Even then, they cannot seem to connect the dots. We now have a lot of people in Canada who bill themselves as libertarians, yet enthusiastically support a policy to drastically expand our prison system. I’ve no doubt that when the cost of this policy becomes prohibitive, the government will look for ways to offload it to the private sector, which no doubt will also be enthusiastically endorsed by libertarians.

    (By the way, this is the first time in months I’ve been able to post here. Usually I would get the imposter screen, which would eat my comments and throw me back to a WordPress login that never worked–I guess I had the wrong password. Google login seems to work, though.)

  17. says

    (Damn, Mark, sorry about the commenting mess – if it happens again email me and I’ll shout for someone to fix it. It’s intolerable to have anyone from the Ottawa contingent unable to comment!)

    And too right about the prisons. Whether public or private, they’re seen as providers of jobs here, and there is indeed a lot of incentive to expand them.

  18. PatrickG says

    @ Ophelia: Point’s been made above, but yes, small fines absolutely will get you an arrest warrant.

    I should know. I got a public urination ticket way back in the day (long story, ask if you must), which resulted in a $123 fine. In my own show of libertarianism, I said “fuck that! I peed in a planter box!”, didn’t pay it, got a summons to appear, didn’t understand it at the ripe age of 19, and had a warrant issued for my arrest.

    Said warrant was vacated by my paying the registration fees attached to my license, but … yes, they really do arrest people for non-payment of trivial fines.

  19. PatrickG says

    Additional commentary about arresting people for non-payment of fines for infractions was redacted, because jesus fuck. What the hell?

  20. janiceclanfield says

    She’s lucky she didnt’ get shot for resisting arrest.

    You are living in a fascist state.

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