Legal Double Standards a Detriment to Society

Guest blog entry by MRB (student, world citizen)

At 12:45 a.m. on May 11th, 2004, in Lexington, Kentucky, a woman was leaving her job and turned out onto the main road. As she turned onto the main road, she was struck by another vehicle traveling approximately 81 mph in the posted 45 mph speed limit zone. The woman’s car was pushed across the four-lane road, over a 4-inch concrete curb, and through a wooden fence. Both vehicles continued for several yards, digging out chunks of grass, skimming a manhole, and chipping a small tree stump. The woman died of blunt force trauma while the driver of the other vehicle survived. The woman’s name is Rachael Burns. She was engaged Jack Fritz.  She had a life taken from her.

I know what everyone is probably wondering, what legal consequence did the driver of the other car receive for his act of vehicular manslaughter? In Kentucky the average sentence for vehicular manslaughter is 90 days to one year in prison with a four year parole; however the person who struck the woman above did not receive any jail time.

Why?

Simple.  It was an on duty officer answering another officer’s non-emergency call. The officer did not have his lights or siren on, but he still was considered “on the job”.  His punishment was a six month PAID leave of absence.  He has since returned to work as if nothing happened.

But something did.

A life was taken needlessly.  And had anyone other than a police officer been the culprit, justice may have been served.  Instead, we are left with a blatant reminder that the justice system is riddled with double standards, and this example is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Another situation that we witness this double standard for deviants is in the situation of assault. As members of society, it is taught to us that committing acts of violence against another person is wrong and have legal repercussions. Yet, we see and hear about domestic violence or cases of assault all the time in the media.  But it seems as though little is being done to prevent this since historically the “victim” has been a woman.

Another thing we here about in the media is police brutality.   Despite its media presence, you rarely hear of officers going to prison for it. There may be some minor human resources action against the officer or some legal remedy for the arrestee, but usually only with the cases that happen to be caught on video. However, most times there are no videos and testimonies are the word of the arrestee versus the officer.  Whose story is more likely to be believed?

On shows like COPS, you see someone who broke a law, but sometimes they hit that point where they know they are caught and give up. The officers still run in and tackle them like the person is going to fight back.  Is this necessary, or does it merely make the situation worse?

The last situation that I leave you to ponder about deals with speeding. Almost everyone has sped at one point or another. I know that I have received a few tickets for speeding, and there are plenty of people who can relate. When an officer is taking radar from the side of the road and he clocks someone speeding, he then has to speed to catch up to them. Basic laws of physics say that for him to catch up to a car traveling at a constant speed (and I say constant speed vaguely for the point of the example), he would have to go faster than the car he is pursuing.

Thus he is also speeding, yet no ticket goes to the officer.

How do we allow our government to have double standards for two members of society? A uniform and badge are all that separate the two people.  Both work for a common goal, to make money to support one’s self and one’s family.  As equal members of society, everyone is supposed to follow the posted laws, yet we allow some members to be above reproach and unable to be reprimanded.

As a consequence of such a double standard lives do get altered or even lost.  Lives like that of Rachael Burns.

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34 thoughts on “Legal Double Standards a Detriment to Society

  1. I for one am a strong opponent to double standards such as these. It is unfortunate that simply because someone wears a badge, he or she can get away with the same crimes that everyday people are incarcerated for. Police forces all over the country should be ashamed of their biased treatment of those who are deemed “criminal” by certain departments.

    In response to the example given regarding unneccessary police brutality, I have an example of my own. While in college a friend of mine was caught urinating in public. Although doing so in a semi-concealed fashion, amongst bushes and such, this is illegal. Upon hearing the stearn voice of a police officer, my friend ran. It is also illegal to evade arrest. However, when the officers finally caught up to my friend they tackled him to the ground with such a force that 2 of his ribs and his nose were broken. Over urinating in a bush?

    While I understand the reasoning for chasing down their suspect, the question that must be asked is: At what point do police officers choke up such petty crimes as a loss and spend their time (and our tax money) in the pursuit of more pressing issues?

    1. I would totally agree with what MaeK has said about how officers take situations way too far, with MaeK’s friend running from the cops and taking them down so hard that it caused more harm than good. I had some situations where cops have also used the double standards on me and my friends when we weren’t doing anything wrong. We answered all the officer’s questions when he believed we weren’t wearing our seat belts. But again it was night and raining and I have no idea how he can see something as a seat belt at night. Anyways, we answered him. But for some reason he didn’t believe me and my friends. When I see that cops always act as if your lying and try acting if you did something wrong. He thought that the car smelled like alcohol and made all of us blow and searched the car. He ended up not finding anything, but he still issued us the ticket. So what I’m getting at with what Maek has said is that I agree with the ideat that cops use that badge as a form of power to control society and show who is in control. Also what MaeK has question on when can officer decide when to use that control for meaning less crimes and be more focused on protection on other crimes and safety.

      1. Matt, I think what you are talking about is more of profiling and age discrimination rather than a double standard. What that officer did was overstepping his bounds but not a double standard. I do agree with your point about the struggle for power and that their badge is their way to “control society”.

        Also to answer MaeK’s question, if police did not crack down on petty crimes from time to time, we would establish the mentality that no petty crimes are going to be punished and then society would blatantly disregard the law. By punishing one person for that crime makes an example of that person and warns others that it is not socially acceptable to do that, and helps to maintain some social order in society.

    2. I agree that it was uncalled for that your friend was tackled to the ground so violently. I feel the officers let their emotions get the best of them when they’re on the chase. All of the adrenaline and anger for having to chase down the person makes them feel that they have to “punish” the suspect.

      A story on the news just the other day was a teenager with autism who the police mistakenly identified as someone they were trying to find. The kid ran inside his parents store when the police were questioning him and they tackled him and arrested him while the parents were telling them that he was autistic.

      There are too many instances where police act beyond jurisdiction and violate civil rights just because of their assumptions.

  2. Unfortunately there are double standards in life. None of them are good or right and should be done away with. What about celebrities getting away with things that normal citizens do not? What about sports stars getting away with things that ordinary citizens cannot? Then there’s the old double standard that works the other way where an ordinary man can cheat on his wife without it appearing on the front cover of a magazine at the grocery store for everyone to see.

    1. Diane, I agree with your point, but there are other factors to the situation. Celebrities and sports stars do get away with things normal citizens do not. However, if an officer were to fine them and treat them like a normal member of society, the celeb or athlete would have more than enough money to pay for whatever fine, bail, court, and/or lawyer fees they would have. The fact that a “ordinary man” can cheat on his wife and not appear on the cover of a magazine is true. But the reverse side of the card is that those athletes or celebrities chose to be in the spotlight and upon accepting that, they know their lives are scrutinized by the media and rest of society. Knowing they have a high profile should cause them to have more reserve. I understand they are only human like the rest of us, but everyone should know right from wrong at a young age.

    2. In regards to special people having the ability to get away with things that ordinary people cannot get away with, I would have to blame those ordinary people. We are the people that comprise the juries that all too often send celebrities and sports stars innocent verdicts. For some reason we allow these people to take power over us. It is up to us to stop this.

  3. I completely agree that we live in society where there are many double standards and it is very unfortunate! I agree with Diane that it seems to be the people with higher authority, celebrities, or even sometimes people with a lot of money. They seem to always get the easy way out by not receiving the grunt of the punishment, if any punishment at all! I also agree with the old fashion man cheating. It seems that many men can get away with cheating and its not a huge deal, but god forbid a women were to do it she would be the biggest slut around town. It’s really unfortunate how our society lives and views things and has different people on pedestals.

    1. I respectfully disagree about your double standards for men and women. I think there are equal standards for men and women who cheat. I think men and women are both talked about for being unfaithful. In today’s society we see divorce rates extremely high, so you can witness the trend that people are seeing relationships and even marriage as not being serious. Also, shows like Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, as well as other mainstream television shows display this devalued mentality on relationships. So to bring it back to my point, I don’t feel there are double standards for men and women being unfaithful and having extramarital relationships; however, us as a society are beginning to accept it as normal instead of putting value in relationships.

    2. I agree with you Luciana. There is the double standard for males/females as well. I haven’t seen any improvement on that front in my lifetime. If you are female and work in a male dominated work force, you will see very quickly that we are still living in the dark ages as far as that goes.

  4. I believe this is ridiculous, when it comes to government having too much power and authority. I remember last time I checked this was a democracy and people decided what was and what wasn’t. But the government had made it difficult for people to speak up due to so many laws and regulations that impede the people to come up and have their voices heard. If it was up to any one of us, we would see that this was a serious injustice just because he wears a badge doesn’t mean that he has a right to just blow off the laws he is entrusted to uphold and enforce. People need to start using the amendments, but its sometimes futile when people won’t stand up with you and speak their minds about the government we live under

    1. Ish you are right but fear of retaliation is what muzzles us. We all just want the cops to leave us alone and hope not to encounter them again. The last thing you want is to be targeted by them.

  5. The death of Rachael Burns was a tragic and unfortunate accident. The emphasis of the previous sentence is in the word ‘accident’. Many counties and municipalities in the United States have enacted policies in which law enforcement officers responding to calls are directed only to use sirens and lights when crossing through visibly trafficked intersections. Most of these policies are enacted after citizens complain about being inconvenienced by the noise of law enforcement officers who are working through the night, risking their lives, responding to calls from other citizens who may have been awakened by an armed intruder in their home. As for the author’s final statement, there is a critical error. A common citizen does in fact live to collect a paycheck from a safe job and provide for their family. A law enforcement officer however, swears an oath to put their own life at risk for those common citizens and lives for the service and protection of others; the money they make is relatively meager and most will tell you that it is not much to live for.

  6. This situation is ridiculous; I think he should get jail time. He did not have his lights on, nor did he even give the lady warning that he was coming. The lady was killed by an off duty police officer who was recklessly killed this woman. For him and the fact that all he got was a smack on the wrist and returned to work like nothing happened is unbelievable. He should have got jail time and should have been suspended.

  7. There are double standards in institutions where the society give authority to those institutions. When an institution has power and that institution has full control over that and enjoyed then the people of that institution sometimes use it properly according to the laws and sometimes don’t follow or misuse it and at that time it is their institution and they have full control over it then who is going to ask them???
    I saw few years back on CNN that a white police officer brutally beaten to death a black man for no reason. Later the investigation was being done but what was done was done and the world saw that this still happens in America. Similarly In California when the police was chasing illegal immigrants and when they start running police opens the baton and beat them up. Only few of the police officers were being asked but the rest was ok.

  8. I am appalled after reading this. Lately I have been hearing more and more about the double standard for police officers and many in power in the county. I believe it is unnacceptable and not right. Here are people who are supposed to be promoting safety and justice and turn around and become hypocrites. It is hard to believe that this situtation was taken so lightly and i’m sure many others have also occured. Our country wonders why no one trusts the government and those in charge? It stems from our own communities and the amount of inequality and special treatment that still exists to this day. If any other person not in power wouldve comitted this crime they would have served much more deserved time. Just because someone is a police officer or in a position of power, doesn’t mean they dont have to follow the laws and regulations of our society. Our country really needs to attempt to fix this because its one of the biggest problems in our society.

  9. Law enforcement is a necessary evil in today’s society. Unfortunately, anyone who has power is tempted to abuse it. My uncle was a Gary, Indiana cop in the 90s and saw his fair share of action. He always tells me about certain towns where, if I get pulled over, I should call him so he can help me out. But do I deserve to get out of a ticket because my uncle used to be a cop? I have to say I agree with what you, Bonniejean, but that makes me sad. With all the corruption in law enforcement here in Illinois, it makes you wonder just how safe we really are.

  10. The part about police brutality is what stuck out to me the most in this article. Someone that I know whom I am very close with (in their 40s at the time) was a victim of police brutality. He was going along to visit his mother late in the evening when he was stopped by the police and was stripped searched for no reason at all. They let him go and then later when he was coming out of a hall from a retirement party the same group of cops pulled him over and repeatedly beat him until his eye was bruised and swollen and told him to back of a custody case for his child. Who set that up, no one other then the wife in which he was divorcing because her best friend was one of the head cops of that division. Therefore no charges could be pressed due to no witnesses. Who was this man supposed to go to for help? The law? How could he when this was done by the law itself. Makes me sick the things that these “higher power” jobs get away with.

  11. This is a topic that really bothers me. To think that the people who are supposed to be keeping us safe by enforcing the laws are breaking them is a scary reality. Just because of the job they have, they don’t have to worry about facing many legal consequences. They are treated as superior to the rest of society when it comes to justice just because they wear that badge. I have seen those cop shows where the police just attack the person they are trying to arrest, even if that person isn’t even putting up a fight. I understand that they have broken the law in some way, but that does not give them a right to physically abuse them. I constantly see cops blowing stop signs, turning on their sirens to make the light turn green, not using their turn signals, and speeding like crazy. If you don’t obey the law, how are you going to enforce it? That’s extremely hypocritical and that angers me. There should be consequences for anyone and everyone who violates the law, including police officers.

  12. As I was watching the news tonight, one of the headlines was one where after 3 years of the incident, three policemen had to go to court for the beating of several men at a bar, luckily the fight was caught on several surveillance cameras, and the victims are also suing the city for the damages caused. It is sad to see constantly in the news how people abuse the power they are given to keep us safe. how can we eradicate or try to minimize prejudice, and stereotyping, when some law forces are the first to apply that criteria to come to conclusions?

    1. I agree whole heartedly with what you are saying about the prejudice and double standard that the policemen apply. I personally haven’t had to deal with this because i stay out of trouble but some of my friends have stories of being assaulted by cops at local parties. These policemen had no right to beat up the friend of mine they were trying to kick out of the house they just got tired of waiting so they started hitting him. This type of double standard happens all over the country and is a terrible part of society because sometimes the people who are in place to protect us are the ones committing the crimes.

  13. It is terrible that your friend had to go through something like that.
    Is such an irony that the people that are there to protect us, are the ones that we fear. Even if one tries to stay out of trouble, I have had the experience, like many others of having, that as I am driving, they follow you to see if you make a mistake to give you a ticket. It is in my opinion a terrible thing to do, because they should be taking care of more important things than to take money out of tax payers, in such a deviant way. It makes me really upset to find out that as this happens, I get warning emails from my daughter’s elementary school that a kid as it was walking to school was approached by a stranger. Thank God, the kid is safe, made it to school, and notified his teacher. Where was that cop to protect that child? probably giving someone a traffic ticket.

  14. I hate to admit it but I was on the west side of Chicago and I hit a little girl crossing the street, I immediately pulled over and hurried out of the car to her. The girl I hit did not fall to the ground, I barely tapped her and she was not alone so I knew this could be ugly. I instantly say I have insurance, and I made the first attempt to call the ambulance. The little girl just laughed and kept saying I only hit her butt, however her cousin on the other hand clearly was upset and kept saying “na, you are hurt, she hit you”. This clearly indicated to me that she was looking for some type of suit. I kept my cool and continued to ask her if she was okay until the ambulance and police arrived. The police questioned me and I told them the whole truth, they put me in the backseat of the squad car for further questioning. As I looked out the window I noticed more of what appeared to be the little girl’s family was coming toward the scene. The officer took my license and noticed I was from the suburbs. He asked me what I was doing out here, I responded I have family out here. To make a long story short, he gave me a slap on the wrist and told me to never admit that I have insurance to these type of people because they are just out to get you. I was a little confused and to this day feel like I condoned that statement, all of the strength I did not want to get locked up. So to a certain degree they turned the other cheek and let me go. I showed up for court and the little girl and her family did not even show; I did not get it, could it have been the little girl’s honesty that made her family embarrassed to show up to fight for her? I know I was in the wrong and like the community I was in; I am also African-American, so why was I treated so differently?

  15. Unfortunately officers are like a gang and take care of their own. Even if it means covering up for family of an officer, friends of an officer, or even the officer themselves as evidenced in this case. When you have a “fraternal order of police” you can be sure that’s going to happen. Cops park in front of fire hydrants or blow red lights all the time but no one fines them, that’s because they write the fines. In our world, he who enforces the law is also above the law. The only way to solve it is to have an agency to police the police or allow citizens arrests and let the court sort it out. Then see how they like it.

  16. This is why I hate our “Police System” here in the United States of America. Stuff like this happens every day, and many officers get away with it all the time. In my opinion, I strongly believe that the police should have another police agency to stop the officers that do negative stuff. Its sad that we live in a world like this. Just because you have a badge and a gun wearing a uniform does not make you any different from someone random. The only way for us to prevent stuff like this is to speak up a make this situation heard. We need to bond together as people and protest to get what we want. If not I can guarantee you this is going to happen again and again and again. Some people feel like they can do whatever they want because of the position they are in. Its sad but yet true.

  17. In the case where a life is taken, any person should be charged as a criminal. We have law enforcement in our society to keep us safe, not to add more danger upon us. it really is hard to believe that even after this incident, the government still protects the police officer. I do not find it right at all for that person to not face any charges. The family with the loss should atleast get some amount of money from the government or from the officer that caused the incident. This is not fair to the society and shows how corrupt our government is. The family has to live with pain in their hearts for the rest of their lives, that is something that cannot be replaced. This officer should be charged as a criminal, regardless if he or she is under the government. A life is a life and it is a precious thing to all people.

  18. I agree with you for the most part. I think cops get all aggressive because they feel like they are some type of “badass” with a badge and a gun. I believe its a ego thing as sad as it is. I am shocked that he didn’t serve anytime but it does not surprise me. They are not going to make a story or big deal to make them look bad. It is very sad and a disgrace that this family ha to go on knowing there was no justice served. Also you had a very good point about the whole speeding thing but try to bring that up to a cop and see how far you get. My guess will be not very.

  19. although this event was tragic and the police officer was speeding without his lights or sirens on the woman pulling out of the drive way would still have received a ticket for failure to yield to right of way. she was pulling out of a drive way that means she has to wait to make sure it is safe to turn out onto the street which obviously it was not. That being said i do think that the often times police officers bend and break the law and face very little consequences if any at all. i think that needs to change and internal affairs needs to step up their game and make sure that officers of the law aren’t abusing their power.

  20. I agree we live in society where there are many double standards, including this one. very tragic what happened, but if she didnt see his head lights coming, and he struck her, its both at fault. im not justifying that the events thtat followed after the incidenet being okay to have occured. but i am say that it should have been atleast 6 months no pay leave. yes he shouldnt have been doing 85 in a posted 45, with no lights oor siren on that why we invented those things to prevent and help bring attention to the car doing 85. i do believe in certain citys and states that there is double standard that happens more than you see like in new york for example if a cop thinks your suspisous he has the right to search you with out any reason beside looking suspicious. they target trouble makers and people who might not be doing anything wrong. in my opinion i think we need to upgrade internal affairs to help prevent stuff like this from happening again

  21. This article is semi true to the double standard, partially because cops are not allowed to speed. They must follow the same rules as the public. There have been many legal debates on this subject. Because the speed limits are constituted under statutory law, meaning it differs by where you are at. If cops are speeding they deserve tickets. But who is going to ticket them? You? Not one of their cop friends who they have sworn to watch their back with. So I think this double standard really fall into the lines of an educated standard. Where if people learned how to legally pursuit a speeding case against someone there would be more cops given speeding tickets. However because people are severely uneducated in these areas, the educated ones for example cops, can go about how they please. Education is the key.

  22. Double standards are a huge part of our lives now days. As sad as that is, it’s what society has turned into. There have been plenty of times I’ve seen a police car or a fire-truck turn on there lights in the middle of traffic to either get around traffic because they’re going to get food or just because, they don’t want to wait in traffic. When Police officers, firemen and paramedics are on duty they are untouchable. People think just because they are an authority figure they are entitled to do whatever they want. Which is completely untrue. I understand that they do a lot for our society but when it comes to extreme cases like the poor woman in Kentucky. That is never ok, that man should be punished for what he did. He killed a woman who had a whole life ahead of her. My heart hurts for that family and her fiancé because there is no justice in that situation at all. When terrible things like that happen justice gives the loved ones closure. But, in this case the family couldn’t even get any closure from the situation.

  23. I think if you truly look at the double standard rule you see that there are more than just one double standard. Look at celebrities they get away with so much these days with just a slap on the wrist or even a “warning”. Not to mention if you take a look at politics as a whole. How many of them get away with crimes that ordinary people make. Of course I am talking about governors and sometimes there crimes are even more serious and still a slap on the wrist. We are a society based on quality but show so much inequality because of job titles.

  24. I was completely shocked by MRB’s story of then Kentucky police officer getting let off the hook for basically only because he was an officer. Every other person who committed vehicular manslaughter received 9 months- 1 year in prison, and this officer served no jail time because he was supposedly headed to an emergency site but conveniently didn’t have his lights or sirens on. Police officers are trained to put their lights and sirens on when they are going to an emergency this shouldn’t be an excused and regardless the case, he still should have suffered the consequences. If that was an ordinary citizen but had some excuse of them rushing to their injured child they would still receive the same punishment as everyone else, the officer should not have gotten special privilege. I also think that it is a double standard how cops pull over people for talking on their cellphones or texting on their cellphone, while they drive and are constantly on their laptops, looking up peoples license plates, etc. There is no possible way they constantly have their eyes on the road while doing that at the same time. I believe that some of the crimes that happen so often are because people see the cops committing some of the very same crimes they do and when someone like the police who people are suppose to look up to and feel safe around commit these crimes it makes us loose hope and think why should we obey the laws, if the law makers don’t even obey them?

  25. A movement has started called “Blue Lives Matter,” a play on the “Black Lives Matter” movement. From what I understand, it is a movement for cops that risk their lives everyday and to honor the ones who have been killed. I’m guessing it was made by the people who were offended by the Black Lives Matter movement because they thought that it gave officers a bad rep. I do believe that cops are important and they’re here to protect us but that doesn’t mean that they are above the law. Just because they enforce the law upon others doesn’t mean they don’t have to enforce it among themselves. The accident you talked about really made me angry. The cop got a sixth month PAID leave! That is ridiculous. If you break the law, you need to pay the consequences. If it was anyone else who was not an officer, that person would be in a whole lot more trouble than a PAID leave of absence. I respect police officers, but I do believe that they need to follow the laws as anyone else.

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