Before I get going, I must apologize for the sand all over this article. I just got back from the beach and as I sit here, sipping my Kona Brewing Company Longboard and looking out over Kaneohe Bay, I can’t help but reflect on how hard it is to find any place nicer than Santa Barbara. It was hard, but I think I found it. Between Maui and Kaneohe Bay, I am definitely in paradise.

Now, I don’t want you to think that I am just all about vacation. Even though I am here in Hawaii, I am thinking of all of you and doing my best to be available for you. I am completely focused on … CHICKEN! Was that a mongoose chasing a chicken? Freakin’ awesome. I’m sorry, what were we talking about? North Shore waves? Luaus? Ahi tuna? Why the chicken crossed the road? I was focused on something…


I was driving my car and, when I got pulled over for a burned out headlight, the cop found an old beer bottle in the back. There was still some beer in it, but it was obviously very old. He warned me for having an open container. Is it really true I could have gotten a ticket?

In police work, we go by the concepts of the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.” The letter of the law is very cut-and-dried. The law is the law and what it says goes. The law says don’t touch a green sea turtle, so you don’t touch it. The fact that you were just trying to give it a hug because it was just so darn cute doesn’t matter. You touched it, go directly to jail, don’t pass go and don’t collect $200.

On the other hand, some rules or laws are written, but there is some leeway on how they are enforced. The “spirit of the law” applies here. When you’re scuba diving and you see that awesome manta ray at 65 feet deep, there is no cop sitting in scuba gear sitting at 60 feet to check your scuba license to make sure you’re certified to go deeper. Sure the rules say the basic license allows diving up to 60 feet, but we have all gone deeper. The rule is meant to encourage safer behavior, but is not strictly enforced.

So in your case, the letter of the law says you shall not have any open container of alcohol in your vehicle. If the bottle had a drinkable amount (and the claim to month-old Natty Light’s being drinkable is, of course, highly doubtful), you are in violation of the law and you technically could get a ticket. But would any cop really write a ticket for that? Our job is to enforce the laws, but to do it with common sense. Last night, errr, I mean a looooooong time ago, I might have drunk some things that took some serious questionable judgment, but month-old Natty Light? I might be crazy, but I’m not stupid! The spirit of the law is to keep people from drinking and driving. And if you’re really drinking that, you deserve much worse than a ticket. But that’s obviously not the case. So 99.9 percent of us would not give a ticket for that. It’s possible, but not likely at all.


I just got a ticket for speeding. However, I don’t think it was fair since I was going downhill at the time. Shouldn’t I have at least just gotten a warning?

Generally when enforcing speed limits, we give a few miles extra over the limit before we pull someone over. Something about Spear of the Claws, or eat bear claws, or some weird thing I heard once. However, on a freeway, if the speed limit is 65 mph, going 66 mph is breaking the speed limit and you can get pulled over. I understand that going downhill can cause you to pick up speed, as I learned in third grade science class, but most cars have this weird foot pushy thingy. Darn it, what do you call it? Oh yeah — A BRAKE! You push it and you usually slow down. It’s very effective while on hills and before cliffs. I guess you could go to court and argue that your car doesn’t have a functioning braking device, but I don’t think that would go over very well. Sorry, but the hill is not going to be much of a defense.


Well, I hate to take off and leave you here, but that Mai Tai is not going to drink itself! It probably is mean of me to rub in the fact I am vacationing in Hawaii while all of you are slaving away on midterms and classes. Yeah, I feel bad about that. Really, really bad. But I will be back for Halloween and in my next article I will discuss how cops never ever lie. In the meantime, enjoy your time in I.V. and I hope you all stay safe. Take care and don’t forget: if you have a problem, take a moment and Question Authority!


Got caught by a cop? Your party popped by the Po-Po? Ticked by a ticket? If you have questions, don’t let it eat away at you, Question Authority! E-mail me anytime at: or call UCSB PD at (805) 893-3446.

Sgt. Mark Signa is an officer of the UCSB Police Dept.