Blocking traffic is a felony? Really?

As a former professional driver (messenger/courier), I’ve dealt with my share of traffic. I know first-hand it’s not the job to take if you’re trying to reduce your blood pressure from an unhealthy level, or if you’re trying to quit drinking, smoking, or swearing. (I was mostly guilty of the last of these, and I’ve joked that all couriers in Houston are fluent ┬áin two languages: clean English and profanity.) For those and other reasons, it’s a job I will probably never take up again. I’ve learned a lot from the experience.

Nevertheless I was a bit dismayed to learn that over in Los Angeles, the DA is filing felony conspiracy charges against a rap group (the Imperial Stars) that blocked a freeway for a publicity stunt (laweekly.com). My rationale is this: there are all kinds of traffic accidents that result in a freeway getting shut down in major cities across the US (and elsewhere). The driver at fault rarely gets cited for a felony for the accident unless it results in serious injury or death and even then it is only for that and not the consequential traffic tie-up.

I don’t approve of what the Imperial Stars did. It’s inexcusable. However, I feel making it a felony is a step too far. Appropriate relief would include misdemeanor charges, and an injunction forbidding them from repeating this stunt. That, combined with the civil liability as suggested by one of the commenters on the LA Weekly story, is enough of a deterrent. Actually, the civil suits alone and resulting bad PR should be plenty to ensure that not only do the Imperial Stars not repeat this ill-advised stunt, but that nobody else tries this.

Please, let’s reserve felonies for the truly serious crimes. Not blocking traffic.