As a great man once said, it's a fine line between stupid and clever.
On February 10, the Kansas City Star reported on the failure of a Wichita man's strategy for avoiding tickets for failing to wear a seat belt while driving. An officer who had stopped Paul Weigand apparently became suspicious about the seat belt Weigand was wearing, and asked him to get out of the car. He did, and the belt came along with him, because it was a homemade seat belt that was not actually attached to the car in any way.
Weigand told a judge last week that he does not want to wear a seat belt because he is afraid of being trapped in a burning vehicle, but he also obviously does not want to be ticketed for violating the seat-belt law. As he interpreted that law, he said, it did require the wearing of a belt but didn't require that the belt actually be attached to the seat.
He has a point . . . sort of. Kansas Statute 8-2503 says this:
[With certain exceptions,] each occupant of a passenger car manufactured with safety belts in compliance with federal motor vehicle safety standard no. 208 . . . . shall have a safety belt properly fastened about such person's body at all times when the passenger car is in motion.
As you can see, the law only requires the safety belt to be fastened "about such person's body." Here's my belt, Your Honor, which is fastened about my body. Doesn't say anything about actually attaching it to the car. Case dismissed!
Well, hang on a second.
Statutes have to be construed as a whole, and certainly that sentence does. It uses the term "safety belts" in the context of cars "manufactured with safety belts in compliance with [FMVSS] 208," and while I haven't looked up FMVSS 208 recently I'm pretty sure it requires that the safety belt actually be connected to the vehicle. Assuming that's the case, then it's reasonable to construe "safety belt" later in the sentence to also refer to one of the belts that comes with and is attached to the car, as opposed to one that you made yourself.
Whether that was his rationale or not, the magistrate who heard Weigand's case said he sympathized but felt obligated to follow the intent of the law. That means Weigand owes $30 for the ticket and $96 in court costs, on top of probably having to go get himself a new belt.