Kentucky Amish Mug Shots

The big story last week was the imprisonment of 8 Kentucky Amishmen for not displaying the Slow Moving Vehicle triangle on their buggies.

amish mug shotsBack in June we covered this issue with a lot of discussion on the implications of the case.  It’s an issue of freedom and safety, similar in a sense to controversies over raw milk or vaccines, and one that brings out strong opinions on both sides.

The Amishmen in question have been jailed for periods of 3 to 10 days after refusing to pay fines ranging from $148 to over $600. Judge Deborah Crooks, who delivered the sentences after a failed appeal, commented:

“It’s time that we move forward,” she said, adding that there were 44 cases involving the same charge on her docket as of Monday.

“Those cases are going nowhere,” she said, adding that they are bound to continue arising “as long as we have a large Amish community.”

The Amish are going to face the challenge of keeping up with their farm chores and work while in prison; the Graves County community is not large but I expect they’ll manage.

Bye-bye KY?

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Judge Crooks probably wouldn’t be sad if the Amish disappeared from her jurisdiction. Which I won’t be surprised to see happen in the end.

Why? I’m not too sure how putting the Amishmen in jail is going to resolve anything. They’re clearly not going to give in and start using the SMV triangle. Paying the fines would be an admission of guilt, another non-starter. There is apparently an attempt at an appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, but it’s questionable whether it will even be heard.

Outside of that appeal, it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot more to be done for the handful of Swartzentruber Amish affected here.  Amish have migrated before following conflict with the state (ie Amish in Nebraska leaving in the 1980s over schooling).

There are Swartzentruber communities in neighboring states (though since there’s more than one “variety” of Swartzentruber I’m not sure how they mesh with the Graves County affiliation) and for that matter a number of other places they could relocate to. Which of course would entail its own costs and problems, potentially breaking up a community and church in existence for years (the Graves County community was founded nearly a decade ago).

Mugs on display

One unfortunate spillover effect of this case is the now-wide publication of the Amishmen’s mug shots on the internet. Someone stitched together a composite photo of the 8 Amish mug shots which has gone into wide circulation, becoming fodder for mainstream news outlets as well as the usual decrepit pop-culture blogs.

Regardless of how you feel on the SMV controversy, I cringed seeing the men’s photos, not to mention some of the commentary on these sites, which would aptly be described as stomach-churning.

I understand that mug shots are taken when people are imprisoned, and that those photographs become accessible to the public.  But it’s still a shame to see this happen knowing how Amish, and especially the more conservative Amish, feel about photos.  Seems like salt in the wound.

But at least(?) the men were allowed to wear a muted jump suit rather than the standard-issue bright orange.

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    1. Sharon

      SMV requirement for buggies

      As I read this, I assume that KY does require SMV signs to be displayed on slow moving vehicles? Wonder if the law specifically mentions “buggies” or wagons? I know the Judge is just doing her job, but, I hope someone helps them appeal this, and hope they get a “say-so” in this, with an exemption of some sort. True, the SMV signs do help us see them better on the road, especially at night.

      Question is: Why “now”, does the Judge say we need to “move forward” with these cases? Sounds like the Judge has no compassion for them, even though they might have broken a law. The Judge could have made some concessions in how she handled it!! All I can say is, seems government is in “everyone’s” face, these days!

      Shame about the Amishmen having to go through with the “jump suit” thing and mug shots!!! Know that was humiliating for them!! I feel sorry for them, and hope this is resolved without too much trouble for the Amish! Sharon

      1. kelly ahlwa

        I agree is a bike required to have a smv sign?

        1. SMV on bikes?

          Kelly, no bikes do not need an SMV sign, but most Amish bike riders will use flashing lights and reflectors which wrap around their ankles when riding at night.

          I’ve also been seeing more Amish cyclists wearing orange or yellow reflective vests when riding, even during the day.

        2. Tracy

          No Bikes do not have to have them.

    2. Amish Mug Shots

      I think it is horrible to put those men through such humiliation over the sign. I know it’s for their own safety but they have a right to not put it on if it goes against their “way”. As far as the pictures go, that’s just wrong!!!!! My heart goes out to them and I will definitely say a prayer for them and their families.

    3. Galen Grote

      comment on mug shots

      I seem to remember when it was manditory for buggies in Lancaster to have back lights installed and it was because of the many accidents at night and during snow storms. I live in Boston, but visit Lancaster frequently (my family is down there). As an auto driver, I appreciate seeing the sign on the back of the buggy at night, especially since there are not many (if any) street lights. I can’t see why this rule would affect their “ways.” It is in the interest of the safety for their families. As for the mug shots, I do think an exception should have been made, thus respecting their beliefs. I’m sure there are many high profile “English” who get arrested and their mug shot never seems to surface if it’s even taken.

    4. The mug-shot one definitely caused controversy on my site and Facebook page. My background is journalism, so the knee-jerk reaction for me was to post them because there was a lot of coverage. In retrospect, I would not have posted them, maybe just did what you did, Erik, and discussed them. The internet’s speed is its appeal, but back 20 years ago when I worked at a newspaper, there was enough time before deadline where we could discuss, debate, etc the issues. Now – myself included – it’s just so easy to post something without really thinking it through. I have since removed the photos. A bit of an egg-on-face learning experience for me:)

    5. Karen Pollard

      Amish and the SMV signs

      I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here because I understand both points of view.

      As a retired teacher, I used to have students who were children of chiropractors. Many chiropractors do not believe in vaccine innoculations for their children. It would be easy for us to say, “Well, they are their children, so they should have that right.” However, by not innoculating THEIR children, they are also endangering YOUR children by possibly exposing them to disease.

      I believe the sign is for everyone’s protection. Yes, the Amish have a religious objection to the sign, but it’s not only for THEIR protection but YOURS as well. It’s likely that you could be injured as well if you are swerving to avoid a buggy that suddenly appears in front of you on a dark night. In refusing to conform they are endangering others besides their own families.

      I feel we as a country have the right to pass laws to protect all of our citizens, and we need for all conform to them.

      I feel the same way about speaking other languages. If you have chosen to live in America, you need to learn to speak and write in English. I don’t believe we should have to bend our rules and cultural practices to accomodate yours. I do believe in the freedoms guaranteed us by the Bill of Rights, but I also believe we need to have legislature that preserves and protects all of our citizens, without making accomodations that endanger others by letting you keep yours.

      To me it’s just a common sense decision.

      1. Harold Davisson

        Amish and SMV signs

        I am very supportive of the Amish, but I also am very safety minded.

        Other Amish communities have complied with this law and I believe that if they are going to use government roadways they need to comply. They just can’t have everything made an exception to them.

    6. Katie Troyer

      I guess I am going to say it; fifty years from now some of the grandchildren of these eight men will appreciate these mug shots of their grandpa or great-grandpa. I am saying this out of my own experience. My grandpa on my Mom’s side died before my parents were married and so we never knew how our grandpa looked. There was no picture around of him or so we thought. But about five years ago one of my Mother’s cousins had a newspaper clipping of an Amish lawsuit that involved family members and the cousin had a couple of pictures of my grandpa concerning the lawsuit. I finally have a picture of my grandpa that was taken by a news reporter. So thanks to whoever that news reporter was. And thanks to that lawsuit…

    7. I can see that these Amish feel that this rule is an attack on their lifestyle and I think they are right in not following a law they feel is so strongly against their belief. I understand that they refuse to comply and that they choose to go to prison if they feel it is that important. On the other hand, I can also understand that people want this law to not have accidents with buggies being hit by cars and that perhaps that law in the end benefits more people than it harms people. No one wants their mugshots all over the internet but I am still happy to see the faces of these people standing up for their principles. I also think Katie is right, somewhere someone is going to be glad to see what their relatives looked like in the future.

    8. Forest

      I would be interested to know if the state made any attempt to reach a compromise with the Amish community regarding this matter, as has been done in other places.

      I tend to be sympathetic to the Amish in most cases, but my stance here is that this particular group of Amish is just being hard headed and endangering not only themselves but their non-Amish neighbors. We are told to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and while our Lord was referring specifically to paying taxes there, I believe you might also argue that it means that if you use the public road maintained by the state, you follow the state’s rules for using the road.

      As far as the mugshots go, the men knew, or should have expected, it was all part of the deal. Actions have consequences, and I feel sure they were ready to take whatever came as the result of their actions. Now whoever thought it was a good idea to post their photos on the internet should be ashamed of themselves, but it only demeans the person who did it, not the Amish men.

      1. Tracy

        The state has not tried to compromise at all.The Amish however have tried very hard to compromise.They have put reflective tape on the back,sides and front of the buggies and have also put reflective tape on their horses bridles and use two lanterns.They are not hard headed or wrong for standing up for what they believe in.I would agree with you if they had not went above and beyond to try to compromise and reach an agreement.I know some of the families and it is horrible the way they are being treated.This is not a case of them going against a law of the road.It is a case discrimination and constitutional rights.I will be supporting them when they go back to court and am doing everything I can to help get this law changed.

    9. Alice Mary

      I wonder...

      Do the Amish “obey” stop signs and traffic signals? If so, then why not the safety triangle?

      I understand their stance against “government” regulations and being “in the world but not of the world”. However, they choose to live in the USA. Sure, some states are more lenient with them (at the risk of Amish and non-Amish alike). Perhaps they should pool their money and purchase an island or some other land mass(and I’m not kidding about this) somewhere, where they can TRULY live their religion without interference from any government. They’d be able to be in their “own” world, make their own rules. I’m not sure how well (or IF) they’d survive, but they’d all need to decide if anyone else’s rules (or their own) are worth everything they’re going through.

      1. Tracy
        1. Valerie

          Jesus' Island-

          Actually, there is such a place. A group of Hutterites moved to Tasmania, Australia. Jesus’ Island. Rocky Cape Christian Community, who embrace all serious Believers in Christ.

          Fascinating life they’ve carved out there, worth reading about when you have time.

          Tracy, I am touched by your love & concern for these people. Was wondering if there is an element of fear in them relating these kinds of things to the early days of the Anabaptists persecution?
          As if each incident is a step back towards what they suffered in their beginnings? Since you know them do you detect fear?

    10. Katie Troyer

      I doubt it that the Amish men knew they would get mug shots. Posing for a picture is worse trhan paying a fine.

    11. Chelsea

      At the risk of sounding harsh or unsympathetic, I am happy the Amish men were not treated differently in the mug shot aspect. Amish are humans and if the courts made exceptions for Amish, pretty soon other people would be claiming either they are Amish or that photographs are against their religion. The Bible tells us as Christians we are to respect the government because they were placed in position by God. Part of respecting the government is obeying laws. Laws are put in place for everyone’s safety. I do not agree with making rude or hurtful comments about anyone’s photograph, mugshot or other photo, those people who did should be ashamed, but the fact that the Amish men were not treated differently just because they are Amish is good.

    12. Sharon

      On-going controversy on SMV triangles

      I think this news has really brought up a lot of different, and good points. What will be the final decision, similar cases in the future, is anyone’s guess.

      I browsed the internet on this particular subject and found out that there have been other cases about this very same thing (SMV Triangles)one being in Minnesota, in 1989. You would think after this long, something would have been decided — either with the Amish compromising and (like some) using the reflective tape, maybe altering their district rules, to encourage their members to display the SMV Triangles on the backs of buggies/wagons, or the Courts coming up with other solutions.

      Last year while in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, we did see buggies at night, running battery-operated “tail lights”, on their buggies and reflective tape. We did see them, and they were very well lit, plus, they were in their “buggy lane”, too, which made it easy to go around them — slowly, and being considerate of allowing room to pass.

      I still “hope for the best” with another obstacle the Amish must face, in this ever changing world.

      1. Brenda

        in reply to Sharon

        Hi Sharon & others 🙂

        Remember, these men are of the Swartzentruber sect (the most legalistic). They do not compromise.

        Sharon, you mentioned that you were in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania, where you “saw buggies at night, running battery-operated “tail lights”, on their buggies and reflective tape.” These were higher (or more progressive) orders, not Swartzentruber like the men in KY.

        BTW, does anyone have an update as of Sunday, October 9? Just curious here.

        1. Sharon

          Amish buggies at night

          Thanks, for the info; Appreciate you setting me straight…I’m still learning about the different groups of Amish and am thoroughly enjoying it. I also find Erik’s photos very good and informative, as well.

          On the Oct. 9, incident, I heard today, that the 4 men were arrested for their attack. I’m very glad the authorities got them. I guess even in the Amish communities, there is always a “bad apple” in the bunch!


        2. Tracy

          Brenda you are wrong about them not trying to compromise.They have tried very hard to compromise.I know them and they have bent over backwards to try to compromise.They are being singled out and targeted.

    13. Paula

      In general, I find it outrageous that mug shots are available to the public.

      One is presumed innocent until a trial and these mug shots follow individuals for life. It is a public humiliation. Is this a states’ law? Federal law? This custom should be overturned. Mug shots SHOULD NOT be circulated.

    14. Asher

      Devil's Advocate (so to speak)

      I figured I’d throw in a minority opinion.

      Though I grew up in the North easy, I now live in Kentucky, and have traveled by car and bike in several of the areas shared by Amish and English communities in KY and IN.

      The community in Graves County, from what I recall, primarily uses narrow rural routes in very low-density areas. Familizr, standardizes signs are posted throughout the area alerting drivers to the presence of buggies. Meanwhile, drivers of autos who use these roads frequently employ flagrant disregard to posted speed limits, passing zones, and other safety precautions.

      I’m not saying the SMV triangles wouldn’t help — undoubtedly, they make buggies easier to see, just like the lights and reflective tape and light-colored fabrics I use whe riding my bike at night make me easier to see. But auto drivers could also do their part by recognizing that the roads they use are shared roads, slowing down, and paying more attention.

      As a culture, when it comes to driving, we’ve come to believe that our convenience trumps the safety of those around us. Unless one is rushing a severely-injured loved one to the hospital, there is no excuse for reckless driving, and driving at speeds that prevent one from seeing another vehicle in time to avoid it is reckless, especially in an area where one *expects* to see buggies and knows they may be on the roads. Even being late for work is no excuse – we all know when we need to leave home I order to get to work on time, and can do so if we plan accordingly.

      The ‘endangering others’ argument applies as much or more so to the drivers of two-ton projectiles as it does to those who drive buggies — and, indeed, when I am driving a car or truck, by far the most dangerous things on the road, I feel that I carry a greater share of the burden ofeveryone’s safety. My choice to employ a relatively fast and ‘convenient’ mode of travel doesn’t grant me the right to disregarf the safety of those who choose not to drive cars or who are not able to.

      Again, I’m not saying that the SMV triangles wouldn’t help – but I do think our driving culture needs to change. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon, as the ethos that allows us to feel justified in endangering others with our cars is deeply couched in the me-first culture that is so sadly pervasive in the US, even among those of us who should be the ambassadors of G-d’s peace.

      1. Car culture--US vs. other countries

        Well put Asher. Compared to other countries I’ve spent time in (Mexico, Poland) I feel America has a pretty courteous and competent car culture.

        But still there are examples to the contrary, and I guess always will be. I see a lot of passing on double-yellow for instance. I understand we’re all in a rush, but the worst-case consequences are too grave.

        Your point about carrying a greater share of the burden is a good one. I think Amish buggy drivers are responsible as well–and most would agree–but there is the matter of proportion.

        I think the hardest cases are probably locals–b/c they get used to driving around Amish, and even if they accept that buggies will be slower, proximity can breed overconfidence on the road.

    15. Angel

      Why do they not want to use the triangle?

      I feel their decision would be Bible based. The Bible say’s were to obey those who have rule over us. That we are to obey the laws of the land. Unless… They cause us to disobey God’s laws. At this point we choose God’s laws. Let me say here that I was a police officer/ investigater for 10 years. The reflective triangle really is a reasonable law. Putting lights on vehicles was not put in to effect to cause the Amish greif. I love this people but in this case I side with law, unless ,I have missed how it will cause them to disobey God’s law.

    16. Birdie

      This is quite upsetting. Because the world has changed, doesn’t mean the
      Amish should have to. In all right and fairness, the world should be required
      to accommodate them. We have lost our values. In doing so, we shouldn’t
      require that others do the same.

      1. Sandy Hult

        Amish Photos

        I chose not to look out of respect for their dilema. Also, just leave them alone….in the interest of proving one’s point, who is to say who is right or wrong? This is a free country, or at least used to be. What are you going to do, “Honor” their heritage by taking them out of the public and slap them reservations? Come on folks, butt out.