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ICOTS: Our Shared Vehicle
Now and then, questions come our way about the relationship between ICOTS and the ICAOS Rules. Typically the questions are couched as “If the ICAOS Rules don’t require [it], why should my state do [it] for ICOTS?” or “If ICOTS doesn’t ask for [it], why does my state have to do [it]?”. After talking this over with other Commissioners, I’d like to offer the attached in reply to those questions. I hope you will share it and that others will find it helpful.

William Rankin, Former Chair
ICAOS Rules Committee

ICOTS: Our Shared Vehicle
As ICAOS continues rolling out new developments in ICOTS, I am struck by the complexity and nuances of the interstate compact processes. Necessarily, ICAOS has committed significant resources to creating this vehicle for conducting our business. Still, I occasionally encounter new or unexpected quirks which don’t fit within my state’s usual practice. Sometimes, ICOTS needs us to perform certain functions we aren’t accustomed to doing or previously had no need to do. The question comes up, “Why should I be required to do these things this way, when not required by the ICAOS rules?” What exactly is the relationship between ICAOS requirements and ICOTS requirements?

I think the answer is fairly simple and fairly common. We recognize and accommodate related but distinctly different requirements every day. For example, this morning, on my way to work, I noticed that I needed to put gas in my car. I drove to the gas station, staying within the speed limit and stopping at each stop sign along my way. After filling the tank, I paid for my gas and drove to my office. I pulled into a designated parking space, stepped on the brake, shifted to “Park” and turned the key to “OFF”.

This trip illustrates the distinction between actions required by law and actions required to support an operation. I obeyed the speed limit, stopped at stop signs, paid for my gas and parked in the designated area because my state has enacted laws saying I must. If I wish to exercise the privilege of driving, I have an obligation to comply with those rules or face sanctions. I have no legal obligation to put gas in my car, or step on the brake or turn the key to “OFF” when I stop the car. I do those things because they are necessary for my car to function the way I need it to function.

ICOTS’ relationship to ICAOS and its rules is similar to the relationship between a car’s operating requirements and a state’s motor vehicle code. When a state decides to permit an offender to relocate to another state, the sending state becomes obligated to exercise that privilege in compliance with ICAOS rules. Accomplishing that objective requires the state to use ICOTS, with the attendant idiosyncratic mechanisms that make it work. ICOTS is like a shared vehicle; one which each of us is expected to operate in accordance with the instructions in the operator’s manual. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s directions may not violate code or statute, but will eventually diminish the vehicle’s performance and reliability, reducing the value of our shared investment.

An ICAOS rule is very different from an ICOTS functional requirement. ICOTS can neither create nor negate an officially promulgated rule. ICOTS’ design is generally consistent with ICAOS rules and ICOTS admirably supports most rule provisions. However, in those [few] instances where ICOTS does not support a rule requirement states are not relieved of the legal obligation to comply with the rule. In those [fewer] instances where ICOTS functions require a procedure not in the rules, states ought not decline to follow the procedure simply because it is not compelled by rule. Some actions are necessary simply because they help ICOTS function the way we need and expect it to function.

All of us have responsibility to preserve the value of our shared investment in ICOTS. By inspecting and periodically maintaining the cases we input, by following the instructions in the “owner’s manual” and remembering the “rules of the road”, we can assure that ICOTS will remain a reliable vehicle for carrying out the business and the purposes of the compact.

As originally posted on Wednesday, September 09, 2009.
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