Thursday, May 19, 2005

Traffic Court

Oh the fun of traffic court... in Essex County VA, near Tappahannock. (Insert sarcastic smile here.)

Okay, I know, nobody likes going to traffic court. But its not like I had a choice. The officer who pulled me over going 78 in a 55 mph zone explained to me not once but twice that this was not a ticket you could simply pay. "You must appear in court."

It was a Saturday morning, around 9am and I was on my way to the Northern Neck of VA, to help Hugh build that screened porch. It was bright and sunny, the roads were completely dry, and it was 9 o'clock on a frickin' Saturday morning in Essex County VA so there were no other cars on the road. Except officer Allen's. (Note to self: when tempted to speed again, only do so on the highway where there are other cars around in order to provide the officer with a selection.)

Traffic court starts at 10am, so I left at 8am and got there just 2 minutes before 10. As I filed into the little court room I thought "Don't tell me ALL THESE PEOPLE have court dates today... we'll never get through them all". I mean, there were at least 60 people sitting there nervously waiting their turn to ask the judge for leniency. They wound up needing to postpone the criminal court which usually starts at 11am until the afternoon. Unfortunately, I seemed to be like number 52 or of 60, so I was there for quite a while.

One thing traffic court will do for you is make you feel a lot LESS like a loser. At least it did for me. On my way down there I was thinking "Man, what a loser I am. Reckless driving. Damn." But that was before I heard why all the rest of those people were in traffic court. Probably the most common violation seemed to be speeding and driving on a suspended license.

The most extreme case was a 25 year old guy, dressed in a suit and tie, who was in court this day for driving away from the court house a month ago after his license had been suspended. He was trying to tell the judge that since he was acquitted of whatever the other charge was that day, he didn't think his license was suspended. The judge realized he was playing a game and ordered the transcript from his previous case to be read. The guy continued to play his game and the judge got fed up with him. Well, I suppose the 9 speeding tickets and 2 license suspensions in the last 2 years added to it. Long story short: he was found guilty of driving on a suspended license, for which he was fined $1500. AND he was found guilty of perjury, for which he was sentenced to 6 months in jail. The sheriff escorted him from the court room.

I didn't feel like such a loser at that point.

The cast of characters in that court room could be material for several days' worth of blogging, but I will simply summarize them all by sharing this take-away point with you: If you are ever stopped by a policeman, do not say anything other than to answer his questions because what you say CAN be used against you. Just keep your mouth shut and sign the ticket. It says right on the ticket that signing is not an admission of guilt, but rather, a promise to appear in court. Many in the court room that day had apparently never been given this gem of wisdom, which made it harder on them to appear worthy of leniency.

Oh, and did I mention my shock at how some of these people were dressed? Once girl had on very tight, faded hip-hugger jeans, flip flops, and a cropped top. She looked more like a hooker than a court room defendant. Some of the men had on jeans, tennis shoes, construction boots, wrinkled shirts, logo T-shirts, and sweat pants. At least the dress code monitors made them take their baseball hats off in the court room.

I was able to get my reckless driving reduced to speeding, which made it totally worth the 4 hour round trip and the 3 hours of sitting in the court room waiting for my case to be heard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How did you get the charge reduced?