Sunday, November 11, 2007

People watching in traffic court

So there I was, sitting in traffic court, waiting for our turn to plead our case. My wife had gotten tagged for a couple of moving violations, but she insisted to fight them in court. So we had gone in to plead, then come back on the trial date, only to have it postponed because the officer was on "court leave". It was rescheduled for a couple months later, on a bad day for me, as it turned out. But I couldn't reschedule, even though my reason was at least as good as whatever reason the officer had blown off the first date.

We were among the last to be tried, so I had time to watch the other people go through. The jump-suited prisoners from the city prison were dealt with first. Then it was on to the "civilians". Of note were these cases:

Most were traffic cases, and most of the defenses (few of them had lawyers) were along the lines of "you must have clocked someone else in front of me". One Afro/Carib woman's defense was that everyone else was illegally parked, so why ticket her? Another tried to be slick and file a motion requesting the court to re-enact the traffic stop, or something like that. This guy also pleaded his status as a military veteran, a soldier in Desert Storm. The motion was denied, and the solicitor threw his veteran's status back at him: "Many of us are," he said, and then proceeded to reel off years of speeding and red light running tickets the guy had collected over the years. Guilty.

One case was for disorderly conduct. A single mom, a hash-slinger at Picadilly's, had blown up at her slumlord about her roach-infested apartment, and was jailed. The judge and solicitor were sympathetic, found her guilty, and sentence her to time served and let her go.

The only not guilty verdict of the day came on an expired tag charge. The man had a paper from the DMV of another state saying that his tags were still current at the time of the stop. The judge apparently decided not to punish him for a government paperwork snafu, and let him go.

Finally it was our turn. We were given a fair trial and found guilty on both counts. The judge asked for "mitigating or aggravating" circumstances before handing down sentence. The solicitor recommend a light fine, since she had no prior convictions, and the violations were due more to confusion than recklessness. So, we got off lighter than if we had paid the fines straightaway. All in all, quite an educational experience.

1 comment:

  1. Back in the day, when I was recently married, my wife thought I was the worst driver in the world. That didn't stop her from running a stop sign with me in the car.

    We had just moved to Marietta from New Jesey, and Jersey girl that she is, she insisted we fight the ticket. "We" means I was there as a witness.

    When it was our turn to present our case, she states that she should be forgiven because, "There are no four-way stops in New Jersey." Caught unawares, I laughed. the judge looked at me and asked me if it was true, I had to tell him that I didn't know as I was from Pennsylvania and we didn't have cars. He fined her $65 and told her to transfer her license from Jersey to Georgia before the end of the year and the points wouldn't carry over. He told me to stop being a smartass.

    Two weeks later we went to the DMV and she failed her drivers test.




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