Thursday, February 2, 2012

Having My Day in Court

One fine Monday afternoon I was minding my own business, abiding by all traffic laws (or so I thought) en route to Helmart to purchase supplies for my Brownie troop. The one I lead. Cause I am a do-gooder like that.

I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw two police cars. They had been driving behind me for over a mile so they certainly weren't after ME were they? I was 2 blocks from the den of human suffering (AKA Helmart) when I was pulled over. I was sporting out of state tags which had expired 3 days prior. Yes officer I am aware of that. It's just that I am unemployed and I had to feed the children first. I get paid on Wednesday (two days from now) and will have the money to do it.

He was actually quite nice about it -only writing me a ticket for expired driver's license and tags. He said that if I took care of it right away the court would likely be lenient on me. He was nice enough not to write me a ticket for no proof of insurance. All he had to do was peer inside my car to see that clearly I couldn't find it.

It seemed like a quick fix, so I loaded up StinkBug for a day of fun at the drivers license office. You can read about my initial attempt here.

I went back the following week and stood in line for 2 1/2 hours with a 4 yr old. We were in a shoebox size room surrounded by the dregs of humanity. They probably thought the same of me as my germ infested body convulsed into coughing fits every 43 seconds and the sweat oozed out of my pores despite it being 34 degrees outside. I would find out the next day I had bronchitis and some other nastiness.

There was some drama building up to my first court appearance which I will write about another time. I showed up prepared to admit to my errors, pay a fine and be done with it. If only it had been that simple.

The court room was jam packed when I arrived and I had two options 1)climb over a ton of people to get to the sea of empty chairs in the middle of the rows or 2)grab the nearest empty seat even if it meant sitting next to a stranger. I opted for #2 since court was going to start any minute. I glanced  around looking for the least intimidating person. The woman I was sitting next to was the first one called. I was a bit shocked when she was charged with assault and battery, trespassing and some other probation violation. I thought I was in traffic court?

As I waited my turn, I paid attention to what the judge liked and didn't like. Obviously, speaking in a loud clear voice and saying "yes, sir" and "no, sir" was a no brainer. Based on what I could tell I would be fined, could request the option to make payment arrangements and then I would be on my merry way. I was feeling pretty good about the whole thing.

There were only two of us left.The man before me had been charged with failure to appear among other things. He explained he had been in prison in October and November and then was back in jail in December. The Honorable Judge congratulated him on finding temporary employment and encouraged him to continue to log community service hours as it would lessen his over all fines.

I didn't even get worried when the bailiff was running around trying to locate my file. Damn you hyphenated last name!

Clearly I was a model citizen who had made a simple mistake which I had already corrected.

I was called up and the Judge read my charges. I politely began to explain that I had taken care of things and had copies for evidence- just as I had seen several others before me do. He was quick to shut me down and sternly informed me that since these violations can result in jail time I had the right to consult an attorney before entering a plea. I was intimidated and scared shitless. I felt like I had been blindsided.

I walked out of there with a list of attorneys and another appearance scheduled for February 2nd.


emeline said...

Oh mother of pearl.

that's scary

Robbie K said...

It was an experience to say the least!

Natalie said...

I'm so sorry. What a bummer. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This does not make me feel any better about my impending court date. Attorneys and jail time for expired tags? The justice system is broken, my friend. What happened?