Well, I had to make an appearance in the municipal court of a local community today. Wonderful! Just how I enjoy spending my day. But it is done and over with, and in my favor, to boot, so I guess I have no room for complaint. Still, when you have dealt with the law for as long as I have, any contact is too much contact.
About a month ago, my wife, the kids, and one of their school friends all conspired to get me to drive them up to the "big city" so they could go to the mall and do some christmas shopping. I agreed, as I figured it was in my best interests..... if I wanted anything for christmas this year! Anyway, as we were getting to the place where I needed to turn, another car passes me, moves to about 6 or 8 car lengths ahead, and then for some reason, slams on his brakes.
Well, I hit my brakes, and as I approach the rear of this car, I steer slightly towards the inner, or fast, lane. I had to go left because there was the beginnings of a turn lane on my right and it was filled with traffic. Anyway, my forward motion had almost come to a complete halt when the car in front of me accelerated rapidly away. Then, all of a sudden....BANG! This guy in a 3/4 ton extended cab long bed GMC truck sideswipes us! So, I get the car moved out of traffic and check on everyone, then get out to look at the car and call the cops. I'm standing there talking on the phone and checking out the damage, when suddenly, I feel this tug on my pants. I look down, and this clown had a damn puppy running loose in the car when he hit us! He comes over and gets the dog and starts trying to discuss the accident with me, and I told him to just go back to his truck and wait for the cops to get here.
The cops finally show up and I tell them what happened, then she goes and talks to the other guy. They do their thing, and then he gets in his truck and takes off, and then she comes back to me. She starts asking me for more detail, and then informs me that she is giving MEthe ticket! I ask what it is for, and she says that the citation is for changing lanes when unsafe. I then point out the fact that I never left my lane, safe or otherwise, and that I had a car-load of witnesses that would attest to that fact, not to mention the fact of him driving while distracted and playing with his puppy was what caused the entire situation to begin with.
Apparently those are facts which did not factor in to her decision to issue the citation. When I asked her to explain exactly why I was being ticketed for changing lanes when I did not in fact do so, her reply was that it was an traffic collision with damages, so somebody had to get the ticket. OK, so why was it not given to the person who was actually responsible for the damn accident? WTF?
Having learned long ago that it is completely useless to argue with a cop, I just took the paperwork and didn't say a word. Well, except for the part right before she left when she asked me if I understood everything, and I told her no, I did not. I did not understand why she allowed the guilty party to drive away unpunished, while I, as the victim, was the one who received the sanction. As she began to start into her long-winded and completely ridiculous explanation, I cut her off and said that I would have the judge explain it, as she was obviously unsure of the difference between guilt and innocence. That did not go over very well, but at this point, I did not give a fuck. I got in my car and left, while she followed me until I finally parked in the parking lot of the mall.
My court day (today) rolls around, and after I get up and dressed, I'm off! I leave an hour early, because I have no idea of where I am going and a set of directions that was scrawled on a torn-up piece of paper that I found at the time. I finally get there and look down at my watch, only to see that I am already about 2 minutes late.
Wonderful. Tardiness is traditionally one of a judges pet peeves, and here I am, late as fuck! I finally get through security and find the court room, get in and get sat down, and the city attorney resumes his speech about the do's and don'ts of "his" courtroom. I always thought the courtroom belonged to the people, or maybe the judge, but I figured the ownership question was one that could be tabled for another time.
I sit there, eyes closed and listening to the judge call up various miscreants and evil-doers and going through the exact same routine each and every time, and finally MY name is called. Although it was hard, I successfully resisted the temptation to say "Yes, No, No, Yes, Yes" in the very beginning because, while the judge seemed like he was a "good 'ol boy" and might get a kick out of it, humor has no place in the courtroom. The ice is there for a reason, and any attempt to break it is just foolishness!
As his words surrounded me, I chose option three, which was to discuss my case with the city attorney prior to entering a plea. This option, which I personally thought would be the option of choice for most of the neer-do-well's in front of me, was surprisingly not used as often as I would have thought! Why someone would EVER enter a blind open plea of guilty is beyond me!
Eventually, I was called into this guys office and given the opportunity to explain myself and the circumstances surrounding the situation. This CA begins by telling me what the cop said and what the file says, and that he feels that the citation is a fair one. Then I tell him what actually happened, and we discuss things for a moment or two, and he starts talking plea deal. I ask him why he would offer a plea deal to someone who was not guilty and he starts in about it being the cops word against mine and how a jury will traditionally believe a cop before they will believe a citizen accused of a crime. I point out the fact that the cop is not involved here, as she failed to investigate the scene at all, and that any believability issues will be between myself and the other party.
At that point, the CA looks at me and says "you have done this before, haven't you?"
I then took out the signed and notarized statements from the people in my car, the statement of the body shop guy as to his opinion on what happened based on the damage to my car, as well as the photos I took of the initial skid marks, in addition to the marks that happened where he actually hit me, and dropped them on his desk. He looked through the statements and pretty much decided that it would not be worth the time and money to even open an investigation, and dismissed the charge of changing lanes when unsafe.
It was at this point that I figured I might as well see just how far I could push my luck, and I asked if he would consider dismissing the defective headlight ticket as well, because it could not be conclusively proved that the headlight was defective prior to the collision.
He smiled at me and told me not to push my luck, and I left it at that. The final tally of the day? Well, I was looking at 4 points against my license, a $195.00 fine (plus costs!), and a moving violation on my driving record, which would probably have raised my rates. As it ended up, the moving violation was dismissed completely and I got a $50.00 fine and 1 point for defective equipment for the bad headlight. So my insurance rates should stay the same, which is what I really wanted! All of the other stuff is short-term, but an addition to your monthly insurance payment can add up quick!
While I still intensely dislike LE and all of its associated minions, it is a LOT easier to deal with when you are a citizen and not criminal-minded anymore!