One Couple's Stumblings Through Parenthood and Marriage

Friday, January 27, 2006

Betrayed by Lady Justice

I had to go to the courthouse in Fairfield today to dispute a speeding ticket I received in August. I had to defend my honor, and my family name!

I honestly believe I wasn't speeding. I was heading southbound on 113, and merging onto eastbound I80. I was pulled over by a CHP officer during one of their mass 'speed enforcement' operations. The officer who cited me wasn't even the one who LIDAR'd me. I thought for sure that I would be able to clear my good name. It must have been a case of mistaken identity, right?

The problems began right away. You see, as a habitually law-abiding citizen, I really have no idea how the court procedure works. The court papers that were mailed to me didn't even give me an address! Luckily I was able to track down the information online and show up on time. I was in my best (and only) suit, looking good and well groomed. I even had my obligatory day planner tucked under my arm. It didn't help. Wandering the halls of a vast courthouse, squinting at every door sign you can find tends to make you look and feel silly. Eventually, I found my courtroom and waited outside with the other 'accused' for the doors to open.

I was only in the courtroom for 45 minutes. This is where I really took a beating. My trial was the only for which both officers appeared (other 'accused' were let off because their one officer failed to appear). Also, I was the only 'accused' not represented by an attorney! I had to offer my testimony myself (in one of the trials before mine, the attorney kept saying "I object" to the officers testimony - and that guy got of clear and free!).

We were sworn in, and the judge asked the first officer to offer his testimony. He went on for over seven minutes, describing detail, almost a second by second breakdown, of how he spotted my car, used his LIDAR, pointed my car out to the other officer, got my license plate number, etc. He then launched in to a detailed report of how he used his LIDAR, the angles involved, the distance, the manufacturer of the LIDAR, the serial number, where, how, and when he was certified to use the LIDAR, how many continuing education courses he has taken in the LIDAR, how often the LIDAR is calibrated and tested, etc.

I tried taking notes at first (mainly to look like I knew what I was doing), but I finally gave up and just watched him prattle on. Once he was done, the officer who actually gave me the ticket rattled off a list of traffic and civic codes, and his procedure for taking my license number, etc. By this time I knew I was in way over my head. The judge turned to me and asked if I wished to cross-examine either officer.

I tried to sound important as I said, "No, Your Honor." He then asked me to offer my testimony. I stood up dramatically and approached the jury. I pounded my fist on the railing. I cited stare decisis, Brown vs. The Board of Education, the Federalist papers, I quoted from James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. I shined! The audience applauded until the judge had to call the court to order by banging with his gavel ...
Actually, my testimony pretty much boiled down to: "Uh, I didn't do it."

He asked if, since my car is so old, I had recently had my speedometer checked. Nope, I hadn't. He found that, "Due to the evidence provided by the officers, it is my belief that you were driving in excess of 65 miles per hour, and blah blah blah ..." I was stuck with the ticket, though he said I was eligible for traffic school.

What have I learned from this? If you actually want to dispute a speeding ticket, you should come to court with the following: the make, model, and serial number of your speedometer, a certification in speedometer reading, proof of speedometer calibration, your procedure for verifying daily that your speedometer is working correctly, and where and when you received your speedometer reading certificate. Without that, all you can do is hope the officer doesn't show up.

I understand that if the judge took my "Na-uh!" as evidence, then the court system would be rendered useless, but man, I really got robbed on this one!

As I left the courthouse, I saw Lady Justice outside. She was standing there in her toga, blindfolded, and holding the scales and sword. As I walked by she stuck her foot out and tripped me. I stumbled forward and skinned my knees and palms. Then she spit on me.

I am proud of myself, though. In a daring display of defiance, I drove my car through the heart of Solano County law enforcement and jurisprudence, teeming with CHP officers, with my license plate tags 3 months out of registration! Also, once I got on the freeway, I went 67 mph the entire way to work! That is sticking it to the man, baby!

Speeding ticket: $124
Traffic school: $24 and a Saturday lost
Being made a fool of in a court of law: priceless.

In the end, though, I feel no bitterness towards the officers. They were doing their duty, and I am grateful that we have so many men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to keep us safe. It just sucks when the whole system backfires - especially on me!


Ian said...

Maybe this will convince you to give up the 'Thug life. Game for real, dog. You have your baby-mama to think of!

Jabbertrack said...

If you have 1 size bigger tires than what came stock with your car when it was made then it's very easy for you to be reading much much less on your speedometer than your actual speed by the time you are going 60+. The Focus I used to have had a system for recalibrating the speedo... you had to take the dash apart some... but I did it after I changed tires. You wouldn't need the make/serial number of the speedo in court... you just have to sound like you know what you are talking about.

Funny that you mention how they went on about the radar. If you look at the 'get out of a ticket' websites the typical defense they tell you to use is to ask the officers to produce the documents that proves they are trained on the radar device they used and the document on the calibration check they have to go through periodically... looks like they were prepared.

Honestly there was no way you were getting out of that one if they showed up with all that information. Regardless of whether your speedometer was correct.

If it makes you feel better I got one 10 years ago for 80 in a 65. Little tip though... bypass the court humiliation and just look pretty for the ladies at the counter where you go pay the fine. They are allowed to adjust the amount if it's not written on the ticket. Total cost to me-

gas to get there: $1
ticket for 15mph over: $70

Anonymous said...

At least you tried to stick it to the man! :)

Raging Wombat said...

That's very good advice, Mike. I'll keep that in mind for next time. I like the idea of talking down the fine. And, yes, I looked mighty fine in my zoot.

Ian, I will never give up the Thugh life. You know that.