I was naive and the most humiliated I've ever been. I basically had to go to trial over a traffic ticket, representing myself and looking stupid. Riverside traffic court was not at all what I had expected or what other people told me traffic court would be like.
I got this ticket more than a month ago, and there was no information on the ticket about how much the fine would be or anything - just that there would not be any information mailed to the house and I needed to show up for court. Turns out you really do have to show up - even if you're just pleading guilty and want to pay the fine. I was on the 6 pm docket, as all the traffic cases were, and was one of about three people pleading not guilty. One by one everyone was called up before the judge to confirm the guilty plea before they were told how much the fine was and were taken to the clerk to pay. The city attorney/prosecutor came around to talk to all of us "not guilty" folk and asked me if I had a lawyer. When I said no, he kind of chuckled and I said, "Do I need one?" to which he relied, "Yeah, " as if I were a slow child or something.
I had no idea that I was basically going to trial. Nobody ever asked for my statement until I was sworn in by the judge - there was no attempt at lowering the charges or anything. The same jerk cop who gave me the ticket took the stand and talked about his radar and seeing my vehicle doing what he guessed was around 50 mph (NO FREAKIN' WAY!) and pulled me over. I won't name the cop, but if you're ever in Riverside, MO and see a very short white male with a shaved head, "respect my authori-tie" sunglasses and a WHOLE lot of attitude, that's him. After the cop gave his testimony led by the questions of the city attorney, I had the chance to ask him questions. I admit it - I watch way too many lawyer shows on tv and several questions were going through my mind, but not wanting to appear any more of an idiot than I already felt, I kept quiet, gave my statement when asked (which was basically that I was making a left hand turn from the stop light and was stopped so quickly after the intersection I didn't think there was any way I could have been going 45), and was then delcared guilty without the bat of an eye from the judge.
Being told I'm guilty was NOT the highlight of my life. I walked out the door which the bailiff held open to go to the clerk and pay my $225 fine (thank God for credit cards) and started crying. I never had a chance - nobody cared what my side of the story was. I've gone over the scenario so many times, trying to figure out what else I could have done/should have done but I don't know that it would have made any difference. Do you have any ideas? Would it have been worth it to hire a lawyer for a $225 fine? Granted, I'm also concerned about my driving record and insurance, but my record is pretty clean anyway, so it's not like this sends me to driving school or gets me suspended.
I've been trying to figure out why this was so bad for me - I cried the entire drive home after court and went from being pissed off to feeling like a scared little kid. I don't know if it was being declared guilty, seeing the jerk cop be a jerk again (and Bekah can back me up on his character), dealing with the jerk city attorney, or having to watch everyone else go before I got my chance so that I just kept getting more and more nervous. Ok, it was probably all of it combined. Angela was there with me, but she didn't know what to do any more than I did. I had to not only sit through the 6 pm docket cases but then there was the 7 pm docket with the assault, drug charges, etc. before they got to the "trials." Angela sat in the court room while I was paying my fine, and apparently the guy after me made more of an idiot of himself than I did, but that doesn't really make me feel any better.
Lesson learned - don't listen to what people tell you about traffic court because it all depends on where you go. If you go in Riverside, just save yourself the time and humiliation and plead guilty so you can pay the fine and get the heck out. I'll be damned if I drive through that town again.