Thursday, June 01, 2006

Traffic Court - the aftermath


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.


hipchickmamma said...

wow, that totally sucks. i'm sorry. small town schisters!

too bad bekah couldn't have gone. i never would have thought you'd need a lawyer for a speeding ticket! yikes!

we could drop sugar in his gas tank! just kidding! now you know what kind of teen i was!

want to come and clean house to take your mind off of it?


Rachael said...

{{{{hugs}}}} I'm sorry that was such a bad experience for you. It sounds to me like the judge decided everybody was guilty from the start. If it makes you feel any better, I don't think a lawyer would have helped any. When I had to retain a lawyer it was $500 just to say he was my lawyer. So even if a lawyer had gotten the charges dropped, you'd still be out quite a bit of money.

Trouble said...

i am just proud of you for knowing that you were wrongly charged and sticking with it.

Big Unit said...

Next time just out run'em. I got a ticket in Jan from OHP by the capital. I had to listen to a 10 minute lecture about how the roads might be slick (it snowed a 1/4 of an inch the day before) and how if I wrecked the (small) load of lumber I was carrying would fly everywhere (never mind the 3 - 1500# rachet straps that were securing it to my truck, unlike the other idiots who use nothing or some sting they found or maybe a garden hose (kind of like the idiots rappelling at Red Rock Canyon)).

Mom said...

In a lot of small towns, traffic court is just a fund-raiser. It probably wouldn't matter what you did or said. And it may have been that the cop was just giving speeding tickets to whoever came along, whatever their speed. Unfortunately, that happens frequently. It would probably take an "investigative reporter" to expose it and get it to stop.

MsUnit said...


So I have to read deaconess_grrl's blog to find out about your ticket.

Hey deaconess_grrl! Call me next time and I'll go with you. I don't care if it is in KC. Even if I can't represent you, I tell you what to say. Jackson can stay with Daddy.

Love ya'll

mandyc said...

MsUnit - good to hear from you!! Hope you had a good birthday and anniversary, and don't think I won't be calling you next time. I had no idea I was going to need professional counsel, or believe me, I would have called you before I went to court! We'll be back in OKC July 15th?? whatever that weekend is - Angela has drill Thursday thru Sunday and I'll be going down with her, so make plans to see us!

Albany Lawyer said...

Being a NY traffic court lawyer, I am biased and generally feel we're worth the money people pay us.

I do understand a common reluctance people have about hiring a lawyer to help. What I don't understand is why people don't at least call a lawyer and find out.

I get calls all the time (my website attracts a lot of out-of-state drivers who get speeding tickets in New York). People give me the basic facts. I ask a few questions. Then I explain why it might be worth hiring me.

Sometimes it's a no-brainer and the caller should hire me (or another lawyer). NY fines can get very expensive. One caller today (31 mph over the limit, plus another minor violation) was looking at fines in the ballpark of $1500. I charge $500 for that particular location, and would expect to get a reduction to fines of about $500, so net I'd save that caller $1000.

That's an extreme case. Often the fine savings is close to my fee, often a little less. But the insurance savings can be dramatic.

Sometimes the violation is so minor I offer to help but suggest that many drivers would be choose to plead guilty.

Hope this is helpful.


MsUnit said...

Lets make plans to see each other. We are blessed to have opportunities to see Angela when she is in town. We are sad that we don't get to see you more often. I also miss Kai and Dakota.

I love your blogs, and not just because I can bust Big Unit on his tickets.