Friday, November 12, 2010

traffic court...

well, i suppose i had to go there at some point in my life...the dreaded traffic court!
this summons was from my accident back in July.  i was ticketed for following too closely, which is worth some points on my license because it is a moving violation.
the police officer advised me to plead not guilty and show up at traffic court so i could get the ticket reduced to a non-moving violation, which would mean a lessor fine and no points on my license.  i decided that might be a good idea.
so that's what i did.  i recieved a letter from the Saratoga City Court, stating my court date was today...November 12, at 8:15am.  UGH! i thought...that's early!
but off i went like a good little girl.

i was a bit nervous, and it was intimidating to get into the courtroom...you had to go through a security check point like at the airport, with the metal detector and armed police officers staring at you.  then in the courtroom, the benches faced the judge's HUGE desk, and the ionic columns stood high to the ceiling.  i really liked the lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling. an old iron casing and round fixture.  as i looked around the room, there were several groups of people represented there today...but mostly caucasian.  a few older people, some younger less experienced drivers,  and some of your average looking middle aged women like myself. there was even a military officer!  ha!

the judge arrived at around 8:25am, but the D.A. didn't get there until 8:35am.  i didn't know the D.A. had to be present.  i guess it was a good thing, because he's the one who asked the judge to reduce the pleas for all the cases.  again, pretty intimidating. 

so now court was in session; and yes, they do say "all stand for the honorable judge so and so, presiding. this court is now in session."  hahaha!  that gave me a little giggle.  the cases were called in alphabetical order.  oh man!  my last name begins with "R," and you had to "approach the bench" and sit in a chair next to the D.A. at a very long table.  as they went through the alphabet, there were many people coming and going in and out of the courtroom.  the floors in that old building squeaked and squelched under their weight.  very distracting.
some people were even texting during the proceedings!  what nerve!  haha!

as they were nearing the R's, i was getting increasingly nervous.  not only to be sitting in front of this judge, but to also be airing my dirty laundry in front of all these strangers.  there's no privacy in traffic court.  it's all open and everyone hears your business!

then a few lawyers come in with their clients.  not only were they late to court, but they got to go to the head of the class!!  what?!  no fair!  i was here EARLY, and have been waiting about an hour for my turn!  ugh!

finally the judge called my name.  i have to give him credit, he pronounced it correctly.  :)
the charge was "following too closely."  the judge asked me if there was an accident, i said yes.  he then asked if i reported the accident to my insurance company.  i said yes.  he then asked if anyone was injured.  i said no.  at this point, the D.A. spoke up.  he asked that the ticket be reduced to "unattended vehicle," which is no points.  of course, he said the number of the traffic law, which was something like 12.10.a.  haha!
so the judge asked if i would accept that plea, and i said yes.  he then asked if i would give up my right to a trial, my right to remain silent, and my right to an attorney.  hmmm...i hadn't thought about that.  but i suppose in order to close the case, i had to say yes.  so i did. 

which leads me to the fine.  there is no rhyme or reason to the fines...at least that's what i thought as the judge was giving all these people their fines.  $120, $80, $20, even no charge. plus an $80 mandatory surcharge.  he asked each person if they were working, on unemployment, even on disability, and then applied the fine accordingly.  some even had to take a defensive driving course on top of that! the judge asked me if i was working. i said no, that i was a SAHM.  he asked me if i was married.  i said yes.  and so he came up with this fugure for my fine: $80 fine plus $80 surcharge.  who knows how he got that figure. i sure don't.  but i am grateful that it wasn't the full $120 fine!   and even though i only got hit with $160, i can't help to think how unfair these fines are.  if you are working full time, you got hit with the full fine. that's $120 plus $80 surcharge. it just doesn't make sense.  it seemed like those people were being penalized for having a job!!

anyway, i am so glad that is over and done with, and i hope i never have to sit through traffic court again!

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