Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ponch and John and me and a bunch of other cops

I've been reminded numerous times that I haven't ever finished telling the story about my court case.  Sometimes I try to tell a story that is too long and because I have no ability to focus, I sort of forget. 

So here is the story after I rolled it dirty with my friend Abel whose fate I sadly don't know but I'm guessing he will find himself back at the courthouse a few more times in 2009. 

Since I knew that the cop who gave me a ticket was out there usually on Saturday and Sunday, I figured that by making my court date for a Monday, there might be a chance that he was dumb and lazy, which is a good combo when you're fighting a ticket. 

So my case was around 10am or so, which means you get there at 9am and sort of wait.  For weeks I had played out what I would say when I plead my case - I had it all dramatic-like and I had assumed that my acting and case would be so awesome that I'd probably get a standing O or given a scholarship to Marin College or a role in the upcoming nativity scene at the Lutheran church come December.  OR at least I wouldn't have a fine of $200. 

I also met Marty, the has-been attorney whose nylon slacks and Reagan era sport jacket gave away the fact that he was an attorney but not a good one.  He was also divorced which I found hard to believe as he proceeded to fill the entire hour without asking me why I was there.  Marty was representing a client who got a speeding ticket.  He said he knew all the judges and that I didn't have a chance but there was a judge who rode a bike to work, but again, he wasn't my judge.

I didn't realize that they basically run the traffic court like a Disney ride - open the door, a person in a fancy uniform (they don't have guns or tasers at Disney, which is how you can tell the difference) opens the door and ushers you in. 30 people you don't know file in and then all get a seat and you wait for the ride/show to start and at the end you'd exit through the gift shop. 

But they don't post any rules - so when everyone is seated, then they tell you the rules about who sits where and that NO ONE BUT POLICE OFFICERS can sit in the back row.  This made sense but if you don't speak English like over 75% of the people there, it wasn't easy to figure out- unless you noticed that everyone but 3 people were cops in that back row.  After lots of 'NO ONE BUT POLICE OFFERS CAN SIT IN THE BACK ROW....' was repeated louder and slower, a Spanish and a Vietnamese translator came into the room and made it slightly clearer.  And soon, only Ponch and John and a dozen or so CHP motorcycle cops were left.

So now we're all seated and everyone looks around the room and I of course judge everyone because as I just wrote, I'm judgmental.  I was also the best dressed.  I thought the Teddy Roosevelt biography I was reading was a nice touch.  Some folks brought evidence, I had TR.

Because some lady had her baby with her - she got to go first.  Had I brought Piper and Sada I would have saved a good 45 minutes.  I would have pinched them a bit to get them crying just to ensure I got out faster but I failed in recognizing this tactic.  The judge wasn't so annoyed at the start of things. 

Then they call 4 people at a time - since my name was not Chavez, Mercado, Chavez or Than, I was out of luck.  So each person goes up, they read the charges and then the person defends themselves.  I don't know what the order was, but I was there first.  This doesn't seem to matter when dealing with the government - unless you're at the DMV.

For many, it seemed to be a pretty simple deal- speeding 30 mph over the limit, no insurance, blah blah blah.  $435 fine.  The judge was pretty nice in many cases, giving people 30 days to pay.  There were some gems - like the one guy whose case went like this

guy: 'when was the last time the radar gun was certified'

cop: April 11, 2009.

guy: (thinking) 'boy am I an ass'.  (says) 'well, I don't think I was going as fast as he said I was'

judge: is that it?

guy: yeah. 

judge: 'you have 30 days to pay the fine'

This tactic of 'I don't believe I was going as fast as he said I was' was tried again through an interpreter.  Even in Vietnamese it didn't work.  The judge was sharp.

About 10 mins in, I figured my cop wasn't going to show.  This was good.  He was dumb AND lazy!  Hoooorrayy for me.

Then I went at least another few mins wondering if he was going to sneak in and wreck it for me.  He didn't. 

Marty got up and did the lawyer version of the 'i don't think he was going as fast as he said he was'.  Marty lost and his client not only had to pay the fine but had to pay for Marty's retarded circus. 

Then they called me up with 3 other people and they called for the officer.  He wasn't there and with great efficiency and little fanfare it was over.  I was done. 

That was it.  All of the rehearsal, the anxiety, the standing ovation - all for nothing.  I won, but it was so hollow.  I was empty and drained and I had a better record for one day than Marty. 


Anonymous said...

I wanted you to have your big dramatic moment in court, where you break down barriers and prejudices toward cyclists, and usher in a new era in which cyclists are given the full respect and rights to which they are entitled. Oh well, at least you won.

Ben said...

Nice post! I knew you could do it!!

If you need a traffic lawyer in Seattle, mine has saved me plenty of money, and probably kept me from a suspended license as well. Don't worry, I never drove your cars like that :)

Kris R said...

I'll take a hollow victory any day over a fine. Glad that it worked out for you :)

tks said...

i'm assuming this is a photo of your family as a kid. i'm just trying to figure out which dress you're wearing.

Chris Tremonte said...

Fun post. I was totally expecting a big "I presented my case like that guy from Law & Order and everybody smiled and clapped and a woman cried ... and they still charged me the fine plus court costs."

How did you figure out the cop's work schedule? When I got my last speeding ticket I was given the choice of a set of days when the cop was scheduled to be there, or something like that...