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So yesterday was my big court date for that ridiculous ticket I got in November.  It was postponed twice and I was nervous about all of it.

I slept at my parents' house with the boys on Wednesday so I could be in court in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, at 9 am.  I wore a suit. 

I walked into the small-town court room to see a strange assemblage of people in assorted attire ranging from dirty jeans to exposed cleavage to puffy winter coats and ugly Christmas sweaters.  I heard a bunch of interesting cases.  This well-dressed older guy, a retired teacher, was there to deal with the eight tickets from when he was pulled over for speeding and the cop found crack and a crack pipe in his car.  He'd just gotten out of 30 days in rehab and his lawyer was arguing for him not to lose his drivers' license because he needs to drive to supplement his pension by working as a referee for high school sports!!!!

Some woman was there with a smarmy lawyer arguing her second DWI case.  Apparently some people at a local grocery store called the police after seeing her make her way to her car after drunken shopping.  They gave her an "alco-test" and she blew a .046.  The legal limit in Jersey is .01.  They gave her the test 6 times and apparently in NJ, you're only allowed to give it three times.  She's got a DWI case in NJ Supreme court so even though she was pleading guilty to the most recent charge, the sentencing was dependent on the first case because a second offense gets a tougher sentence.  Oh, and the best part was the judge asking her how much she'd had to drink and when and her answer was "two gins the night before."  My goodness, what people will try to get away with.

There was a young guy-- I think he said he was 22--who was there for the 11th time of being busted driving on a suspended license.

I heard some people get actual jail time.  I heard fines of like $2500.  It made me feel stupid for my "failure to keep right" ticket.

The judge then asked if there was anyone who hadn't been called, who wasn't waiting to talk to the prosecutor.  That was me!  I feel that the ticket was bogus and that it was compromising my integrity to cop to a lesser charge, which is what the prosecutor tries to do with people, so I wasn't planning to talk to him. 

So I got up and answered "not guilty" to the question of how I wanted to plea.  Hey, I thought, didn't I tell you people this when I called for a court date in the first place?  So the judge then tells the prosecutor to call the state trooper who issued the ticket to come in for a trial "sometime today."

So after hearing a few more cases, the prosecutor went up to the judge and talked to him before calling me to the podium.  It's now 11:30 am and I've been freezing my butt off in the court room for three hours.  The cop is home with his sick kids today and can't make it to court.  They want to postpone my trial until January 24th.

Immediately I start running over the choices in my head.  On one hand, another postponement means it's almost certain this guy isn't going to remember me by the time we're in court.  It will then have been three months since I got the ticket.  Then again, January 24th is the day before we leave for Disney.  We were planning to spend the night at a hotel near Philly's airport.  On the other hand, it means another trip out to Jersey and sitting in the court room again.  

The judge offered me a trial by mail because of the distance, where I submit my testimony in a notarized letter.  That didn't seem quite right either.  I'm sure they were giggling at me for making such a big deal out of a failure to keep right ticket.  It was my understanding that if the cop didn't show, that was it, you were done.  Apparently not.  So the prosecutor told me to wait and talk to him and see if we couldn't resolve this.

So I went to talk to the prosecutor and the man just rubbed me the wrong way... like he was looking through the list of statutes for something he could get me to agree to be guilty to in order to get me out of the courtroom and all of them to lunch.  (I heard them discussing ordering Chinese and thought 'yum.')

So I ask Smarmy Prosecutor, can I just be honest with you here?  He says yeah, that this has nothing to do with the case and I told him, I was passing someone but not speeding and the trooper pulled up really fast behind me and was pissed off that he had to slow down. 

He asked what road I was on and I told him.  He actually laughed and said, "Yeah, you need to do about 80 in the left lane on 78." 

I replied, "So my choice would then have been a speeding ticket or this ridiculous ticket I'm stuck with."

He laughed again and said that because it was Christmas and because I "seem like a nice lady" he'd give me "Obstructing traffic" which is a $56 fine, plus $33 court cost and no points.  The trooper forgot to put that this was in a 65 mph zone, which doubles the fines, so I'd only have to pay the $56.  The judge would ask if I was obstructing traffic and I'd have to say yes.  He'd ask if I was going too slow in the left lane and I'd have to say yes.   So that's what I did and it still pisses me off.  I took the "obstructing traffic" and paid $4 more than the original ticket, but no insurance points.  So, whatever.  I'm still left with a bad taste in my mouth.

It really really ticks me off that there's such a chasm between the courtroom and reality.  The reality is that the speed limit of 65 in the left lane on that road is too slow but had I been doing the same speed that that trooper was doing, there's no doubt he would have nailed me for speeding.  I hate that I had to plead guilty to something I didn't do, that there's no avenue for explaining a situation and having the judge actually consider the circumstances.  He knew that like me, what most of those people plead guilty to was something different than what their tickets had been written for and yet, it is an accepted practice. 


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( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
redqueenmeg
Dec. 21st, 2007 09:52 pm (UTC)
...and?

The suspense is killing me! :)
sweetjezebel
Dec. 22nd, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
What happened to the end of your post? Ack!!! I need ot know more!
purplejuli
Dec. 22nd, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
Crap! I didn't realize I didn't finish!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )