The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"bang!" Next case!

A little while ago, I wrote about how I got my first ticket. This is what happened afterward.

It was my first introduction to the traffic division of the justice system. It may be different in your town, city, country or whatever but this how things were done then (1963) in Hollywood, FL.

The citation told me to appear at a certain place, at a certain time, on a certain date. I thought that would be traffic court. I was wrong. It was an informal meeting at the judge's office. I was not alone, the other 15 or so people who had been cited in the past couple of weeks were also there. We sat around, silently wondering what would happen next (though I am sure a few already knew). A man came into the room, introduced himself as the judge's clerk, and proceeded to explain what the proceedings were about and what we should do.

"In a few minutes," he stated, "you will be called into the judge's chambers [office] where the judge will explain the charges and ask for a plea."

Your choices are: guilty or not guilty. If you plead 'guilty', the judge will assess a fine and you will be on your way, no need to come back again. If you plead 'not guilty', the judge will assign you a court date and you will have to miss another day's work (he glanced at me) or school to attend court where you will likely face a larger fine plus court costs."

I recommend you plead 'guilty' because the fine will likely be lower and you won't have to take any more time off. Any questions?"

I raised my hand.

"What if you aren't guilty?" I asked, wide eyed and as innocent looking as I could manage. There was some snickering among the others.

"Well," he said, "if you insist on pleading 'not guilty' then a court date will be provided and you will have to return for that... probably in about a month. Of course, you will likely face a larger fine if you are then found guilty of the infraction."

So I waited for my name to be called and was then ushered into the judge's office where I found the judge and a female clerk. The judge was seated in a large, comfy looking, chair behind a large desk and the clerk was sitting a few feet to his right. the judge pointed to an uncomfortable looking chair in front of his desk and said something to the effect of "Have a seat, son."

He then recited the infraction number and the plain language translation ("failure to stop at a stop sign") and, in a bored voice, asked me for my plea.

"Not guilty, sir," I replied.

"Are you sure you want to do that, son? I will then have to assign you a court date where you will appear before me. You will have to miss work or school on that date and take your chances with me. I'm sure that was explained to you by my clerk."

I repeated my plea. He asked his clerk for the next available court date and sighed as he told me to appear on that date. He also told me to wait in the waiting room and I would be given a piece of paper with the date and time I was to appear.

I did so. It was about a month's wait, as promised.

Court was quite interesting. I was the third or fourth case, I don't recall exactly, and the others were handled swiftly and found guilty and the judge assessed fines and court costs and told the defendants to "pay the clerk to your left."

In each case, an officer would step up, be sworn in, and would relate the case as he saw it. The judge would ask the defendant if he had anything to say and they would either say "no" or offer some excuse. It obviously didn't matter.

My case was called and I stood behind a rail in front of the judge's bench as the officer walked up and was sworn in. He was dressed in uniform including those high boots that motorcycle cops wear. He then proceeded to recite the circumstances of my being ticketed.

"Well, your honor, as I approached the intersection at 19th Avenue on Van Buren the defendant came barreling through the intersection at about 20 miles per hour. I followed him, pulled him over, and wrote the citation."

The judge turned toward me and said, "Have you anything to say to the charge?"

"Well, your honor," I began, "I don't want to say the officer is lying but that is not what happened at all."

"Please explain, son."

"I approached the intersection at Van Buren on 19th Avenue and stopped at the stop sign. I then crept forward so that I had a clear view in both directions on Van Buren. I saw the officer on his trike just finishing marking a tire on a car more than a half block to the east, toward US 1. I then pulled through the intersection, drove the two blocks to the traffic light and turned right on red after stopping there and proceeded down to the Circle where the officer stopped me and gave me the ticket. He was not approaching that intersection nor did I 'barrel through [it] at 20 miles per hour.'"

The judge stared down at me and said, "There's no doubt in my mind that you are guilty as charged. However, since this is your first offense, I will assign you to traffic school and waive the court costs. See the clerk to your left. Next case!"

I was highly disappointed in the outcome but happy that I was not fined nor did I have to pay any court costs. I did learn that traffic citations were about gathering revenue and that cops do lie in court. Blatantly. And that the judges don't care.

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