I apologize now for the length of this post but MY STORY must be told.
I have always believed in the system, the judicial system that is. I never had a reason not too, until three years ago last June.
You see, I got a speeding ticket on my way to a final exam. I thought my test was scheduled for 4:00 PM however the test was actually at 10:30 AM. It was 10:10 AM when I discovered this.
I had to get across town in twenty minutes, find a parking space and buy a scantron. Easier said than done in a town riddled with 25 and 35 mph speed zones, lots of police who love to write tickets and impossible parking situations at a university.
I went down a road with a 35 mph limit, I was definitely going faster. Of course, a cop was hiding in the bushes and pulled me over.
He did not have me on radar but said he estimated my speed and asked for my license, insurance etc.
I was in such a panic I did not ask questions, hassle him or beg for his forgiveness. I just wanted my ticket so I could get to where I was going.
It was my first ticket in eighteen years, I figured it was my time. I signed it, threw it in my purse and figured I’d deal with it later.
When I got home I pulled the ticket out. The officer indicated I had been doing 61 mph in a 35 mph zone. Ouch. Impossible really. There were lots of cars around, I was going uphill and decelerating as I was approaching a red light.
As I looked at the ticket more I noticed the policeman had originally written my speed as 60 mph and changed it to read 61 mph. Hmmm, why? I was really clueless since I am not in the habit of getting tickets, I normally drive pretty close to the speed limit.
Then I realized at 61 mph I would be 26 mph over the allowed speed limit (25 mph is the cutoff) for traffic school. This would also increase the fine ($370) and the charge would be reckless driving. I was pissed.
First of all, I was not going that fast. Secondly, there was no way he was able to estimate my speed in his head at the exact number of 61. He was not following me etc. He obviously changed the numbers to put me into an elevated speed category.
It was obvious he was out to punish me, which is not the job of a police officer. That is what court is for.
Truly, I just wanted to pay the ticket. I was speeding, not as fast as he said but I was speeding. I was too busy with school and life to deal with this in any other way.
The Wild Boar would have none of that. Out of principle there was no way he was going to let it go.
He insisted I go to traffic court and at least fight for the right to go to traffic school. I would have rather stuck a thousand needles in my eyes. I didn’t want to go even though I knew I should.
I’ve never been to traffic court and didn’t know what to expect.
Anyway, I tried fighting the ticket by mail first. I was found guilty. However, the court said I still had the right to go to court before a judge.
So about one year later I went to traffic court. I could have drowned in my own nervous sweat. People were there fighting their DUI, their DUI with kids in the car and not having their kids in carseats. Some of these people looked like they had slept in the dirt overnight. I couldn’t believe they were even let into court looking that way.
The Wild Boar and I were there, totally dressed up. There were tons of people and tons of cops. Everyone seemed to have a book with them to read. Obviously they had been there before.
I wanted to die. I had no idea what to say or how this court business even worked. I was praying I would not be first so I could at least get the feel for it. I think I ended up being fifth or sixth to take the stand.
Anyway, every cop that was there got up and defended his own case. Of course no one wins except for the cops.
So it’s my turn. I stand up and so does the cop along with the FLIPPIN’ deputy district attorney of the county as the prosecutor.
What! He has the D.A. with him to help fight a traffic ticket! Not one other cop has an attorney with him to help him with his case.
Great. I could kill myself right now. Why is the D.A. helping? Ugh.
The trial goes on. I have done my homework and have tons of evidence, video of the street showing there is not proper speed limit signage on the road and lots of case law to quote.
I think to myself, I just want to go to traffic school. There is no way that cop got me on speed estimation at exactly 61 mph. I can fight this and win.
The officer claims right away he had me on radar, which he didn’t. Even the ticket was written as a pacing ticket (which he didn’t pace either).
I tell the judge the officer did not have me on radar. However, the judge replied this officer has been a member of the police force for seven or eight years and he has no reason not to trust him. Kay. He basically just told me I am the liar.
Anyway, one of the documents required in court is a traffic engineering survey. This survey indicates the last time the city evaluated that particular road and sets the speed limit. This proves that the location in question is not a speed trap and blah, blah, blah. The officer needs to provide this.
So I asked the policeman if he had brought the survey. It was presented into evidence and given to me to look at. I stared at this thing full of drawings, numbers, arrows and words; it looked like a mess. I had no idea what I was looking at.
Now realize, my stint up at the microphone had now gone on for about 30 minutes while all the other trials lasted about 5 minutes. Everyone had now put down their books and were intently listening to the grand battle between me, the cop, the D.A. and the judge. I could feel everyone just staring at my back.
So now I had this traffic survey and it took me about 5-7 minutes to even figure out what the heck I was looking at. It was an engineering report for gawd’s sake. It was complicated and while I was looking at it there was complete silence in the courtroom and EVERYONE was staring at me.
I finally grasped what this whole report meant and noticed it was an engineering report alright, but for a whole other part of the street, not where I was accused of speeding.
So I said, “Your Honor, this is not even the right report etc.”
The judge looked slightly but not terribly annoyed and asked the officer if this was the correct survey.
The officer said, “No, I couldn’t find the correct one so I used this other survey instead.”
What! I flipped out (in my mind). I immediately asked a motion for dismissal since the officer had just turned in false evidence. I was so mad because if I had not noticed the error no one would have.
The judge ignored me.
Instead he began helping the officer. He asked the court clerk where the traffic survey book was.
This was highly inappropriate since the officer was already being represented by a DISTRICT ATTORNEY who should have checked any evidence being presented prior to the case starting. It was not the judges place to help the prosecution try their case against me.
So the clerk found the book and a new traffic survey materialized.
Once they had the correct report, the D.A. asked the judge if the court could now remove the false report from evidence, HE KNEW false evidence would come back to haunt them. However, the judge actually followed protocol and said once something has been entered into evidence it cannot be removed. Score for me.
I again requested a dismissal based on the fact the officer was an incompetent witness against me since he JUST proved he was willing to use incorrect evidence in court. Ugh.
The judge answered me this time…”Denied”.
This all went on and on for about an hour…the whole traffic courtroom was intently watching and listening (in disbelief I’m sure). I cannot even tell you all the comedy of errors and how the District Attorney tried to get me to incriminate myself saying I was talking out both sides of my mouth. Some of the D.A.’s comments were even stricken from record because they were so rude. This guy was a real gem.
Anyway after an exhaustive presentation the judge ruled.
The judge said to me, “Not only am I NOT going to let you attend traffic school, I am also going to suspend your driver’s license for 10 days, starting right now. Bailiff, follow Ms. Cathy to retrieve her driver’s license from her belongings and surrender it to the court.”
There was an audible gasp in the crowd. No one could believe it. I couldn’t. Everyone stared as I turned to the crowd to go to my purse and give up my license. The bailiff hovered over me like I was a criminal.
I did not show any emotion. There was no way I was going to let that officer see me sweat. Here I was, mother of two, all dressed up with my husband in a suit and we were the trash of the court.
We left the courtroom and got into the car. That’s when I let the Wild Boar have it. I told him this would never have happened if he didn’t make me fight this ticket. Now not only do I have this ticket on my record but I have a suspended license mark against me too. It would follow me forever because often the question is asked, “Has your driver’s license ever been suspended?”…yeah now I had to answer yes, making me look like a complete dirt bag.
Of course the Wild Boar’s response was, “You know we’re going to appeal this.”
Ugh! No. No way was I going back to court. There was nothing left to do to me except throw me in jail. It seemed probable since everything that had just happened was a complete eye opener. That court was sending a message and the message was, if you fight a traffic ticket you will leave with a worse punishment than just the ticket itself.
I. Was. Livid.
The appellate process was an absolute nightmare. You have to prove to the court, using case law and without introducing new evidence what court error occurred.
The Wild Boar and I spent night after night pouring over case law with similar backgrounds and outcomes. We came up with over twenty cases where officer’s presented incorrect evidence.
The requirements to present appellate information was also insane. It had to be on recycled paper and color cover paper with certain margins and all this legal jargon was to be used. The file was huge and they needed many copies.
It was so complicated the court clerk could not believe I was going to take this on without an attorney. She could not even answer the questions I did have because she had never even seen an appeal filed for a traffic court decision.
Great. The blind was leading the blind.
The worst part of all of this was I had to present my initial version of appeal to the same judge who suspended my license. He and I had to agree on the facts that transpired in his court. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I just knew he would somehow find me in contempt and throw me in the slammer. He was that mean.
In the courtroom it was just me, the judge, the bailiff, the court clerk and the Wild Boar. No one would get to watch the antics of the court today. However, even though we were only 10 feet away from each other we still spoke on microphones. It felt ridiculous.
The judge and I went back and forth as he read my account of the events. I held my ground as far as him not changing certain aspects of what I felt were important accounts of that day. He of course added that he did not recall some of those events. But he could not take back the false evidence presented.
We came to an agreement and my appeal was then filed with the Superior Court to render a decision.
Years went by. Yep years since that day going to school to take a test.
Two months ago I received a letter stating I did not follow court procedures. I failed to deliver one of the copies to the District Attorney’s office therefore making the appeal invalid. They would give me five days to file a whole new case. I almost died.
It felt like a slap in the face. Nowhere in the appellate instructions did it say I had to send a copy to the D.A. I had already given the court so many copies, I thought one was for D.A. too.
During this waiting period and since the trial I have not been able to look at the police without feeling a bit of distaste (except for my wonderful police officer cousin Chris, Hi Chris). Normally a parent tells their children the police are good and they will help you. I cannot even find the words. This cop and the judicial system ruined it for me. Everyone was willing to lie in order to uphold a speeding ticket! It was ridiculous.
Today, it has been three years and two months since I received that ticket.
In the mail yesterday I received an envelope from the court. I honestly could not take another letter of more rules and instructions.
I opened the letter and the Superior Court REVERSED the decision of the traffic court. I was trembling. I honestly could not believe it. My record has been cleared.
Can anyone believe this? I can’t. I can’t believe it.
The Superior Court overturned the judgment proving the traffic court erred.
My belief in the system has been restored. However, it’s still a disgrace it was so difficult to find justice.
Have you ever fought the law and won?