Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My day in court

I've had my share of speeding tickets over the years. My lead foot is a byproduct of the "early gene" that I possess. I'm obsessed with time, thus I always feel the urge to get to where I'm going as fast as I can get there. As a result I sometimes get unlucky and fall victim to the dreaded speed trap. I got quite a few tickets while I attended college. Driving up and down 95 led me to get caught in Maryland a lot. Fortunately, I still kept my permanent residence in Pennsylvania so the points never transferred to my license. So, as long as I paid the fines, I would be okay for insurance. The two other times I got nailed for speeding locally the policeman always reduced the violation on the spot.

So, despite my proclivity for getting caught, I have yet to go to a courthouse and contest a ticket.

Until today.

Last month I was clocked at 72mph in a 55mph zone on Rte 263 on my to New Hope to see my Dad. The police officer didn't give me any breaks, so not wanting to get any points against my license (and have my insurance go up) I went to court to contest the ticket. The building itself was much smaller than I imagined. It was a township courthouse and not the county, so it was rather small by comparison. I got my name on the list and waited for my officer to arrive.

and waited...

and waited...

I went up to the secretary (or whatever she was, a clerk?) and informed her that it was 20 minutes past the assigned court time. At first I thought I lucked out as I always thought that if the officer doesn't show, you get off. But to my dismay another officer called my name and said he would represent my officer and asked if I would like to plea bargain before the hearing. Being inexperienced in the ways of traffic court, I figured that I should plea bargain rather take my chances that a substitute officer was prosecuting me in court would lead to a complete dropping of the charges. My old car sales experience did lead me to smell some blood in the water after he dropped the points off immediately, so I asked to have some of the fine reduced. He agreed and five minutes later I found myself in the court room and it was just like it looks on TV.

There was the judge's bench in front and a witness stand to the right of the bench. The officer told me to sit at the defendant's table (by myself- no lawyer!! Gasp!) as he sat at the prosecutor's table. The Judge then walked in and everyone stood up, I barely got a chance to straighten my knees before she informed us to sit down. She took a gander at the sheet and said, "Mr. Klaus, it appears that you are pleading guilty to a 5mph over the speed limit infraction." (which was the plea agreement) She paused as I realized that I was supposed to say yes, my nervousness got the better of me and I wasn't quite sure if I was supposed to admit guilt in court- 5th amendment rights and all that...

She had me come up to the bench and I changed my plea and signed a paper. She informed me that I would receive a refund for part of the fine, which I already paid in full, in the mail. I then asked if that was "it" and she replied yes. I answered, "So, you have no interest in what I was doing the night of January the 16th?"

"Not really, Mr. Klaus, save it for the county."

I see why Matlock and others think they can get the defendant to confess, I was willing to do just that and I was innocent.

6 comments:

jeff cothren said...

Smart mouth to a judge? You rule.

Brian said...

well, it was more charming than sass

Mr. Odney said...

Did you really say that about Jan. 16th?

Brian said...

yes, things come out of my mouth when I get nervous- dont worry, it was delivered as a joke and the judge made that joke back.

Anonymous said...

"I see why Matlock and others think they can get the defendant to confess, I was willing to do just that and I was innocent. "

INNOCENT? right.... and people wonder why our justice system has the rep that it does...

Brian said...

Not innocent of speeding but innocent of doing anything on the night of Jan 16th