Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How To Survive Traffic Court

For starters, please refer to the previous post entitled "Friday the 13th Strikes" to see why I had to go to traffic court yesterday. You will note that my ticket was for having out-of-date proof of insurance. One week after receiving my citation, I made my way to the courthouse on my lunch break to show the court administrator my up-to-date insurance information just as I was instructed to do by the officer. There, I waited in line for at least 30 minutes (probably more like 10, but it sure seemed like forever!) before finally speaking to the lady behind the counter. She informed me that I could not just pay a fine or show my proof to her and that I would have to appear in court to settle the matter. When I very calmly explained what the officer had instructed, she very rudely told me that showing her my proof of insurance was only acceptable if I had been cited for not having insurance at all. This makes a lot of sense to me, folks. She told me that I would have been better off not showing the cop any proof at all than showing him my 3-week expired insurance card! Anyway, the court date set for me happened to be the week I was out of town at LB's wedding. So, I was instructed by the idiot....ahem...I mean nice government employee...to wait until the day before we left (because being proactive on these matters is discouraged, I guess) to call the court and request a continuance. I did this and was given yesterday as my new court date at 1:00 p.m. I arrived at exactly 12:45 only to find a line out the door of the courthouse for people who were also assigned the same court date and time. After a lengthy wait and check-in process, we were ushered into the courtroom and introduced to the prosecutors and judge and instructed of our rights. Then, we were all told to wait in the hallway outside the courtroom until our name was called. So I waited....and waited...and waited. By the way, there were not enough chairs for all us criminals, so I stood for the most part. At 2:00, I called into work to inform my supervisor that I would obviously not be returning to the office. At approximately 3:00 I called my daycare to inform her that I could be late picking up CT. At approximately 3:30, I called PK to inform him that he may beat me home at 5:30 and to ask that he please pick CT up at daycare if that was the case. You can see how my irritation might have been growing. Finally, at 3:45 the prosecutor escorted me into a small office just outside the courtroom where I defiantly whipped out my current proof of insurance and thrusted it at him. He asked me how long I had been waiting and I, as politely as possible , responded "Well, I was driving a Model T when I got this ticket." He was not amused. He took a look at my proof and explained that I could have just shown it to the court administrator at the counter and avoided court altogether. ARGHHHH!!!

So how do you survive traffic court? Here's my suggestions based on my vast experience:
  • Bring knitting (or other project). My fellow lawbreakers took bets on whether or not I would finish the entire scarf before we got out of there.
  • Think happy thoughts when the baby some ill-advised mother brought to court cries so loud that you can't here the clerk calling out names you desperately want to be yours.
  • Try not to laugh out loud when the bailiff passes you escorting the guy charged with minor possession while she admonishes him for getting high in the parking lot outside the courthouse while waiting for his turn to see the judge.
  • Talk to that girl with the nose ring and a tattoo on her exposed tummy. She's really just a single-mom anxious to pick up her kids at the bus stop.
  • Ease-drop on the conversation of the two teenagers accused of underage drinking while they discuss the responses of their parents to their numerous indiscretions. This may be useful information if you are ever a parent of a delinquent.
  • Try not to lose your temper when you realize that half of those waiting don't speak English and need the services of the interpreter and therefore, are allowed to see the judge first because the interpreter has another appointment. Just vow to learn Spanish at your earliest convenience.
  • Most importantly, never trust the low-level government buffoon behind the counter without a second opinion from another low-level government buffoon.

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