Friday, April 6, 2012

Law & Order Mrs. Linklater Style

I had to go to court yesterday to prove that I had my license plate registration. I even took a picture of my license plate with the new sticker to bring along, in case all the other paperwork I carried wasn't enough --  i.e., the receipt for the new catalytic converter, along with the receipt that proves my car has passed the pollution test with its new converter, along with the receipt for the new sticker which you can't get unless you've got a new converter and passed the pollution test, blah blah blah. I've cropped the numbers off the license plate so you can just see the all important sticker. Which I notice expires at the end of next month. *SIGH* 
          The courtroom, small by Hollywood standards, was packed with about sixty-five people, enough to fill it to the brim, a sure sign of a long, boring afternoon. There was a lady with two toddlers and no registration like me, a biker with his foot in a cast and his arm in a sling, who was there as a witness. There were a lot of people who didn't speak English so there was a translator. There was a boatload of women with DUIs. There was one guy who had shop-lifted his lunch from Whole Foods. Besides the lady with her kids [and stroller!] there were about thirty more of us with various traffic tickets. 
          On top of all the ticket holders, there were at least fifteen DUI lawyers, milling around, chatting with the prosecutors or sitting and swapping lies in the front row, wearing some of the most terrible ties I've ever seen. There were several signs plastered on and around that front row pew, repeatedly reminding us that this area was reserved for cops and attorneys ONLY. Although they made room for the lady with the babies, who had started fussing. Hey lady, you can't get a sitter? 
          All of the cops and attorneys were men, by the way, save for one woman who looked like she had slept in her clothes and forgotten to comb her scraggly hair, despite wearing a well-tailored, booty-flattering pantsuit to distract people. 
         The judge showed up and OMG, he was the same smart ass, wisecracking judge I'd had four years ago. That day, I'd come loaded for bear to fight the cop who'd written me three tickets for mouthing off to him in the forest preserve. I was sitting in my car, killing time, putting on makeup before driving downtown for lunch with friends. Mine was the only vehicle in the entire place. There was a light dusting of snow covering everything, so the parking lines weren't visible. Instead of parking diagonally, I'd just pulled over to the side and parallel parked. 
          WHY? BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ONE ELSE THERE BUT ME. Only here comes the forest preserve cop, who feels the need to drive up and give me a hard time for not parking within the designated parking lines. 
          Did I mention we got into an argument about him harassing me for no reason? I had the nerve to ask him, "Why should I have to park between the lines, when I can't see them? And, besides, there's no one else here?"
          Next thing I know he's inventing tickets to give me. And I'm happily giving him more grief for being such a jerk. Anyway, I go to court, and the judge notices that the cop has left off a key piece of info on the tickets. The date or something, I forget. As I recall, I remembered whatever it was and thoughtfully provided the information to the judge. He turned and just looked at me, shaking his head. Peering over the top of his reading glasses like an exasperated father, he quietly suggested that I might want to just shut up and be quiet. It became pretty clear the cop had indeed been harassing me on that snowy day, so I'd have to waste another day in court to get out of the tickets. The smirk on his face gave him away. 
          So now I was back in court with the same judge, but a different, much more pleasant cop, who'd let me keep my driver's license and didn't need to see my insurance card. He also said that the case would be dismissed as long as I had my registration by my court date. Meanwhile the judge was reeling off all the cases he was going to hear first, reminding people with DUIs they needed lawyers, which explained the crowd of them hanging around. He also ticked off which cases wouldn't be heard until the end, so sit tight folks and we'll get this show on the road. He wasn't kidding. 
          I arrived there for a 1:30 PM call. It got started around 1:35. I figured I'd be there past 3:00. The judge ran through the fifteen female DUIs very quickly. Then he started in on the high speed chases. I figured with the fines and court costs, the Illinois justice system had racked up over $5000 in about fifteen minutes. Then there were a bunch of accidents. But lots of witnesses didn't show, so the people got off with a warning to drive better. I remember spending four years as the key witness in an egregious traffic accident involving five children. I was the only person who stepped up at the scene. And there were lots more people who saw it. But the young woman who ran a red light and broadsided a mother and her family got nailed after two trials. Finally. Thanks to my testimony of course. The attorneys for the insurance company thanked me for my four years of court time, parking costs, and taking time off by cutting me a check for $50. Haaaaa. 
         Meanwhile, the judge handling my case yesterday sent one girl to traffic school because this was her second supervision in a year. She also had to pay over $1000 in fines, etc. Turns out the guy with the broken arm and bum foot didn't have to testify because the person who ran him down pled guilty.  
          Then the judge called the thirty run-of-the-mill traffic offenses. I was the last one called. I thought hearing all those people would take at least an hour. He had us line up in the aisle and we went up as our names were called to have our cases reviewed. If we pled not guilty we'd have a trial. I was standing in front of him, twenty-nine people later, in less than ten minutes. 
          I didn't even have to plead not guilty. The judge looked at my ticket and said, "Do you have your registration?"  I said I did. The prosecutor looked for my name on his list, then went through my folder of receipts and proofs of purchase, stopping when he got to the picture of the new sticker on my license plate and basically said he was satisfied I had done my duty. My case was dismissed in less than a minute. 
          It was 2:05. I wonder if Guinness keeps records for speedy trials. 


Jon said...

Good Gawd, I feel your pain - - but at least it had a happy ending.
I remember your encounter with the forest preserve cop. It's obvious that he was spending too much time with the trees.....

The older I get, the more I hate anything to do with vehicles. I'm considering a switch to bicycles, or horses??

Jayne Martin said...

I figure if I had back all the time I've spent in pointless situations like this I'd be back in utero.

Glad you had a good resolution.