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August 4th, 2006

Ticket schmicket...

On July 19, 2006, I drove over to the Method Post Office, which is near, but not on, Method Road. I approached the "T" intersection of Method and Beryl, and came to a complete stop behind the SUV in front of me, which stopped at the stop sign.

Beryl is not a busy road, and there was no traffic coming from the left.

The SUV proceeded through, and I did not stop again after rolling forward about 8 feet, and turned right. Out of the parking lot on the corner, comes Office Yu in full pursuit of me.

I pulled into the post office, as I was going there to mail a card to Robert anyway, and he proceeded to take 20 minutes in its parking lot to give me a ticket for "not stopping at a duly erected stop sign."

As soon as he finished with me, he zipped right back to his hiding spot, presumably reaching his quota of tickets for the day, right there at this low-traffic, quite innocuous intersection. But I wasn't bitter.

My citation promised a court day of Friday, August 4th, "between 9AM and 3:30PM."

I had figured that if I'd've just paid this ticket, it would have ended up as 3 points on my driving record, which would've translated into 1 point on my auto insurance policy, which, financially, would have translated into an increase of $150 every 6 months for 3 years.



The following week, I contacted my friend Art, a local attorney I know who couldn't represent me in court as he is not in private practice now, and his job with the government precludes him from representing people, but agreed to meet with me and give me some advice.

"First thing you should do is to get a copy of your driving record, which hopefully is fairly clean."

Click to see my driving record.Collapse )


So, on Monday, July 31st, I had dinner with my friend Art to get some advice on how to best proceed in getting this ticket dispositioned with a PJC.

Last night, I checked the court calendar online only to not find my name on the docket. I searched by my citation number. Nothing. I searched by "Yu, S." (the ticketing officer) and found about 200 names, several of whose court date was the same as mine, but not mine. I searched by "defendant." Nothing.

I started wondering if perhaps my case would just get "thrown away," if I was made to appear and wasn't on the docket. Not to be. I saw a note at the bottom of the calendar search web page that said, "If you do not find your case on the calendar, please contact the clerk of court 24 hours a head of time. Too late.



I left the house this morning at 6:45. As soon as I opened my front door, I heard a guy screaming from off to the right, where I looked to find him on the ground behind the back rear wheel of the car parked in the last parking spot of our townhouse units.

"No, don't. Don't," he was screaming. I thought, "How dramatic. He is putting himself in harm's way to keep whomever's driving from leaving." All of a sudden the driver puts the car in drive, and drives forward over the lawn, to the left into an ease way area, where s/he does a screeching u-turn around a tree, and heads back to the parking lot.

The guy chases the car, and gets out in the middle of the parking lot, and is facing down the hill as the car is driving away, "Don't. Come back! Come back!" Loud, loud, loud, drama, drama, drama for this hour of the morning.

Half way down Avent Ferry road, it dawned on me that I only had $100 cash with me, and credit cards. I didn't think they'd take credit cards, so I turned around to fetch my checkbook.

Court started at 9AM, but the clerk started checking people in at 7:45. I arrived at 7:15, and was the 14th person in line. At about 7:30, the DA came out, who I immediately liked, and talked about the process we were going to follow.

"First let me say that we have about 500 cases to handle today, which is quite a light load. Normally we're operating at about 1000 a day. What's going to happen is that the clerk is going to come out in a few minutes, and you will approach her one-by-one to have your case pulled from the 'case box.' Having your pink copy of your citation handy, if you have it with you, and a photo ID will make the process go much more quickly.

"Once your case is pulled, you'll do different things depending on what you're charged for. Simple traffic violations will be handled by me over to the side here. If your charge results in a simple fine to pay, you'll be given paperwork to take right over to the cashier, and you'll be done.

Certain charges, such as (and he listed some of the serious ones) require you to see the judge no matter what, and if that's the case, you'll be directed to the appropriate court room."

Then he said this, which I really appreciated, "Now there's going to be a line in here, and the clerk is going to take you one by one. Until someone is ready to speak to me, I'm just going to be standing here, and I want you to know that that's because I'm not permitted to help the clerk, not because I just don't feel like helping. I'm here to prosecute you. That's my role today."

Also, we don't take personal checks here; just cash. If you don't have enough cash with you, there's an ATM machine out in the hall. It doesn't charge you for withdrawals, so you can get what you need that way.

I got to the clerk fairly quickly, being the 14th person in the line, which by that time was a Disney-like-winding-line behind me. She went to the "Ms" or to the range of my citation number (I'm just guessing it was one of those; I couldn't see how the file was organized), and started flipping through them, and my confidence that she wouldn't find mine grew as she got closer and closer to the end of the paperwork in the section.

"Hmmm," she said, and turned to the computer, keying something in. After a few seconds, she said, "Your ticket has not yet been recorded. You'll have to go across the hall, to room 102, and handle it there. They open at 8:30."

I was a little exasperated at this, as I had made a concerted effort to arrive early enough to talk to the DA about how I wanted to handle this ticket, and now I was going to have to go across the hall, wait until 8:30 to get helped there, and then, no doubt, back in this line again. With court starting at 9, I saw no way I'd be able to talk to the DA before then.

I took a deep breath realizing these were not people to piss off, since I'd be coming back to them, and got in line across the hall as the fourth person in that line. It was 7:55.

The 35 minutes passes excruciatingly slowly, and I tried to keep my blood pressure in check as I watched people going back into that other area to get in line over there, all of whom I would, no doubt, end up behind.

During the wait, I saw my next door neighbor walk in, to work, as she is a lawyer. I forgot about her! I could have talked to her about my ticket. She sort of glanced at me, but kept walking by. I stepped in front of her, and said, "Hey, girl."

"John Martin! What in the world are you doing here? I though that was you for a minute, but then thought, no that's not him, must be a new lawyer here."

This was funny only because I was one of only two of the defendants who had a coat and tie on in the entire place. So, she thought that since I was dressed up, I must have been a lawyer.

So, at 8:30, the three people in front of me had to stop and fill out some other form before they could be helped inside, so I was the first one taken care of. The guy in there recorded my case, and said, "Just a second, and I'll see about scheduling you a court date."

"You mean I have to come back?" I said, a little irritated. "I can't handle this today?"

He said, "Well, you can go back over there and see if they'll add you to the calendar for today. Tell them you'd really like to get this taken care of today."

Back I go, and to my amazement, and wasted stress, there was no one in line, and it was about 20 until 9. I explained to the clerk there that I'd really like to get this taken care of, and would like to see the DA if at all possible.

"He'll be right back out; just wait over there," she said indicating against the wall.

About three minutes later, the DA came out, not the nice one who had been out there earlier, but a grumpy one. I had my lines all ready to use on him.

"Mr. Martin, what would you like to do about this ticket today?"

"Well, I'd like to plead to..." and I said what my lawyer friend told me to say.

He responded quickly, and curtly, "We don't do that here."

I had to really keep myself from pointing to a spot about four or five feet away, and saying, "Uh, well, do you do that over there?"

"Okay," I said, "then I would like to ask for a PJC."

"PJC," he noted, and then, "Have a seat in courtroom 1A."

I was only in there for about five minutes before the judge called me up. What a nice man. Older guy. White hair.

He said, "Mr. Martin, it says here you're charged with failure to come to a complete stop at a duly erected stop sign. Do you wish to admit guilt to this charge?"

I replied, "I would like to request a Prayer for Judgment on this charge, sir."

"I'll be happy to give you a Prayer for Judgment Continued," he said and smiled. "Mr. Martin, step up to the clerk over here, and she'll get you the paperwork you'll need for the cashier. And I see that we've 'slipped you in' today, so make sure you get a receipt. Make sure you get a receipt. Make sure you get, and keep, your receipt."

Yes, he said it three times, while shaking his head. There's a good chance something won't be recorded correctly, though the clerk you're going to there is the best of the best. Still. It's a big system.

The next case was not quite ready yet, and he continued to chat with me as I waited for the person in front of me currently being helped by the clerk. "So many driving without a license charges. It's become a pandemic," he said while shaking his head, and continued, "More violations, more lawyers, more judges; it just keeps snowballing."

My total for the day was $110.00, which I gladly withdrew from that ATM machine, and paid. Now to be "good" for a year.

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