Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grab Your Ankles; Click it or Ticket, Part 2

(fade in) ".... anyway, since that day, I've been wearing my seat belt religiously. No one seems to care, but at least I'm saving lives. Right? I'll be taking this one to court. Perhaps the judge will be even more understanding than Dick, if that's even possible. I'd be more than happy to provide stool samples if necessary. You know. Whatever it takes to keep the streets safe. I mean, this couldn't be just about money. Could it?"

I've been to court on this now. I plead my case. It was a bittersweet experience. It was a learning experience. It was a watershed moment in my continuing education on the nuances of state sanctioned hustling. It began like any other day in court....

My docket was called and I quietly moved to the front of the courtroom. I had decided to approach this with high expectations and a positive outlook. I was sure that, after hearing my version of events, any right minded judge would happily dismiss my ticket. I mean, after all, we've all had a Maalox moment from time to time.

And guess what. I'm happy to report that I was right. The Honorable Whateverhisnamewas agreed that my situation was indeed an exception to the rule, and furthermore, he would happily defer my fine for 12 months time. If, within 12 months time, I did not return to his court for a similar traffic infraction, my citation would be expunged. Yay for me.

But wait. There's more.

Just as the final syllable dropped from the Honorable Whateverhisnamewas's lips, two things happened simultaneously. One; I shifted my weight imperceptibly towards the exit of the courtroom, and Two; I detected a subtle hint of regret in the judges tone as he voiced my reprieve. Translation; I'm outa' here but the Judge is clearly disappointed. The quarry has escaped. What to do?

"Mr. Backus," I heard through the angelic song of victory playing in my head, "before you leave, let's just have a quick look at your traffic record." Clicky sounds as Whateverhisnamewas brings up my record on his computer screen. "It seems you were here 2 years ago for following too close. Whatever happened there?" he asks. I'm stuck now. The weight is no longer shifting.

"I can't remember at the moment," I responded. Alarm. Danger. Trap. Here comes the shell game...

"Well," he continues, "It seems that we deferred that citation for 12 months as well." "Ok?" I respond. A couple of questions that dare not speak their name begin to bubble to the surface of my mind. For instance, A: Who gives a shit, and B: If that was deferred 24 months ago, it should have been expunged 12 months ago, and that being the case, it shouldn't even exist as a record and anyway, C: What does that have to do with this?

Well let me tell you what. But first a little background information ...

It turns out that when you receive a summons to traffic court, at least in Grant County, you are given the option of Contesting the Citation, Admitting Guilt and sending in the MONEY without further ado, or requesting a Mitigation Hearing.

My experiences and observations have led me to the following conclusions:

If you Contest, your screwed. You will stand before a rabid bulldog Judge and you are automatically guilty unless you can prove without a shadow of a doubt that you are innocent. Your fine will NOT be reduced, and you will leave the courtroom feeling like a post-spanking 6 year old. But with half his ass chewed off for good measure. Don't fuck with the system. Pay up. I have a story about this, but it will wait for another time...

If you admit guilt, and send in your money, no problems. The system has separated you from some of your MONEY and all is well in the universe. No embarrassment, no bulldogs. Nope, you have played by their rules and have not questioned anyone's authority or agenda. Excellent work Comrade! Work Shall Set You Free.

Finally, If you request a mitigation hearing, it turns out that you ARE GUILTY. No if's and's or but's. But you do get to beg for leniency before the court. You may even convince the Judge that your circumstances were exceptional and you may be awarded a deferment, but guess what. Your still GUILTY. That's right.

So with that being said, here is the rest of the story...

..."Well," he continues, "It seems that we deferred that citation for 12 months as well." "Ok?" I respond.

The Judge, peering down on me from his judgment seat above, delivers the coup de grace, "That being the case, I'm still going to defer the current citation, but I'm going to charge you..."(ALERT! MONEY MUST EXCHANGE HANDS!)"...a $75 administrative fee."

Now, I'm aware that it could have been worse, but follow me on this. I could have had to pay $101 for not wearing my seatbelt. I could have had this citation end up affecting my insurance. Could have, could have. But let's be clear. Whatever could have happened to me, it was the County that found a way to collect some of my money. No matter what they call it; a fine, an administrative fee, a down payment on a new judicial penis pump, whatever, the fact remains that when Whateverhisnamewas determined that I was right and Officer Dick should have let me be on my way, old Whateverhisnamewas still found a way to get some of my cash.

Now that's dedication, and that's what I love about our legal system. It looks out for the little guy. You know, by allowing a visibly ill individual to continue home so that he may void his bowels in the most horrific fashion, by following him home and waiting in his driveway with lights flashing, by letting the "criminals" children and neighbors watch the entire spectacle, by issuing a citation AFTER the degenerate seatbelt non-wearer limps back out of his house, by essentially admitting that the citizen was incorrectly cited, and finally, by taking some of his FUCKING CASH ANYWAY!

You assholes. Best hope you never need a favor from me.