Everybody have their run-ins with the Law at some point in their life. Some more frequent than others and some for serious crimes. And, our family has not been fully able to evade not crossing paths with the Law, but thankfully just for some minor traffic offence. It’s not like we are serial traffic offenders, but sometimes the speed sign might have been slightly hidden or the police car was doing a stakeout behind the local church sign. Either way, we got hit for a few glitches!
You can read about some of them in previously released post “Litter King” and “Police Birdie“. However, the most recent “clash” with the Law occurred shortly after moving to the US. My dear South American flower had a minor (and insignificant) traffic violation. I’m not going to repeat it in this post, so read about it here.
Now, the difference between breaking the traffic law in Europe and the US is pretty significant, especially as fresh off the boat legal aliens getting to terms with an increased police presence.
See, in Europe when you break the traffic law, you normally get pulled over by the police, they write some illegible runes on the notepad and a few weeks later you receive a “nice” letter from the local sheriffs office. You can then pay the ticket online or at the local post office. If you have any doubts or complains about the offence, you simply pay a visit to the local sheriff, who most of the time will side with his deputies.
The process is generally the same in the US. BUT, paying the ticket is NOT the same. In order to pay the ticket, you often have to show up in court, for a number of reasons;
- you want to dispute the ticket and request for it to be overturned
- you want to plea your case, and hopefully get the ticket severity reduced, and thereby pay less money
- you want to negotiate the points being assigned to your driver’s license – ideally removed
What’s the fuzz all about? Why do you have to go through this?
In short. Each city in the US, with a large enough population, has their own police department. When the police catches offenders and fine these, then that’s extra income for the city. Many times the local officers have certain spots they monitor regularly, as these are known areas for traffic violations.
So, if you get caught in an area, then you may have to attend the local court, and “sponsor” money to local activities. I guess you could say that you help the local economy at a macro level 🙂
Back to the main story.
My wife broke the law and we had to deal with the punishment. Because this was our first, and hopefully last, encounter with the local sheriff, we hired an attorney.
Hiring an attorney is something that can be expensive and you need to make sure you get a good attorney – one who actually knows about traffic violations.
We provided our attorney with our version of the incident, sent over the tickets and agreed to meet in court on the assigned date.
It was a 4 week waiting time, by which we (my wife) had experienced most emotions on the mood scale; she went from in tears, frantically laughing, considering to surrender to local swat team, stressed about the outfit to wear, scared about prison time, not sure she would look good in orange, worried about being someones bitch in cel-block Q or being shipped off to a remote island … and, I was even blamed for her breaking the law!
…enter local court!
We arrived early hoping to make a good impression on the judge, only to discover that local courts deal with MANY violations, and also different crimes. This was no longer just a traffic court house – no, it covered many aspects of the criminal law, ranging from parking tickets, failing to stop, DWI, drug possession, public disorder and criminal masterminds in the rural US suspected of growing weed.
It was a new experience that we weren’t prepared for, but we tried to blend in and kept our shades on. Thankfully our attorney arrived and helped us with the proceedings.
She showed us into the court room while she went to meet with the prosecutor. I didn’t even know we had been officially prosecuted, but I guess the police took no chances. After a few minutes with the other team, she came back smiling; two tickets “thrown” out and reduced fee on the third.
Despite the legal outcome, my wife still had to stand in front of the judge to confess her sins – so, pretty similar to confession at the local Catholic church. To our luck, the judge was of Irish descent, so smiled when he saw my wife’s Irish drivers license.
After spending almost two hours among fellow criminals, the show was over. Now we just had to settle the matter of the tickets, which amounted to $150; $85 for the ticket and $75 for court administration fee … hmmm
We were speeding walking when leaving the court house, hoping they wouldn’t come after us. Time to get home and wind down. Too much activity for one day.
To celebrate, I invited my wife out for dinner and had a quiet meal. The atmosphere was strangely tense and I wasn’t too sure if I could look at her the same way again – after all, she was a smooth criminal and had a dark side to her driving.