My Day in Court

They say that everybody gets his day in court. So did I. I really did not ask for it. About a month ago I was driving home from work. I found out that day that the company that I work for was bought out. I was driving in the left lane somewhat flustered over the news. The future appeared not too bright and radio talk show host promised me all the gloom in the world if don’t go to church of my choice daily. As the right lane on the Palisades Parkway was so beat up that I was afraid of actually losing one of my wheels in the potholes, I stuck to the left lane. I was driving my wife’s new car, which was gliding as if it was a bout on the very quite lake. And then there he was, seating in the bushes. He probably was very proud that he pulled me over. Gotcha! He said I was driving 71 mph. Was I really? I doubt it. It is a tactics of police to hide in the bushes so that you see them at the last moment. However, this may also lead to the situation when your car is too close for the radar to accurately measure your vehicle’s speed. That was my case as I believed. So I went to court having done my home work at least in part. I have obtained some of the radar certifications as well as police officer training certificate. Having talked to people, I had a good sense that it would be difficult for me to defend my case. At least it was worth trying to reduce charges.

I arrived to the court house about 2 hours in advance. Yes, I am very young and inexperienced in many sides of life. This was my first one. But at least the court was in a very scenic location on the bunk of the Hudson River. If I were not so stupid to wear dress shoes (I was going to court!), I could have taken a very nice walk in the park. Anyway, I was actually happy to see that there were only few people waiting for justice to be served. So I waited for two hours. And then, to my disappointment, the smarter people showed up in much larger numbers. According to my rough estimations about 70 people were ushered into the court about 3:10 pm. You could tell that in the majority, the people were well-to-do professionals who by no means wanted to be there. At about 3:40 pm the judge showed up and explained the procedure: those who plead guilty stay in the room; those who plead not guilty should leave the room and get in line to the prosecutor to cut the deal. There were people who came to the court but were not on the list due to one reason or another (in one case the officer was blaming the post office!). They had to come yet again in December. There were people who did not come for the proceedings. For some of those, an arrest was ordered. After pleading not guilty, I found myself in the back of the line to the prosecutor. At about 4:30 pm, I have finished my phone calls and realized that the line has not moved a bit. Did I mention that the court was located in a very nice scenic place? That’s right; it was a legal court not a food court. So the fear of dying of starvation took over the fear of missing my turn to the prosecutor. I jumped in the car and drove to… Well, I did not have a solid idea and soon I realized that I am on my way to my work place (which I regrettably skipped on that day). That seemed to be the best bet. At 5:10, with a Panera Bread sandwich on the back seat, I was already back to the court house, just in time to catch the rest of the speech that prosecutor gave to everybody.

It has become painfully clear: the state did not care to serve justice, not on this particular day. The state was looking to receive quick and easy pay off from those who was issued a speeding ticket. He did not want to hear excuses or explanation. He was not looking to catch and punish bad guys. He was looking for a way to get rid of people before the day end and collect as much money as possible. There were people who stuck to their guns and wanted a trial. They received commendation from the judge for their righteousness and given another court day. I know nothing about those people, but as far as I am concern the time and wages that they lost in the quest for justice would cost them way more that implied fine. Maybe it was worth to them. I cut the deal at 8:30 pm and was on my way home. And now I am thinking: would not it be more efficient, for those who was caught with traffic violation to pay a reduced fine to the police officer right on the spot. He is the one who makes judgment in the first place how dangerous your violation was. So, let him make a judgment about the deal. After all, it is all about money, is it not?

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