Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Traffic Court


Yesterday, I had a court appearance for my speeding ticket.  As I said yesterday, I wasn't speeding, so I'm fighting it.  Let me just say this, the Alabama judicial system is f*cked.  I knew it would be when the dishonorable Judge Roy Moore became the head of the Alabama judicial system again.  (He had bankrupted the courts once before before getting booted from office for violating a federal court order, then in the infinite wisdom of Alabama voters, he was elected to the same position again.) Any person entering the court can see that the courts are in trouble right away, when they take one look around at the results of the massive budget cuts.  The first thing you notice is how hot it is on the courtroom (can't afford good AC).  The next thing is when the judge walks in and he's having to share a clerk with another courtroom plus the judge is having to do the clerk's job himself while at the same time conducting court.  By the way, in Alabama, the district courts handle traffic court unless you get a ticket by a city police officer and then you go to municipal court.  My ticket was by a state trooper, so I had to go to district court.

My day in court seemed to be going smoothly when I got there.  I was third in line to sign in (all the other men had to go tuck in their shirts). Since it is first come first serve, my case was called second, at which time I was asked how I plead.  When I said not guilty, I was told to go see the district attorney to schedule a court date.  Now back when I used to work for an attorney, the clerks office, not the D.A., set trial dates, but maybe I'm wrong.  The D.A. told me that they could set the trial at 1:00 that afternoon, if they could get the officer there.  This was fine by me, though I still think that if the chief witness for the state was not there then my case should have been dismissed; however, with the Alabama court system it seems that the world revolves around Alabama State Troopers.  The D.A. told me that he would call me if the officer could not appear.

After doing some shopping, while waiting around for one o'clock, the D.A. called (just before noon) and told me that they would have to reschedule because the officer was out of town.  So as soon as a new date is scheduled, I will receive a letter in the mail with my trial date.  Since I am a teacher and can't just schedule my life around a state trooper's schedule, I will most likely have to reschedule the trial date.  Also, my witness, who was in the car with me the day of the ticket,  will not be able to get another day off until November, which is what I will tell the court when I call to reschedule.

When I do go to trial, assuming the court can schedule around the officer's schedule, then I will be representing myself. That is, unless any of you know of a lawyer who would represent me for free and is in the Montgomery, Alabama, area. I would get the lawyer I used to work for, but she has retired from practicing law and has no interest in reentering the profession.  The judge, which will be the trial judge as well, was very helpful in telling us what we need to know, and he assured us that in trial, it is winnable if we can show reasonable doubt.  With a witness and my testimony, plus the fact that there is no way this officer is perfect and incapable of making a mistake as he claimed when he gave me a ticket, I do have some hope that I can show reasonable doubt.

I do wish Alabama was like so many other places and if the officer failed to appear, then the case would be dismissed, but no such luck.  However, I have a right to a trial, and I refuse to plead guilty and pay the fine when I am not guilty. 

3 comments:

naturgesetz said...

Here's hoping you can get the trial scheduled for a time when your witness is available. I hope you've told the D.A.'s office about the witness's unavailability until November. If they won't accommodate the witness, you should explore whether he/she can make an affidavit (possibly at the D. A.'s office) and have it entered as evidence.

At least there seems to be some hope that the court will not automatically find you guilty.

You might want to check with the Bar Association to see if anybody wants to take your case _pro bono publico_. In some jurisdictions, lawyers are required to do a certain amount of pro bono work every year. If that's the case in Alabama, there might be a lawyer who "needs" to take your case.

Jay M. said...

Affidavit or deposition or a subpoena...a subpoena would get your witness excused from work to be there.

I was once pulled over for running a red light at a wide, oddly shaped intersection. I know I ran the yellow, but it turned yellow at a point where I couldn't stop before being in the middle of the intersection. The cop was certain I had run the red light, and asked if I was going to or from a scout meeting (I was in uniform, I told him going home - it was 9:30pm). The cop also said I was speeding,but he didn't write a ticket for that. I went to court after surveying the intersection and taking pictures. I explained it all to the judge, then the cop pipes up and says "he said he was going home from a scout meeting". The judge says "I don't understand all this", and threw my stuff in the trash, "but I do understand the scouts. Case dismissed." Yeesh.

Good luck in court!

Peace <3
Jay

SEAN (The Jeep Guy) said...

Reschedule, reschedule, reschedule. The inconvenience is nothing compared to the cost of ticket on you're record - especially when innocent.