Surviving Traffic Court

Yesterday, I encountered a brand new experience of being a 20something and that was surviving traffic court. Before I recount traffic court, let me take you back to the scene of the crime.

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 (Daylight Savings)

5:32 PM: Boy I was currently dating calls to “have a talk”. Talk doesn’t end well.

9:34 PM: Teacher friend text me to tell me she is deathly sick and is not coming in tomorrow. I offer to go in early to make copies and set up her substitute.

9:34 PM-5:30 AM: Lay in my bed, drifting in between slumber and epiphanies from analyzing every single comment, every single awkward silence, every single voice inflection in my conversation with the boy I was dating and also ruminating about how tired I am going to be the next day since I can’t sleep.

Monday, March 10th (First day of work after Daylight Savings)

6:35 AM: On my way to school, thinking about what I have to do today and also still thinking about the heart breaking conversation I had last night and hoping I make it to school early enough to make copies for my teacher friend and also jamming to some Miranda Lambert very loudly in my car.

6:43 AM: See cop lights flashing in my rear view mirror. Pull over. Start furiously thinking about excuses I could use. I was following the car in front of me? I really have to go to the bathroom? My dad is having a heart attack? Maybe a gust of wind will come up and his hat will fly away? Hopefully there is a huge gang fight in downtown Castle Rock that he needs to flee to. Um, I was coasting in neutral and didn’t notice I was speeding?

6:44 AM: See a blonde lady get out of the passenger seat of the cop car. Yup. It’s over. No use in using any of those excuses.

6:50 AM: Accept the speeding ticket (9 over, in a school zone) and pray that none of my students saw me.

While I am not blaming anyone else on my speeding ticket, because I was in control of my car and was definitely probably speeding, I am just giving you this background information so you understand why my brain might have been a little preoccupied…

April 16th became a daunting date, looming over my conscious as I anxiously awaited my fate at traffic court.

Wednesday, April 16th (The Trial Date)

2:38 PM: I leave a meeting early so that I can ensure I make it to the courthouse early to set a good impression. As I am on my way out of school, as if illuminated by a halo of grace, I see the school resource officer and ask him for advice on my ticket. Score. I leave the building feeling very confident and optimistic about my ticket.

2:43 PM: I get in my car and start driving to the courthouse. I decide to look at my ticket, like the resource officer suggested, and look for any notes from the police officer that pulled me over. No notes. Score. Maybe I will win this case. Then, I realize that I am NOT supposed to go to the courthouse, but rather the city municipal court. Crap. I am going in the completely wrong direction. Must turn around ASAP. Oh wait, must also obey the traffic laws. Don’t want to get another ticket on my way to traffic court.

2:54 PM: I reach the municipal court building. There is nowhere to park. I started freaking. There goes my plan to show up on time. Now I am going to look like a delinquent, a criminal, a fraud. I drive around the block. My clock turns to 2:58. I finally decide to just park ten miles away, trek across the grass pasture in my high heels, and try to think of some more excuses for being late in case the court decides to arrest me on the spot for not showing up to traffic court.

3:02 PM: I arrive at the municipal building, panting, sweating. I get searched by the male police officer. No one even notices that I am late. I walk into the sweltering lobby and notice at least fifty people sitting in the boxed room. Great. This is going to take at least three hours and I have social plans to attend to tonight.

3:05 PM: I check in and sit down to await my fate; according to my statement of rights, I could potentially face jail time. I should probably start making arrangements in case I get thrown into the pokey today and am cut off from the world.

3:07 PM: I notice one of my students also sitting in the pews, awaiting his own fate. Trying to be the upstanding public servant that I am, I wave to him and his mom. Thank goodness his speeding ticket was way more severe than my minor traffic infraction (he needed an attorney). I should make us matching “I Survived Traffic Court” buttons to wear at school tomorrow…

3:15 PM: My name finally gets called and the clerk invites me into her office. She would like to make an offer and move my 4 point speeding ticket down to a 1 point. I vigorously shake my head, “Yes ma’am, I will accept that deal. Thank you so very very much. You are the best person in the world”. She looks at me, signs a paper, and non-chalantly scoots me to “THE COURTROOM”.

3:20 PM: I walk into THE COURTROOM and immediately begin having flashbacks to my summer marathons of Judge Judy (my only other true experience of being in court). One unfortunate soul is up for judgment as I try to tiptoe across the floor (which is very difficult in high heels). All the seats at the back are full, so I have to awkwardly maneuver myself around to a front and center viewing position. As I glance to my right, I see another student and his dad. I hope his traffic infraction is worse than mine. As I look around, I am comforted by the fact that it is not just the scum of the earth that go to traffic court; it is also normal people just like myself. I see a few quite interesting characters–really skinny boys with gauged ears, tattered jeans, and sleeves of tats. I also see moms, businessmen, old people, some guy from India that no one can understand…Great, so everyone is a criminal just like myself.

The first guy up on trial is a solider from Ft. Carson and stands confidently at attention. The judge moves his 6 point speeding ticket down to 2 points and waives his court fees for his service to our country. He assures the judge that he will never be here again and salutes him for his time. Lucky duck. Maybe my court fees will also be waived because I am also a public slave?

The next lady was accused of (a) not having insurance, (b) running a stop sign, and (c) causing an accident that did not end in injury. She starts sobbing hysterically at the alter. The judge asks if she is ok. I can’t decide if she is serious or just trying to put on a show. But, she gets two points and a $350 fine. Ouch.

As the judge calls each criminal up one by one, I sit there, perspiring nervous, anxious beads of sweat, waiting for my turn. My blood pressure goes through the roof every time he reaches for a case folder, and dramatically drops when it is not my name that is called. For each case, I try to observe their actions to learn the official ‘traffic court’ protocol. Do I address the judge as ‘Your Honor’, as they do on Judge Judy? Do I need to lean into the microphone to confess my guilty sin? Do I cumbersomely carry my purse with me or leave it on the chair, unsupervised? Do I smile? Try to well up some tears?

I began thinking about what a brilliant system this is. Here, I am being asked to stand in front of my peers all by my lonesome, with no one to counsel me or comfort me, and everyone zoned in on my moves–well, people I don’t know, but it serves as public humiliation nonetheless. I am made to feel like a very, very, very bad person for breaking the law. I certainly was judging the people who had much worse traffic violations than I had. For someone like myself who is a rule followers, this experience was horrific. I can’t imagine how someone might feel who is on trial for something more serious, like murder! My conscience feels heavy, I feel like a horrible person, and am so ashamed of myself for going 11 over. Who, seriously, in their right minds does that?

Suddenly, my name is called (well, actually, he says ‘Britany Everdeen’, but I figured that was me nonetheless) and my trance is broken. Crap. I didn’t even have the opportunity to practice what kind of exit I was going to make (Did I want to address the judge like the solider did? Do I want to leave with a witty comment so people remember me? Do I just want to saunter out and try to forget this ever happened?)

To be quite honest with you, I can’t exactly remember how the final judgment actually went, because I was so nervous from being put on the spot that I completely blanked out. My face was red, my voice shaky and I was very self conscious about every breath I took. I do remember asking the judge about the school zone issue–that I was not cognizant of the lights on–and got a five minute lecture about how five innocent, little children have been hit in that intersection. Yup. Not getting out of that one either.

4:02: Head hung low, I pick up my unsupervised stuff from the chair and meander out to the lobby, where I will wait again in public humiliation to pay my speeding fine.

All in all, my traffic infraction resulted in one point off my license and a steep $232 fine.  All I can say is thank goodness we get paid this week. I asked the clerk where the money went, because I would feel comforted in knowing it went to a noble cause, like a recycling program or to saving the homeless dogs or back to our schools. She just stammered, “The general fund”. Oh great, so probably some politician’s re-election campaign.

I am not sure what the life lesson here is, other than everyone goes to traffic court. Will I speed again? Probably. Will I speed in a school zone again? Probably. Do I want to be back in traffic court again? Absolutely not.

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