I’m lucky enough to be in the jurisdiction that has a very fair Traffic Commissioner. He’s also got quite the rapier wit. I tend to show up early to traffic court just for sheer entertainment value. There’ve been a number of stories over the years and I’m sure I’ll add to them. This post, however, is more about seeing the disappointment on the face of a defendant that won the case. How is that possible, you ask? Read onward, friend…
A few weeks ago, I was sitting patiently in the court room waiting for my defendant’s name to get called. I looked around the court room and saw a young lady holding a large piece of white poster board. I could just tell she’d put all kinds of time into her defense. She got called forward. She got up, a look of grim determination on her face. She was a teenager and it seemed as if her folks had encouraged her to experience the justice system first hand.
She approached the defendant’s lectern and looked over to where all the Officers had stood in earlier cases. No one was there. Confusion tap danced across her naive face. The Judge asked, “Are you Suzy X. Teenager?” She squeaked out, “Yes, sir.” The Judge said, “The officer isn’t here, this is dismissed.” She won, but the confusion still semi-registered on her face.
My case was called next and I blew through my testimony and won (C’mon…you doubt me?) I happened to walk out of the court house just in front of the teenager. She was on the phone with her Mom and was jabbering on about how she won because the Cop didn’t show. She didn’t seem too upset about all the work she put in, but based on the one-sided conversation, Mom had a bit of a hard time with it. The kid was elated she wasn’t found guilty. She said, “I don’t care about the evidence…I won! That’s all that matters.”
In other cases, though, I’ve seen defendants nearly talk themselves into a guilty verdict. If we, the Po-Po, don’t show up for court, the State hasn’t proven its case against the defendant, so it is automatically dismissed. Sometimes, we misplace our copies of tickets. When you write 1500 in a year, misplacing a copy or two is not unheard of. Consequently, the Officer will say something to the effect of, “You’re Honor, I was unable to locate my copy of the citation and I have no independent recollection of this violation. I’d like to dismiss the case in the interest of justice.”
The Judge will then ask the defendant, “Do you have any objection?” I’ve seen defendants clutching their pile of sketches, copies of the Vehicle Code, printouts from Google Maps look up at the Judge and say, “I want to have my say.”
Seriously?!? The Judge will strongly encourage them to shut up (not his words) and explain that the State has not met its burden of proof and they may very well talk themselves into a guilty verdict.
It happened to me once. My defendant was adamant that she didn’t commit the violation (nice lady, by the by) and wanted her day in court. The Judge told her it was up to her, but if he were her, he’d take the dismissal. She did. However, she caught me in the hall and we talked about the case. I had forgotten all about it and honestly had no independent recollection. As soon as she started talking to me, it all came flooding back. I’d have won. Good thing she was smart enough to keep her pie-hole shut, huh?
It never ceases to amaze me that people just can’t keep their opinions to themselves. I love seeing someone spends what had to be hours on that shadow box re-enactment of the alleged violation (now with cycling traffic signals!!) only to see them pissed off when they win without having to introduce their new pride and joy. HI-larious.