Traffic Court

Traffic CourtAs a motor officer, I go to traffic court a lot more than beat cops.

I mean a WHOLE lot more.

You figure if I average 1200 tickets a year (some of you are going to want to compare…don’t do that…don’t be that guy…I’m sure your stack is impressive…if you want to show it off, start your own blog…wait, what was I talking about?) I’m bound to go to traffic court from time to time, right?

I don’t have the actual numbers, but I’m gonna guess I go to traffic court on less than 10% of the cites I write. I’ve been a motor for well over eight years, but let’s use eight as our barometer.

Let’s assume I go to traffic court 100 times a year. In eight years, that’s 9,600 tickets issued (on average) and I’m in traffic court 800 times. That equates to 8.33% of the time I issue a ticket, I’ll end up seeing that person’s smiling face again in traffic court.

Of those 9,600 tickets, 8,800 folks decided to take responsibility (more or less). That means my batting average when I issue a citation is about 0.917.

91.7% of the time, when I issue a citation, the driver decides not to fight it, but acquiesces to my crushing of their soul.

Of the 800 people I’ve gone to traffic court on, I’ve seldom lost a case. Like count-on-one-hand-type numbers. The exceptions are if I can’t find my copy of the cite (with my notes) and I dismiss or there is a temporary judge that doesn’t know shit from Shinola (google it) and finds the person not guilty.

This was one of those cases I lost.

There are certain things I get about why people take us to traffic court. Hell, it’s an easy win if the cop is a no-show (burden of proof is on the State, so if there’s no officer, there’s no proof). Most of the time, though, the defendant ends up being a true believer and thinks they were just getting the metaphorical shaft from the Man.

One citation that I never understand fighting, though? Seat belts.

A) You’re an idiot if you don’t wear one (that includes cops, by the way).

B) You can’t “kinda” wear a seat belt. It’s either on properly or it isn’t.

I testified in court that I saw the defendant not wearing the seat belt. The defendant was wearing a blue shirt. I saw the belt against the seat (an indication it was on under the arm…still a violation). I saw little angle off the B-pillar (the part of the car from which a seat belt typically hangs). We passed one another less than ten feet away. When I stopped the defendant, the seat belt was magically being worn appropriately (that’s called a clue).

And then I testified the belt was tan.

The defendant swore it was black.

In an unprecedented move I have never before witnessed, the judge told us to go take a photo of it. Before he did, though, he asked the defendant what color the car was. The answer? Tan or gray.

Um….how many of you know the color of your seat belt but not the color of your freaking car?!

I went out with the defendant and took a gander at the seat belt.

Dammit if that sumbitch wasn’t dark. (It wasn’t black, but it wasn’t tan either).

Looks like I made a mistake in my notes.

The defendant took a photo and we returned to the court room. The defendant showed the picture. The judge looked at it. Turned it. Looked at it. Turned it. Asked what color the seats were. Turned it.

Then he said, “I can’t tell what color that is, but I’m going to find you not guilty even though I’m pretty sure a violation did, in fact, occur.”

So, I lost.

It happens. If you think of it this way, I’m still batting something like 0.994.

That ain’t bad.

Besides which, during the initial stop the defendant told me we’d met before and I had previously issued a citation for the same violation and they fought it in court.

“Is that right?” I said, “Who won?”

The defendant replied, “Me.” (I assume I was on vacation and the cite was dismissed as I can’t recall losing a seat belt ticket before.)

Now there is one smug defendant rolling around out there. One whom I am sure to meet again. Now that they’re all confident and what not.

On the other hand, I stopped a dude on the way back from court for not wearing his seat belt, so, you know…

Even Steven.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

8 thoughts on “Traffic Court

  1. Hopefully you get to stop her for a third time and you get to save her life by seeing that she goes on her way wearing her seatbelt as it was designed. Alternatively you don’t get to stop her before she has an accident while not wearing her seatbelt properly. Some people are not easy to help.

  2. I work the ER, and mentioned to a drunk driver in an MVA that he’d be wise to wear his seatbelt next time, seeing as he got thrown and broke his neck. The next month the same guy was back and made a point of explaining to me that if he’d worn his belt, he’d have been crushed and died. So, clearly, seatbelts are a menace to health. Not drunks, and certainly not stupid assholes that break their necks and get saved by police, EMS, and the ER team. Motorcop, you and I need to accept that we are wrong, wrong, wrong.

  3. Best traffic court story. I had stub this guy for driving on suspended, somehow we found our way to traffic court no clue why. He was guilty got slap on the wrist. As I am leave what do I see? Yep same guy driving away. Pop the Reds hook him and go right back inside

  4. Question MC: what is the typical response, punishment, whatever when you miss a court date? Either for mistaking the date, or forgetting, whatever the case is?

    For our dept, its a 13 month letter for the first offense, a day on the beach if you offend again,,and a 5 year letter for the second. Or something to that effect. One time my husband looked at the date of a subpoena and saw 3/31/13 or something, but the date was 3/3/13. Whatever it said, the lady’s hand writing on the slashes made it look like that. So obviously he missed the date and got a 13 month letter which sucks. In that event, would you argue it, or take the letter and let it go?

  5. Do you use moving radar? I crushed the soul of (OK, maybe irked his soul a bit) a Texas Highway Patrol Officer when I was on a jury once. The alleged violation was speeding based on picking a car out of a bunch of cars based on the reading of a moving radar.

    The interesting thing was that the government lawyer asked during voir dire if any of us in the jury pool were radar experts. He also told us this was our chance to ‘send a message to the community’.

    I’m a radar expert and raised my hand. I got picked.

    Based on the officer’s testimony and the technical impossibility of that radar doing what the law says it can do (pick out the fastest car out of a bunch of cars) I voted not guilty.

    The guy was probably a little fast, but nothing the officer said proved that and in my own little way I wanted to ‘send a message’ that people forces tend to be a little too willing to believe the salesman with the latest magic enforcement tool.

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