Thursday, July 24, 2008

Slow Learners

A friend told me that she just got her first speeding ticket -- 2 months after replacing her older, rattly car with a newer, smooth-riding model. Steep learning curve, that one. Not as steep as some people find when they get to traffic court, though.

A few years ago, I accompanied my son to traffic court. He had lost control of his car - we think due to a mechanical malfunction. He was uninjured. His car was totaled - and so was the guard rail that had kept him from spinning into oncoming traffic. The Trooper told him he had to write a ticket so the state could bill our insurance company to replace the guard rail, but that he shouldn't worry about it. When his case was called, the Trooper declined to testify against him and the judge threw him a big enough hint that he realized he should plead not guilty.

Most of the rest of those who appeared before the judge that day fared better by pleading guilty - often guilty with an explanation. The judge lowered fines and points all around. There were a few slow learners in the crowd, though.

The same State Trooper had written citations for about half the crowd in the courtroom that day. For speeding violations, he started his testimony pretty much the same way:

At X time on X date using equipment that I calibrated at the beginning and end of my shift, I recorded a speed of (20- 50 MPH above the posted limit)..........

Most people accepted the Trooper's measurement of their speed, but one defendant wasn't so bright. He started his 'defense' with "Your Honor, I don't know exactly how fast I was going.."


Down came the gavel and the judge said "You may not know how fast you were going, but I have the sworn testimony of an officer of the law using calibrated equipment. He measured your speed at (40-50 mph above the posted speed)." No mercy for that defendant -- maximum points AND fine.

It was hard not to snicker at that one, but 4 or 5 defendants later, another man tried the same stunt -- with exactly the same results. I was glad we were sitting in the back of the courtroom, because I really didn't want to get caught snickering at him.

The third time it happened, only fear of being found in contempt of court kept me from laughing out loud. I can't imagine being stupid enough to try that story the FIRST time if I was caught on radar, but I truly do not understand what defendant #3 could possibly have been thinking.

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