January 7, 2011
Not because I did anything really wrong - like the girl who took one look at the judge and was upset because he's the one, "she gets every time!" Or the guy who didn't show up for his drug tests, missed probation, and a host of other things that landed him in cuffs and a nice police escort. These are just examples of the packed courtroom. Apparently, Friday is a big day at the ol' Municipal.
Nope. I am clearly not like those folks. I was the nicest dressed, most innocent looking person in the courtroom - and I stuck out like a sore thumb.
So, what did I do?
I slid on a patch of ice a few weeks ago and rear ended a pickup. This landed me a "following too closely" ticket, which I was hoping to dispute. I have a great - I mean GREAT - driving record compared to most. I've never received a speeding ticket in the 17 years I've had a license! I do NOT want this ticket on my record.
So, I stressed last night about what I was going to say to the judge. I looked up the Wyoming statute I apparently violated. Todd and I looked up the historical weather data for the day of the accident and the day before. We did this because I disagree with the officer's accident report which stated the roads were dry and there were no environmental circumstances that could have contributed to the accident.
Bull-hooey! Casper got over seven inches of snow the day before! That was only one of the things I was trying to figure out how to say last night without using the word bull-hooey.
I was so caught up in laying out my argument I couldn't sleep. At about 12:30 a.m. I finally gave in and marched upstairs to pop a Nyquil gel cap. Then I got up early this morning and worked diligently on my talking points, going over them with Todd who, as a law enforcement guy himself who goes to court time to time, coached me on better ways to word things.
I got dressed in my best black slacks, a nice shirt and black belt and heels and took myself to court ready to plead my case.
I panicked when I discovered this wasn't the type of court hearing I was so ready for. It was an arraignment. I wasn't going to get a chance to tell my story. The judge, who I genuinely believe is a nice guy (he treated everyone nicely - even the guy that got cuffed), made it clear this wasn't the time to launch into an elaborate defense.
I didn't know what to do. When I was called to the podium and asked how I wanted to plead - I had no idea. So, I admitted it. I told the judge I didn't know what I should do. I tried not to babble about my wonderful driving record and how I had been hoping to present my side so it wouldn't show up and affect my insurance. I sounded pathetic. And stupid. Both of which I normally hate seeming, but in this case I was at his mercy.
As a judge he can't advise me, but I kind of got the sense he wanted to. He gave me a look that was so sorry for me.
He explained my options: Plead guilty or guilty no contest and I pay a fee and my infraction goes on my driving record. Plead not guilty and it goes to trial. I didn't want to bother with this. It just doesn't seem worthy of a trial. Particularly when I have no witnesses or anything. He told me the fee for the ticket was about $120 and that he typically stays close to that.
I literally stood there debating for a long, quiet-in-the-courtroom minute as all the horrible offenders who seem to know all the ins and outs of the court and the legal jargon stared at my back.
Finally, the judge said, "Miss Sears. If you really don't know what to do, you could buy yourself some time by pleading not-guilty, we'll set a trial date, and if you decide before the date you don't want to go to trial you can simply pay the fine."
"Ok. I plead not guilty, your honor."
So...now I have a trial Feb. 14.