One tiny mistake. For only being a few seconds too slow I was put in to huge amounts of trouble. Normally, I'm really good at talking with cops, they like me, and I respect what they do, so we get a long. That day was the exception. I wasn't in a good mood, and being pulled over didn't help the matter. I agreed that it was my fault. It was, the problem was, it wasn't that big of a deal. I saw a yellow light and proceeded to go through it. The light flashed that horrible bright red color as i went under, and knots filled my stomach. I looked behind me and noticed the cop swiftly change turning lanes and flip on his lights. It didn't help that I had my two youngest siblings in the car with me. The cop didn't take to that very well, and hence forth he gave me one nasty ticket. $90 smackaroos. Joy. My parents were suprisingly easy on me. They explained that it had happened to them before and that it was okay. The ticket wasn't to be paid till January 25.
The date came quickly. The letter in the mail explained I had the option of going to court. That option was definitely not one I wanted to use, but my parents sure liked the idea.
When I think of court I think of people who have commited serious felonies, not minor infractions. Everytime my parents mentioned it to me, I felt like a criminal. It's not the greatest feeling. So when January 25 rolled around, I was terrified. I imagined the court room as you would see on television, a big room with a tiny judge sitting on a pedestool with his wooden hammer, and the jury off to his right. I imagined dozens of people also in the room watching me with accusitory eyes. This didn't calm my nerves.
My father and I approached the dark menacing building (I'm sure it wasn't quite like that but thats how it felt) and started to walk toward the door. Suddenly a chunk of snow fell off of the building barely missing my father and I.
"The building even throws snow balls at us!" I said to my dad, huffing as I shoved open the door. He laughed at the fear in my eyes, and my complaining. I didn't not find it quite as funny. We went to the front desk in the dimly lit building with COURT written above it. My dad shoved the papers concerning my accident in the lady sitting at the desks direction. "We want to see if she can get driving school." he replied smiling. I admire my fathers charm, but there are certain times when being sarcastic does not help. "Let me check if she is elligable." the lady replied unhumored. As the lady got onto her computer her ring tone went off, ironically enough it was the dooms day music. I looked at my dad, and he started laughing at my face which im sure was horrified. The lady came back "She is elligable. Driving school will cost 65$." My dads smile faltered a little and then switched the charm back on. "Isn't there any way that, that would cost less?" he said half joking. The lady shrugged "Not that I know of."
"Well do you think we could try to get the judge to change that?" he said smirking.
Oh no. I thought i was saved. I thought I wouldn't have to go to the judge. I was wrong.
"If you like." the lady replied and pointed toward a pair of large wooden doors to our left. I looked up at my dad with eyes intended to penetrate him. "Why are you making me do this?" I asked. "It's worth a try!" he replied annoyingly optomistic. I grunted and we opened the door to the court room.
A blonde lady sat behind a large wooden platform. She watched us as we walked towards her and proceeded to ask her what to do. "You wish to see the judge?" she said. I nodded and she pointed toward the back of the room. "Go fill out your name on the list, and grab a clip board."
I trudged to the back of the large room with my dad following along side me. The court room looked a lot different than I imagined. It was fairly small compared to the court rooms I recalled from television. There were rows of chairs on the right and left side of the room that reminded me of movie theater seats. In front of those chairs were two tables to the right and left side with microphones like the ones I use in my distance education classes. In the middle of the two tables was a pulpit with another microphone. These all faced where the judge would be placed on his pedestule. I grabbed a clip board and sat down with my father to fill it out. It explained my rights and so forth. I didn't read much of it. My mind was else where. What was I going to say to the judge? What was I going to do? I tried to plan out my ground, what I would say, how I could convince the judge im just an innocent teenage girl. I swallowed my fear and forced myself to be brave.
People filed in to the room repeating the same routine as I. I wondered what they could be here for. What different driving infractions had they made? The clerk behind the wooden platform stood and told us to watch a short film about our rights and then the judge would see us in the order we had signed our names. I was second.
"All rise." said the cop who happened to be a woman. (I admire women cops, I think they have hutspa.) We stood and the judge walked in.
He was an old man with a stern face dressed in all black. oh great, he's gonna be mean, I thought to myself. I wasn't too far off. He again talked about our rights. Honestly I couldn't understand why we couldn't get on with it. Finally he called the first person to the stand. It was a middle aged lady with blonde hair. She had a shaky voice and explained her case. It was a sad story. Her husband had lost his job and they had no insurance. She was involved in a car accident (which wasn't her fault) and had been caught without the insurance. She explained she had gotten new insurance and that her husband still didn't have a job. The judge changed the price of her ticket to 200 instead of 400 and she didn't have to do jail time only community service.
I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to present my case after a story like that. He called my name, destroying my last name. I didn't care I just wanted to get it over with. "How do you plead?" he said after reading my case aloud. "Guilty." I said. I felt like a complete criminal. The lady cop eyed me and I was sure I was going to be hand cuffed. "Explain to me what happened." he said. My dad butted in.
"Your honor if I may." oh dad no... "I'm sorry we're not sure how the justice system works really."
The judge just stared. My father continued. "I was wondering if I could speak on behalf of my daughter." Apparently my fathe had a whole plan for how he was going to present my case. "I would like to hear what she has to say first." he said, "and then you will have your chance." I gulped. What happened to the right to remain silent? I accounted what had happened in a lightened version. I didn't want to tell him I thought the ticket was ridiculous, that would just cause more trouble.
"My biggest pet peave is when people try to beat the light." he said. And started going off. Oh good I did his pet peave. I thought sarcastically to myself. "And so I'm not gonna excuse it." he went on. I didn't want him to excuse it. I just wanted him to lower the price, but he insisted on going on and on, until he told us exactly what the secretary had told us before. Utterly pointless I thought to myself.
We went and paid our dues with the secretary from before, and left the building. Driving home my dad looked over at me and replied "Lets not do this again."
I couldn't agree more.