The Courts Do Not Care About Your Excuses "la, la, la . . ."
A story from "Tim in LA" about contesting a red light camera violation in an Inglewood, California courtroom.
We were joined by about 20 other people at the 1:30 court time with Commissioner Torrance in Ingelwood. The primary officer (I didn't get his name) instructed those of us with red light camera tickets to look at them on the video. He said "You're all here because you didn't stop at a red light, and we'll convict you all for that offense. Commissioner Torrance has been doing this for 4 years and I've been doing it for 2 years..." so he started off being kind of an ---hole. Then said that "we'll show it twice and you each have 1 question to ask." Ok, so my wife and I were the last ones in line and my wife had more than one question. The officers were actually friendly and answered all of her questions. She asked this twice: "if I choose to do the traffic school as a '2nd offender', can I do it online?" Officer Jimenez, the junior officer, said yes, both times. We talked about it quickly because she wanted to avoid having a point on her record; plus, she did traffic school online for another red light camera ticket last year in Culver City and it was no big deal.
So, we all went back into the courtroom and wait for the commissioner to come in. The guy we were sitting next to had the same ticket, as did the guy next to him. The first woman to be called went up and plead no contest and asked the Commissioner this: "Can you please reduce the fine?" And Commissioner Torrance actually said: "Oh, I have no jurisdiction over the fines." What? Then why were we there? I was going to use this huge argument about the 8th amendment and it was like a machine.
It was quickly obvious that they all had no interest in hearing our cases whatsoever. As we waited for our turn, it made me reconsider. Then my wife was called, though I couldn't approach the defense stand with her, which I found odd, even though she was going to have me speak for her. Because she had already agreed to the traffic school, it took less than a minute to process her.
The bailiff then handed her a sheet of paper which said, verbatim:
CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! - The Court has Granted you the opportunity to go to traffic school...
You must now proceed down to the clerks office located on the 2nd floor of this building, room #202 to pay $64.00. They will provide you with the paperwork and a completion date for the traffic school.
Nice, really nice. It's bad enough that we've wasted our day and we paid a fine of $436, but to get this facetious note from the court?? Dripping with attitude no less??! So as we left the court, I got to thinking, "hey, we didn't even have a chance to present anything!?". We got downstairs and were standing in line to pay our fee, everyone down there felt the same way -- we were shoved through the system with no recourse. Then I started reading the back of our pink Superior Court "Request for Trial" slip, and it says:
"1. Contesting Your Ticket: You can contest your ticket by entering a plea of not guilty at your arraignment. Your arraignment will take place in front of a judge or court commissioner, who will advise you of the charges against you and your constitutional and statutory rights." -- We were never advised of those rights.
So, we eventually got to the window downstairs and the woman there said you have to pay $64 for an adminisrative fee, and the traffic school fee is separate (probably $25 -50.) And as a 2nd offender, you have to spend 12 hours in traffic school in person. What? We were told specifically that we could do it online. She said no, and after arguing with her for a couple minutes, we finally decided to forget it - my wife wasn't going to do 12 hours of traffic school. We have 3 year old twins at home and she wasn't going to lose that much time. She'll take the point on her record. The $64 was for traffic school alone! So, she has a point on her record, but at least we saved potentially $114. We marched back upstairs and saw the officers waiting for an elevator and told Officer Jimenez that what he told us was wrong. He apologized. And the amazing thing was that the technician who was in the room when we were asking the questions probably knew the right answer about traffic school and didn't say anything.
Seriously, we're both extremely disappointed. I don't even know who to contact for the biggest impact. Someone needs to say something and do it in a very public way. I got lots of tickets over 18 years in Portland, and never have I experienced something like this -- why doesn't the Commissioner have any authority to change the fines? That is precisely why we were all there. Something needs to be done about the excessive fines. And to think if we'd been going 13 mph, no ticket...
Wow, if I'd known it was going to be like that, we would have certainly asked for an extension. That was so ridiculous, I'm more flabbergasted than mad. But, I'm pretty mad. Anyway, thought you might find some of this intersting and useful. Let me know who to contact.
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