12.19.2008

ORDER IN THE COURT

Man oh man! Court yesterday was SO scary.

I forgot to mention why I was even at court. When I first bought Jeff's car, there was a little while after having bought the car, but before I was able to get a hold of Jeff to learn where the title was and so be able to register it, so I drove using Jeff's old plates, which I did not realize was a problem.

Turns out it IS a problem, punishable by up to, I think, 2 weeks in Jail. Because the car wasn't yet registered in my name, I wasn't able to have insurance and was also fined for that. I wrote about the circumstances of receiving the violation here.

It took me over 2 hours to drive the twenty miles to court because of the snow. I had called the twice on my way explaining my situation and they were understanding. When I showed up, some other lady was also showing up late, but she hadn't called to inform them and she received some sort of penalty I was unsure of. I imagine she was in the same circumstance I had been(weather) but wasn't lucky enough to have had a cell phone. This gave me the impression that the Judge=kind of a dick.

I brought paperwork showing I had registered my car shortly after receiving the violation, hoping that may help my case. The Judge asked me if my car was no registered and I said it was, and mentioned I brought documentation, but he wasn't interested. He asked if the car was now insured and I said it was not currently because my license had been suspended until I cleared this issue and without a valid license I couldn't get insurance, but he didn't seem interested in that. I wish I had just said I did have insurance, since he didn't seem interested in if I had any proof or explanation. When I tried to explain anything the Judge would say 'just answer yes or no'

After the short questioning the Judge asked if I was ready for sentencing. I said I was, but am now wondering what would have happened if I said I wasn't.

On the first Charge, of driving with the previous owners plates he sentenced me to 9 days in jail!!!!

Normally I wouldn't mind being sentenced to 9 days in jail, and would even think it fun. A part of me has long been interested in having he experience of jail time, and 9 days seems like a perfect amount of time. But the timing right now is so bad. It is my Christmas break, but more importantly it is close to the time I am reunited with Marissa.

I was pretty devastated and shocked when I heard that. No part of me had considered that I might face Jail time. It was probably only a few seconds, but felt like a very long time because of how much passed through my mind, but the Judge then said the Jail time was waived in lieu of a 50$ fine, which was, obviously, an incredible relief.

He then went through the same process with the other two items, sentencing me to jail, then waiving it in lieu of a fine. For having no insurance the Jail time was about 120 days. Each time I was almost as scared, not knowing if that one would then be waived by paying $. Even though the fines ended up totaling a bit more than I had anticipated, the prospect of having to go to jail made any amount of $ feel like a relief.

The situation at Court was a reminder to me of how unfair the legal system can be. Although they were very flexible with me in terms of my payment options( I am able to make small monthly payments), the fee is far more of a burden to me than it would be to a wealthier person. While the punishment may be technically the same, in reality, poor people and rich people are receiving much different punishments when fined. Also, had I not been able to pay this fine would that mean I would have to serve Jail time? That is not just.

It also struck me how strange it is that some people are granted so much power over others. This man who I had never met before and who knew nothing about me except what I looked like and the few violations I was on trial for, had the ability to have me confined in a cell for several months or give me a fine, or do nothing.
During the summer while having my car inspected I had a conversation with one of the employees about how he had spent a month in Jail for contempt of court for being a smart ass to the Judge while he was defending himself for a possession of marijuana. It is amazing someone can have the authority to legally disrupt another person's life so drastically just for being annoying. Here is an article about a Judge giving a woman 10 days in jail for wearing a hijab.

While the Judge did seem like kind of a dick, he could have given me larger fines, and of course sentenced me to jail, so over-all I guess he showed me a certain amount of kindness.

6 comments:

Version #2 said...

This is crazy!!

DB said...

Christopher,

Wow, do I have some bad news. Not really, but your court story was mind blowing. Good thing you called and said you'd be late. I went to court yesterday too. Traffic court. Basically I went to traffic cashier. I was pulled over by a lady cop and was cited for not changing my address with the state of Idaho, I still had my license with my Elk Ridge address on it, and for not having updated insurance. Well, I did have updated insurance, I just handed the lady cop the old insurance card without realizing it was the old one. So, she goes back to her lady cop car (it was probably pink) and writes the ticket. When she gave it to me she explained what she was citing me for and I said "wait a minute, I have insurance Sgt. Lady Cop", so I dug in the "jockey box" and found the updated ins card and handed it to her. She seemed a little ticked that I had given her the wrong one- so she goes back to her fuschia motor coach where I thought she was writing a new ticket, she wasn't because when she returned she'd just crossed out the citation for outdated insurance on the orig. ticket. Why did she take 5 minutes to do this? The funny thing was this, I had my school bag, and a laptop case in my front passenger seat so Heather just hopped in the back as we were just headed to the store to buy a paper- the femme fatale thought this was the strangest thing and at one point shined (shown?) her flashlight right into Heather's face- Heather kind of giggled and squinted so I thought the She Narc was gonna give us a breath-a-lizer or something. The last weird thing is that this all happened about 150 feet from our house, so I guess I just should have gunned it and had the garage door opened, drove in and closed the door.

chris almond said...

dave, your story was really funny. you should consider becoming the next dave berry.
probably the funniest part was "fuschia motor coach" but there were other funny parts. seriously, just change your last name, and start submitting stuff to papers across the country=$$$$

chris almond said...

version #2:
your comment was not nearly so funny. not funny at all actually.

Anonymous said...

So Chris, how would you propose to fix the "unjust" court system? It is impossible for a judge to know everyone intimately and understand their circumstances. And...judges have a set of sentencing guild lines they are required to follow according to the crime committed.

chris almond said...

anonymous-
of course it is impossible for judges to know everyone intimately and it would be silly to expect them to. however, it is not silly for judges to take into consideration the financial circumstances of those who are fined. This is sometimes done in larger cases, but I believe it should also be done for smaller cases. For a person who makes 100,000$ a year to be fined the same amount for the same crime as a person who makes 10,000$ a year is not justice. It would take much effort to take such things into consideration. Yes, judges must follow guidelines, and that judge as an individual was not an unjust person, however the guidelines judges must follow could be changed.