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Monday, September 26, 2022
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So I finally got my day in court. Traffic court, to be precise.

My day in court was a Tuesday. The ticket I got actually said Shabbos, so I called to voice my concerns, and they said, “Actually, that’s not the court date. That’s just the deadline to schedule your court date.”

So I said, “OK, can I schedule the court date?”

And they said, “I guess. What day’s good for you?”

And I said, “That depends. How long does this usually take?”

And they said, “It’s hard to say. You should probably clear your whole afternoon.”

The reason I had to go to traffic court was that I’d allegedly made an illegal left turn off a street that I only went down in the first place because of detours, and apparently, that left was not part of the detour, despite everyone in front of me making that turn. But the cop didn’t see everyone making the turn; he saw me. He didn’t see everyone after me, because he was busy giving me a ticket, and he didn’t see everyone before me, because—well, I don’t know. He didn’t respond well when I asked him.

So I had to prepare my legal argument. Yes, I’ve heard of lawyers, but I was advised in this situation not to get a lawyer. Not by a lawyer. By everyone around me, who was sure I could handle this myself. They weren’t that helpful in addressing my actual concerns, though. Every single person I spoke to said, “But everyone makes that turn!” And I said, “Great. Can I use that argument in court?”

They also kept telling me, “Tell the judge you didn’t see the sign.”

I’m not going to say that. I’m not going to be dishonest in court. I’m going to say something honest, like, “I didn’t see the cop.” If I would have seen the cop, I 100% would not have made that turn.

But I’m a writer. So I came up with a whole argument, and I wrote it up on a piece of paper in case I’d be too nervous to remember it on the spot, and I was going to read it in front of the judge, or else say, “Hey, listen: I wrote up this whole argument. Would you rather just read it yourself?” And maybe he’d take it and read it and say things like, “Why are there jokes in this?”

My court appointment was set for 1:30, but when I got there, I realized that everyone’s appointment was set for 1:30. And it didn’t start at that time anyway, which is just as well, because a lot of the people who were there to fight their traffic tickets probably had to take the bus. And I had to find parking. Because apparently, the courthouse is in a part of the town where the only parking available is meters with a two-hour limit, and no one knows how long this is supposed to take.

Finally, the judge came in and started calling up cases, though no one involved in any of these cases made any effort to be heard by the audience or give us any background into what they were talking about. It was kind of hard to follow.

But it wasn’t any kind of exciting. It was all kinds of procrastination. Lawyers would come up, talk for two minutes, and get their court dates pushed off. I could tell which people were the lawyers, because they were the ones wearing suits. I’d read an article beforehand that said you should dress up a little. But as it is, I was the best-dressed person there who was not a lawyer, and I just had my regular button-down shirt and dark pants.

But some people there had apparently not read that article at all. They were not taking things seriously. In fact, one guy not only had ripped jeans, but while his lawyer was talking, he had to be asked to take his headphones out. Twice. And one lawyer got up and said, “My client isn’t here, and I don’t know how to reach him.”

You don’t know how to reach him?! I had 12 separate legal teams I didn’t even ask for hunting me down and sending me letters the day I got a ticket. You don’t know how to reach your client?

The judge asked me if I wanted to plead guilty. Now on the surface, this sounds bad. But basically, either I could argue my innocence and the case could go either way, or I could plead guilty, pay almost five times the stated value of the ticket (which was still cheaper than the lawyer I’d spoken to), and not get the points off my license. And arguing one’s innocence without a lawyer is, according to the schedule, the last thing of the day. And I was parked at a meter. That’s how they get you.

Wait, so who pays the amount on the ticket, exactly? You’re either innocent and pay nothing, or you plead guilty and pay way more. This whole thing is a scam to make money.

They don’t want the truth. The truth takes time, and honestly, traffic cases are boring. And I don’t want to tell them what really happened, because what I would tell them is that everyone makes that left, and then they would put a cop there and start raking in the money, which is all they want in the first place. They’re not going to fix that corner, because it’s not actually dangerous, but it IS a moneymaker. So instead, I paid money that is probably going to go straight to the Commission of Doing Everyone’s Gas Line for Some Reason and Closing Roads, so this can happen again.

The logic doesn’t even make sense. I’m guilty and therefore I don’t get points?

But what is there to complain about? The court is a very efficient system. For example, the day after I went, I got a letter in the mail that said, “Official Legal Notice.” So I opened it, worried that maybe I’d misunderstood the verdict. And it said, “This is to notify you that your court case has been moved to yesterday.”

From when? I called you like three weeks ago. I knew this already. Who are you sending this to?

This is what my ticket is paying for.


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]

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