Traffic and Justice…

…apparently don’t mix.

I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in Washington State, traffic infractions are handled as civil (as opposed to criminal) matters, meaning that the bar for the prosecution is set much lower: Criminal matters must be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, while in a civil case, the prosecutor only needs to provide a theory that seems slightly more credible than the citizen’s.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t know a lawyer who will work for free who could actually handle my “driving without headlights” case from back in December. It’s a $101 ticket (which ain’t much) so I decided to go gain some valulable life experience (i.e. do something stupid.) I therefore contested the ticket and represented myself.

So here’s how the whole thing breaks down. I say I had my lights on. The other guy says I didn’t. The officer who filed the report says I didn’t (though he’s not in a position to know.) One independent witness says I didn’t.

Or does she? Actually, she never explicitly identified myself or my vehicle in her statement. I probably could have argued the point. I probably would have looked like an ass. This is why representing yourself is stupid.

Anyway, the witness can’t be produced or subpoenaed. Her statement wasn’t given under oath, and there’s no way to establish her credibility. Or for me to challenge it.

And she’s the only evidence the city has. The police statement is hearsay. My statement and the other driver’s statement are both biased. If this was a criminal case, it would be laughed out of court.

But it’s a civil case, so I pay the $101.

Which, really. The whole point of having constitutional protections for citizens is to protect them from the vast resources the state can level against them. Those protections are absent in the case of traffic infractions. It’s not /fair/. But that’s the way it is.

I’ve decided the only way to protect myself from this system will be to record video from my dashboard, which should give sufficient indication whether my headlights were on, whether that school zone sign I passed was activated, etc. etc. etc.

On a brighter note, I went in to follow up with the neurologist. She says I’m fine and to call if anything changes. She also says I have no reflexes.


4 thoughts on “Traffic and Justice…

  1. GiovanniBlasini

    Hey, I remember the one time I tried to defend myself in court on a speeding ticket (35 in a 25 mph zone while taking my little sister to school).

    The cop didn’t recognize me.  He admitted that the radar gun he used goes for the largest and fastest car on the road (I was driving a VW Bug at the time, which was pretty much the smallest car on the road).  Hell, he didn’t remember the layout of the street, the other cars on the road at the time, etc.  There was even the issue of my driver’s license, and how, when holding it in his hand and looking at it, he asked when I’d be turning 18 (my license had a big red and white stripe on it that said “Age 21 in 1995”, and it was November 1995).

    Needless to say, I still lost.

  2. ashenwelt

    You know my nephew was in traffic court for a speeding ticket he contested.  The officer had a video showing the speed of my nephew (radar) and the speed of the officer.  The judge dismissed after asking the offier why he was going over a hundred miles per hour to catch someone doing I think 50 mph. 

    But you are correct… no protection.


  3. bluemarsupial

    Totally. Once got a ticket after a girl was doing 50mph in a 40mph zone (normally) that was reduced to 20mph due to a construction zone. It was snowing and visibility was zero. The girl hit us and proceeded to push us for about 75 feet, and the cop still said it was our fault. Contested it and still ended up paying for the ticket.


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