What a delight to hear a word that’s normally associated with rejection. “Your case has been dismissed. You’re free to go.”
On October 23, 2011, Dean and I were on our way to park his car somewhere in the Presidio. We only have one parking spot at our place and wanted to put his car in a safe place with no street cleaning restrictions. Normally, Dean’s car resides with my parents in Alameda, but for some reason that I cannot recall, we were in possession of both cars. Dean said he knew exactly where there were good parking areas in the Presidio. He led the charge with his car, while I followed close behind. Somewhere in the avenues, he ran a yellow light. I made a split decision to follow him and as I ran the red light, I could see the bright camera flash go off. SHIT! As expected, a few weeks later, an automated enforcement traffic violation came in the mail.
Despite pretty much everyone telling me I didn’t stand a chance, I had to fight. Begin the letter-writing campaign! I requested a trial by written declaration. I submitted a statement of facts, listing every possible reason I could come up with along with research on the internet (i.e., TicketAssassin.com).
As the automated enforcement system constitutes an illegal speed trap, the court is without jurisdiction to render a conviction in this case pursuant to CVC 40805: “Every court shall be without jurisdiction to render a judgment of conviction against any person for violation of this code involving the speed of a vehicle if the court admits any evidence or testimony secured in violation of, or which is inadmissible under this article.”
I pointed to errors on the citation which listed my hair gray and eyes hazel which is blatantly at odds with my drivers license.
Their judgment? Guilty $480. I paid the fee, but persisted, requesting a trial de novo.
April 10, 2012: This letter is to confirm that a trial de novo (new trial) has been scheduled for you. Please appear in Department B on the 2nd floor of 850 Bryant Street on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 at 1:30pm. Please be on time.
Please note that if you do not appear for the trial, the trial will still be held in your absence; the bail of $480 will be forfeited; and this matter will then be closed. Thank you.
A bit nervous, I took a cab from work to the court house. “850 Bryant please.”
“You a lawyer or a criminal?” The cabbie asked.
“I guess a criminal. I ran a red light and going to court to contest.”
“One of those automatic red light tickets?”
“Well this is a waste of a trip. Did you already give them your money?”
“Do you think the city government is going to give you your money back?”
“Oh God,” I stressed. “Maybe there’s a chance.”
Traffic courts are on the 2nd floor of the court house. There were already crowds of people there half an hour early. “Excuse me,” I asked the officer standing near me. “Do you know what the process is? Is it alphabetical?”
“Every case is assigned a number and they process the cases numerically. What are you here for?”
“Automatic red light citation.”
“What are you doing running red lights?”
“I swear it was yellow!”
“Yeah, that’s what they all say. Gonna be hard to plead your case. Technology is too sophisticated these days. Sorry.”
Really, what the hell, was I doing. I didn’t stand a chance.
At 1:30pm, everyone was called into court. The sign inside read: No eating, no talking, no reading. An officer gave instructions. “No hats, no gum chewing, no standing in the aisles. This is the court. Don’t treat it like your living room. If you’re mad with the decision, control yourself. I don’t want to have to arrest anyone. If you’re happy with the decision, no excessive celebration. The rest of us are still here and don’t need to hear it. Your name will be called twice. Answer the first time. The second time is for the officer.”
After the instructions, the clerk started calling out names. “Stephanie Lo, your case has been dismissed. Emanuel Garcia, the officer dismissed your case…” She must have dismissed at least 20 cases on the spot. Then for the rest of us, more names called. “Doug McDonald?” “Here.” “Is the officer here for Doug McDonald? No, ok your case is dismissed.” Given there were only a handful of officers working the day before Independence Day, I’d say almost all the cases were dismissed.
“Catherine Guhhh-kaid?” “Here.” “Ok, Officer Williams is here.” Shit! No really, what the fuck am I doing here. What am I going to say? I swear I didn’t run a red light? Please believe me!
About ten minutes later, someone came in and whispered to the clerk. “Oh, Officer Williams is not here.” She back-tracked through her stack. “Jacob Tennyson, you’re dismissed….Catherine Guhkaid, come on up. You’re dismissed. Looks like you paid the full amount, you’ll get that back in the mail in six weeks.”
“Oh thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”