Friday, October 19, 2007

My day in court...

As some of you know, I got in an accident on Labor Day. I even wrote a blog about it. Well, as you may or may not know, I didn't have my most recent insurance card in the car at the time of the accident. Because of that little lapse of judgment, I had an automatic court date. I went down on Wednesday, and in true Garrett fashion, I arrived insanely early. (I hate to be late to things, especially if I've never been to the place or if my presence is required right at a certain hour. I arrived 45 minutes early to the interview for my current job, for example.)

Being early as I was, I was told to wait in the court room. This meant that I got to sit in and listen to other law-breakers like myself plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest to the charges against them. I also found out that this was a Hearing only, and the judge couldn't listen to any facts to make a decision, but could only answer our questions if we had any about the charges against us.

So I sat there and listened to what everyone else had done, and even without the gavel and robe made my own judgments. Not on sentencing or anything like that, just on their character, which I think might be more dangerous. Then I realized I'm in this boat, too, so I'd best change my attitude and observe. One woman was doing 42 in a school zone. One kid had quite a talk with the judge, and will have to bring in his grades as part of his plea bargain, and will need to maintain a 3.0 average. His mom thinks he can do better than that, but said she didn't want to push it. I don't even remember what he did, but I was intrigued by the whole thing. One guy was doing 94 in a 50 zone, to which he pleaded guilty. My favorite, though, was two guys that were charged with exhibition-style racing, which is a class C misdemeanor. The crazy part about that is that driving without insurance is a class B misdemeanor. So, me forgetting to put my most recent insurance card in the glove box is apparently more severe a crime than people who endanger the lives of their fellow citizens by racing on city streets. I know I said I wouldn't judge, but in my opinion, that is RIDICULOUS.

I also got to hear other people charged with not having current insurance. They all kept pleading guilty, even a few that showed they now had insurance. I kept wondering what I would do. I brought my most recent insurance card in, but that didn't show that I was insured at the time of the accident, so I also had with me a copy of the insurance card for that time period. I didn't want them to think there was ever a lapse in my insurance, that I am a regular old law abiding citizen who happened to be in a freak accident. I kept thinking of every Law and Order, CSI, and even every Matlock episode I'd ever seen, and I was convinced there were times when people had the charges dropped in the hearing before it ever went to trial. I didn't want to just blindly plead guilty like everyone in front of me. Do you know what the fine is for not having valid insurance? 400 bucks. Yeah...

So when my turn came up, the judge read my charges and asked if I had any questions. I sure did, and asked if I could show that I had insurance at the time of the accident, could the charges be dropped. The judges response: "Absolutely." So I gave the bailiff my insurance cards, and he brought them to the judge (in true People's Court fashion, the bailiff was a very old guy who looked a little like Barney from The Andy Griffith show) who then told me that the charges could be dropped, and because that was the only charge that made me have to come to court, I could plead no contest to the other charges, pay the minimal accident fee, and be on my way. So that's what I did.

I was there from 2:30 to 4:00 and it was a huge waste of time, but at least I didn't have to pay $400 extra. I don't know about the rest of you, but going to court is quite an intimidating experience, and I really don't want to ever do it again...

11 comments:

Haley Greer said...

Quite the experience! I've never been to court, and I'm pretty sure I'd be terrified out of my mind if I ever did have to go. So if I ever do, I'm going to make you escort me. Deal? :)

The accident is a bummer though. I have a completely clean record. I've only been pulled over once (going 81 in a 65 near Blanding. There wasn't even anyone around for me to endanger their lives! Sheesh!), and the cop's printer ended up being broken so he couldn't print me a ticket. Divine intervention, I'd say. Bonny will remember that... it was on our way to AZ for spring break.
Anyway, I'm glad things turned out and you didn't have to pay that money.

musicgirljen said...

Good job on being proactive in asking to show your proof of insurance. Sorry to hear about the accident though. :( I've never been to court either...

princesaplumeria said...

Did you wear navy? I hear that helps when standing before a judge in court. :)

garrett said...

I'll remember the navy for the next time. I was wearing black slacks with a red and blue tie, though. Does that count?

Heather said...

WOW, what the experience! I can't believe that all those other people didn't show "proof", that just seems like common sense to me. Why plead guilty? Maybe they didn't have insurance...who knows. I'm glad that it all worked out! :) YEAH!

musicgirljen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
musicgirljen said...

I hear wearing navy is also good for job interviews - apparently it's a power color.

Robin said...

I'm going to go right now and check that my insurance card is in my car...

Bonny said...

This is weird because my sister was pulled over the other day for speeding and she didn't have her current insurance card and there was nothing mentioned about a $400 fine for not having it. Cops can just look that stuff up can't they. Is there only a fine for when you are in accidents? I'm confused about this inconsistency.

Glad you got out of it !

Bonny said...

OH yeah...I remember that Haley...before you mentioned that I'd remember it I was thinking to myself "that sounds familiar" I'm so glad his printer jammed. That was awesome...in a way.

garrett said...

Bon - The officer didn't tell me anything about the charge for that either. I found out when I called in about the ticket and they told me about my fines and mandatory court date. You'd think police officers would give you that sort of information, but they didn't. Good luck to your sister, she'll probably have to go through what I did...