No, I'm not bitter.
Okay, maybe I am just a little bit bitter. However, it's not without reason. I have just been found "guilty" for the moving violation, which is also known as failing to follow a traffic device. I'm seriously perplexed.
It was New Years Eve and I decided to attend a quick brunch with my little sister. I picked her up in Flatbush and we journeyed to Besos in Bed-Stuy. As we began searching for parking, I was flashed by a police car to pull over. I was genuinely confused because I couldn't think of anything that would warrant the stop. I was not speeding, I had indicated my turn, and my hazards were on as I proceeded to search for parking.
The officer approached the vehicle and did the usual request for my license and registration. There was a slight issue: Your girl just bought the vehicle so I had temp plates and an incomplete registration. But I simply explained that and hoped it would be enough.
He asked, "You know why I stopped you right?" To which I replied, "No officer I do not," because I truly didn't. He then stated, "You didn't stop back there," pointing to the stop sign at the intersection of Stuyvesant and MacDonogh Street. I was actually pretty floored because I knew that I had stopped. I personally observed a "zero mph" on my dashboard. As I made the turn, I was in the middle of a conversation with my little sister because I was showing her a house on the corner that belonged to a friend of mine. Because of that conversation, we both knew we stopped.
I didn't argue. I took my ticket and said, "I'll see you in court."
My court date was 6 whole months after the incident. My witness couldn't attend due to work, so all I had was first-hand testimony, some photos, and the ticket. Naive of me to believe I had a chance.
As I sat there in the Brooklyn Traffic Court in Atlantic Terminal, a few things happened.
- You enter the small courtroom to a disgruntled clerk who seems mad about her job, mad that you received a ticket, and mad that you are now prolonging her day. I couldn't decipher.
- There is a special seating section for the officers. This should have tipped me off to their privilege.
- Finally, and really, this is the kicker, as each case was called and the officer and the driver (or his/her attorney) faced off, the officer began recounting what occurred via a pre-scripted speech. I mean literally all the keywords highlighted, blank spaces to substitute for the next unlucky joe. As I learned from a case before mine, this script is prepared by the precinct. It has all the "fixings" and keywords to ensure your guilty.
What I learned at that moment during my case and the others is that whether you have an attorney or self-represent yourself, you are going to be guilty simply on the appearance of the officer. In addition, the judge will wait until the officer appears to hold your case. I was the first one checked in for court (no officer and was the fourth case heard). Meanwhile, another woman's case was dismissed simply by the absence of the officer. I thought it would be adjourned to another date. Lucky her.
As I stood before the judge, she held this smirk like she had already decided my fate. I hadn't even said two sentences yet. I was also nervous as hell but there seems to be no sympathy for that.
The officer read off his script, messing up the color of my car and the intersection he pulled me over for. But that held no consequence.
The judge decided, "I find the officer's testimony to be authentic and accurate and find the driver to be guilty. Punishment for failing to yield to a device: $136.00 plus 3 points on the driver's license."
Oh, and those points stay on your license for up to 3 years. So have fun with insurance.
The Scam Explained
All in all, the scam is like this, you take off from work to go to court. You show up thinking if you say your side, show the circumstances and/or evidence and the judge will give you a fair shake. Instead, you find that you were already guilty from the time the officer gave you the ticket.
It's such a complete scam that officers are given a complete pre-written script to say in court that justifies your guiltiness, instead of the real notes they have written in their notes.
It's such a complete scam that every single ticket gives you points on your license that last for 18 months as though the fee wasn't enough to prevent you from doing it again.
It's such a complete scam that our testimony as a driver is not "sufficient" enough to be considered accurate. Yet, you are licensed and was present during the incident just like the officer. Because we've proven that all officers are right, right?
So why do we even have this court? Can't we just get rid of it and save some tax dollars. It's the money that the city wants anyway.
No, I'm not bitter.