Thursday, February 19, 2009

I Fought the Law

I'm convinced that living in a car town like Los Angeles, two things will happen to you eventually: 1. You'll be involved in a wreck. 2. You'll get a traffic ticket. During my first year here, I was able to get both of those eventualities out of the way. I neglected to consider the possibility of multiples of either. And now I've had the pleasure of getting more than one ticket.

You may or may not know this, depending on how well you paid attention to the written material for obtaining a driver's license, but those little double yellow lines on the road? Don't cross 'em. There are a few circumstances where you may cross them, but it's usually a good idea not to. Because you might pull the crossing of the double yellow line maneuver, and subsequently have officer friendly pull up next to you and tell you that he's pulling you over. Which is what happened to me back in December.

There are several websites out there that will help you fight all sorts of traffic tickets. Do not use this one. I did, and I paid my $25 donation so that I could receive "personal attention" to my case. All I got was repeated e-mailings from said website reminding me to pay my donation, or that my deadline was fast approaching, or e-mails that I sent to his address bouncing back to me. The deadline has passed and I'm still getting e-mails reminding me to pay. Sheesh.

The single most important bit of information that I was able to glean from the website (or any of the websites that I found on the subject) was that you should never ever just pay the fine. In California there's this little process called "Trial by Declaration" whereby you say you want such a trial, you submit a couple forms with maps if you choose, and you never have to step into a courtroom. You should always contest the ticket, even if it's something as simple as writing "NOT GUILTY" on a sheet of paper. By going down the Trial by Declaration path, you are forcing the officer who gave the ticket to write up their own recount of the events leading to the ticket. If they don't file a report, you win. Plain and simple. If they do file and you lose, you can always go to a regular trial. Or you can pay the fine and get a point on your driving record and pay higher car insurance bills, etc. But who wants to do that?

So I did the Trial by Declaration thing. I included a bunch of maps from different angles showing what went down. Still, I wasn't very optimistic that I'd win. A few weeks passed, and I was getting the feeling that my car insurance bill was about to get a lot more painful. I received a letter in the mail from the Los Angeles County Clerk, i.e. The Law, and I knew this was it. I tore open the letter while chanting "please be good news please be good news please be good news..." and I scanned the letter for the words. NOT GUILTY with a check box next to it. Yes! I jumped up and down with the letter in my hand chanting "NOT GUILTY! NOT GUILTY! NOT GUILTY!" Judah got up from eating lunch and pointed and laughed. Lily didn't know what to make of it. At the time you're reading this, I'm still jumping around in the entry way of my house chanting "NOT GUILTY! NOT GUILTY! NOT GUILTY!"