Thursday, March 5, 2009

Traffic court

Last October 19th I got a speeding ticket charging I was going 63 in a 40 zone. This was particularly annoying as I was in a 55 zone as the photos of the signs I took the next day clearly showed. Tonight I showed up in New Castle Town Court to dispute the ticket. I did not get much satisfaction. In New York the charging officer offers plea deals to people who show up to fight a ticket. So after I sat around for a while watching other cases the police officer calls me aside and immediately offers to allow me to plea to 45 in a 40 zone. I point out I was in a 55 zone. After looking at my photos the officer acknowledges this. This means I am innocent. Unfortunately the officer can issue another ticket correcting the mistake after which I will be assigned a new trial date. When my case is eventually called before the judge he confirms this and suggests I plea to 60 in a 55 zone. I am tempted to demand a trial as I would not be risking much and I could give the police officer a hard time about his mistake and suggest this it raises reasonable doubt about whether he can reliably operate a radar gun when he can't even read speed limit signs. However the likely result would be I would be convicted anyway and get a somewhat bigger fine. And I don't really need to have this hanging over me for another few months. So I do the sensible thing, plead guilty and pay the $135.

There were a large number of other people there for a variety of cases including DWIs and invalid licenses. There was also an eviction case which cast a noticeable pall over the courtroom. This was a woman (who I believe said she had two children) who due to some personal reverse (perhaps her husband deserted her) had stopped paying rent. She seemed in shock or denial and did not have a lawyer or any good argument as to why she should not be evicted. The judge granted a judgement for the accumulated back rent (and penalties) and ordered eviction but stayed the order for 5 days for reasons that were unclear to me. Perhaps this was to give the woman a last chance to get her act together but this didn't seem too likely to happen.


  1. Did you at least get the fine reduced from what it would have been for the 63/45 ticket?

  2. Faced with a similar situation, a local police chief I knew suggested I offer to plead guilty to "failure to obey a traffic control device" (i.e. the speed limit sign). No points (back then) on your license and no notification to your insurance company. Before I had a chance to do that the Dutchess Co. Sheriff's Deputy suggested the very same thing. Case closed.