Way back in April I was driving with my girls home from my Aunt’s house in Kansas. The road into Nebraska is a highway, but for some reason the 10 or so miles between the state line and the first town has a speed limit of 55mph. While I had my cruise set at 56 or so, I was passed by two vehicles driving at least 20mph over the speed limit. They flew by me and were forgotten.
As I approached said first town, I started slowing down for the first speed zone (45mph) and planned on continuing to slow down for the next speed zone (35mph), however, I saw on the top of the next hill a County Sheriff’s car coming toward me. I did the typical panic-ridden glance at the speedometer and realized I was fine, so I continued my slow deceleration. The sheriff’s car turned left in front of me and stopped. I knew I was caught, although I’m not sure what I was caught for yet.
I continued into town, and sure enough, the sheriff followed me with his lights on. I pulled over as soon as the road widened and he proceeded to give me a speeding ticket for 45 in a 35mph speed zone (he said I was driving 47). As I mentioned, I had my girls in the car with me, so I didn’t challenge the reading. I was rather upset thought.
The next weekend I went back to my Aunt’s house and as I came home again, I realized something: the Sheriff clocked me in a 45mph zone, not a 35 as he had said. He even turned to wait for me to pass in the same 45mph zone. I was really hot at this point, and decided I was going to fight the ticket. With my court date in June, I had a long time to seethe.
With all kinds of scenarios playing out in my head, I began to think of my defense. I have always heard that if the officer doesn’t show up, you get off, so I really didn’t try all that hard. I got a rather surprising awakening that day in June…
My first time in the courthouse I found it with no problem. I was there 30+ minutes early, but as some of you know, I cannot be late (seriously, no matter how hard I try!). They were surprised to see me there for a speeding violation (nobody does that you know), but I had to wonder what they thought since they had yet to receive my money and admission of guilt. I got a seat early at the Clerk’s comment that they would be busy.
Busy they were. Before I went in about 20 or so kids came in and put in a mass guilty plea for Minor in Possession. Apparently there had been one hell of a party somewhere. One of them had to go in front of the judge, because this was his second MIP. His sentence was pretty harsh, and I was rather pleased to see the judge was fair, as the kid apparently hadn’t learned his lesson.
The second person in line before me discussed his community service options with the judge. Again, the judge was fair. I was up next.
After being informed of my rights, I went ahead and pleaded “Not Guilty.” to the violation. Well, since the deputy could not make it to the hearing, a trial was scheduled for July. The law worked exactly as it was designed: without both parties present, there cannot be a fair hearing.
As trial approached, I worked a little harder on my defense. I had waived my right to an attorney, because do I really need one? I was looking at it this way: I was right, he made a mistake and if I won, I won, and if I lost, I lost. Not really a big deal.
One month later my trial date was upon me. I dutifully drove down the the courthouse again. (Did I mention that this was an hour and a half – one way!) This time I was there alone, with the Judge, County Attorney and the Deputy Sheriff. Here’s a brief overview of how it went:
- The attorney asked the deputy two and a half pages worth of questions about his character, ability, longevity and skills as a deputy (none of which I was questioning), then proceeded to show certificates for the deputy’s training and the radar’s (who knew it was Doppler?) accuracy (also not was I was questioning).
- I got my chance to cross-examine, which I didn’t need to do because I wasn’t questioning the deputy’s competence.
- After being sworn-in, I gave my testimony in narrative form and presented some pictures of where the deputy stopped me and where the speed limit actually changed.
- The attorney cross-examined me, asking some rather pointed questions that tried to make it sound like I thought the deputy was incompetent. Again, that was not what I was trying to insinuate.
- The judge made his ruling: I had caused enough doubt on the location of the clocking that it could not be determined that I had been 10mph over the speed limit.
- The attorney interjected that I had actually been clocked at 47mph, meaning I was still speeding. My first reaction was to argue that there was no supporting documentation, but since the competence of the deputy had been called into question enough times (never by me), and I have to drive through this county every time I visit my Aunt (not to mention I had to go home that day), I just smiled and let the judge give me a speeding ticket for 2mph over the speed limit.
- I thanked the Judge, attorney and deputy and left the courtroom. I stopped by the really nice clerk again, who gave me my $10 fine (plus $48 court costs!) and I paid it.
- I drove away at a minimum of 5mph under the speed limit. At least until I left the county, then I sped up to the speed limit (which I always drive at now, to avoid tickets!)
So the moral of the story is: you can beat a ticket, but only if you are smart and in the right in the first place.
And just in case anyone who reads this knows the Deputy Sheriff in the southernmost county in NE (on my trip) who has been a deputy for 18 years, please tell him this:
I have the utmost respect for you. I never called into question your ability or intelligence, only the location of the clock. I appreciate the past 18 years you have protected your county and community and I pray that you continue to serve until you retire.
I just wish you would have caught the two drivers who passed me south of town.