"Everybody lies." (Gregory House)
Week 4 in Annie's Thoughtful Thursday.
I have a clean driving record. Which means, when the record is printed out (Go to the DMV website and set up a "MyDMV"account. Print out your driving abstract. You will need your license and a credit card. It costs $7.00.) it mostly is blank and simply states "End of record." No tickets. No violations.
Why did I need to print out my driving record? On a beautiful August morning, while I was on the way to pick up my mother for a trip to the Rez, a cop pulled me over and wrote me a ticket for failure to stop at a stop sign. "Do you know why I pulled you over? You failed to stop at the stop sign at Seneca and East 11th." Of course I did stop at the stop sign. I always stop at stop signs. At this particular stop sign, I was playing that game (you go, no you go, no you go) with a lady in a black pick up truck who finally went first, turning left. We waved and and laughed as she passed in front of me. She was on her way to work at the county building (I know because later I tracked her down and got her statement). When I told the officer I absolutely stopped at the stop sign, he said, "No ma'am. There were no other cars there." He was polite, very apologetic, and about 12 years old. "You can always go to the DA and tell him your story. He'll probably do something about it. I don't always tell people to do this, but..."
So how do you talk to the DA? There is no city DA. But the city court website gives instructions on how to deal with traffic tickets through the mail. But if I plead "not guilty" there would be a trial. So I called the city court to get contact information for the DA. "It's the county DA. The DA will only talk to you if you show up while court is in session." And she gave me the days and times court is in session.
City court is on the second floor of the old post office. You have to go through a metal detector. Don't wear shorts or sandals. Put your name on the waiting list to speak to the DA, take a seat, and wait. No cell phones. No standing.
A bunch of public defenders are sitting at a table to the left of the judge's bench. I think the bailiff is there, too. They are chatting, it seems like they are old friends. The attorneys have stacks of legal sized file folders. Once in a while, one of them will stand up and call out names, like they are taking attendance. Sometimes one of the people sitting in the audience part of the courtroom answers, they sit down together and talk. They don't seem to recognize each other, so I guess they are meeting for the first time. I can hear every word of client/attorney discussion.
The bailiff announces the judge's entrance and he starts hearing cases. Sometimes the attorney has a client with him, sometimes not. Hypodermic needles are mentioned with just about every case. But not heroine.
In comes the DA, and while the judge continues hearing cases, he calls names off of his waiting list.
This is how you talk to the DA. He calls your name, you go sit next to him on the bench, and you talk. I mean, he looks at your papers and he talks. "Failure to stop at a stop sign? I'll change it to a loud muffler." He must have read the reluctance on my face. "I don't think you understand, I'm not making this go away." No, I don't understand. My muffler is fine, and I absolutely did stop at the stop sign. Would it make a difference if I came back with my attorney? Nope. The only way a ticket will go away is if you go to trial, and then you have to present your evidence and you witnesses and the police officer will come and give his side of the story. If you go to trial, you should have a lawyer. It takes money. And time. Which means time away from work.
So I agreed to lie, and admit that my muffler is bad. The charge is no longer a moving violation. I lied. And the DA lied. I even signed statement saying that my muffler is bad when it is actually functioning perfectly. I guess when the judge agrees, and sends my new ticket with a bill for the fine, he will be lying, too.
This is how tenacious I am. I didn't accept the original charge, but I agreed to the lie.
And those poor people who were appearing before the judge with more serious charges? I wonder if they are also agreeing to lie. And I wonder how serious the charges have to be before we decide to hire the lawyer, miss work, and take a chance that the judge wants to hear the truth.