So I went to Traffic Court today. Yeah. It sucked. But it was also kinda funny. Granted, it's taken several hours
My ticket was for speeding, which here in Northern Virginia means, "Keeping up with the flow of traffic."
I brought a book so imagine my disappointment with the huge "No reading material including newspapers, magazines, or books not related to your case" sign on the door into the courtroom. What good does this do? Can someone please tell me?
So I wrote my updated To Do list, and then I sat and listened to the dozens of cases that were further up in the alphabet than me.
I heard one case involving a man who explained, through an interpreter, that he doesn't have a valid license because he can't read or write (even in Spanish) so he can't pass the driving test, but he has to get to work because he has a wife and four kids.
I heard one case involving a young nursing student who was traveling 96 mph in a 55 mph zone (on the freeway late at night, which is not at all uncommon here (although I would never do it)). She had a lawyer present her case and screamed in anguish when the judge sentenced her to 30 days in jail. She was crying so loudly in the holding room that the bailiff had to go in and move her so her cries of, "I'm scared!" wouldn't affect the rest of the proceedings. I listened to her father weeping two rows behind me.
I heard a bunch of false apologies for things like rolling through stop signs, making illegal u-turns, and expired tags/expired licenses/expired safety checks. And the judge just handled each case like you'd expect a traffic court judge to handle them. With an "I've heard this a hundred times, who the heck really cares, $100 plus court costs" attitude. (Even for the girl he sent to jail.)
When there were only about six of us left I was finally called up. I told the judge that I was nervous and I hoped he wouldn't mind if I referred to notes I'd written. He suddenly got very animated and said, "I don't understand you people who are nervous for traffic court. You and that other girl earlier. You are totally unsuitable for combat," and kind of looked at the bailiff and laughed as if to say, "Look at this idiot, she's going down at the first round of mortar attacks!"
I was so shocked that all I could say was, "Uhm, I'm not going into combat, Your Honor."
So that kind of threw me.
I proceeded to attempt to give my explanation of what had happened, all the while wondering why in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks the judge has referred to COMBAT. Am I not in traffic court?
I explained that while I don't have "positive points" here in Virginia (the point system here is such that certain offenses remove a certain number of "points" from your license, while every year you go without any offenses adds one "point" to your record), I haven't even been pulled over for more than 12 years (since I was in college). I have a very very good driving record and pride myself on being a safe, attentive, defensive driver. I was explaining that even though I don't have "positive points" here, it's only because I'm new to Virginia.
Somehow, I either did not manage to explain myself well, or (more likely) the scales of justice had been piling up on one side all morning, because all of a sudden the judge snapped.
I received a tirade about how many people die in Fairfax County every month due to traffic incidents. How it doesn't matter if I'm not a chronic offender, all it takes is one incident to kill someone. Etc, etc, etc, etc. It was as if he was making an example of me, only there was almost noone left in the courtroom to hear it.
Meanwhile, I started crying.
Meanwhile, I'm saying, "Yes, Your Honor." "I understand that, Your Honor." "Of course, Your Honor, I was only...."
Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "All these idiots with worse offenses went before me and you said not one word, and I'm the one getting yelled at?"
So imagine my surprise when he suddenly says, "I find you guilty and suspend the fine. Pay only court fees."
Huuuuhhh-errr? Wha...? I thought he was going to throw the book at me the way he went on and on and on and on, but then he suspended my fine?
The bailiff actually had to tell me to leave. I was so confused at the sudden change.
Court Fees: $62. Parking lot fees: $8. Time spent traveling to and waiting in court: 5 hours. Having a Traffic Court judge tell you you're "unsuitable for combat": Priceless!