I’m embarrassed by my recent legal problems so I debated whether or not to write this post. In the end though, I needed something to write about and this experience certainly fit the “I’ve Never” bill. Besides, it’s not as if I was arrested for selling crack to children.
No, my legal infraction was far less dramatic. About a year ago, as I was driving to work one snowy morning, I was focused too much on the road in front of me and failed to stop for a school bus that had turned on its flashing lights. There were no kids crossing the road or anything, but still, a dumbass thing to do if ever there was one.
I was completely baffled as to why the cop pulled me over a few seconds later, still oblivious to what I had just done. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” “No, officer.” “Didn’t you see that school bus?”
I looked in my rear view mirror and sure enough there was the bus. The officer was cool and I think wanted to let me off since I had a clean driving record and the weather conditions weren’t great. But with the eyes of a bunch of angry parents burning a hole through the back of his skull, I wouldn’t be getting away so easily.
And so, for the first time in my life, I received my summons to appear in court. Traumatized, I was sure to be extra careful driving the rest of the way to the office and think it was the first and only time I’ve driven the speed limit on the 401.
I didn’t have much of a case since I couldn’t very well argue against a cop and a dozen witnesses who saw me drive through the lights. So months later, at my initial court hearing, I entered a plea of guilty, prepared to eat the $500 fine.
“You realize that this charge comes with a minimum of 6 demerit points?” the Judge informed me.
I was not aware of that. “Uhhh… not guilty?”
And so, after that convincing performance, a trial date was set for this past October.
Thanks to some informal legal advice from a friend, I put together a letter that I sent to the Prosecutor asking that the charge be amended to a lesser offense that didn’t come with the demerit points. The Prosecutor’s Office set up a pre-trial over the phone and I had a chance to settle things outside of court.
The prosecutor was mean. Well, that’s unfair I suppose. Let’s just say she was a lawyer. And she wasn’t keen on helping me out.
“I’m not prepared to do that,” she said about twenty seconds into our conversation after I reiterated my request to have the charge amended.
That was as far as my pre-trial plan went and I had run out of script. “Uhhh… ok. May I ask why you’re not prepared to that?”
Honestly, I think at that moment she realized how much a fish out of water I was, how terribly intimidated I was, and how I had zero expertise in law or negotiating. I was so inept she could have tacked on a couple of murder charges and I’d probably have agreed to them. But she wasn’t a heartless lawyer after all, and she softened up a bit, telling me she’d speak to the officer who had pulled me over about my amended charge request.
Several nail-biting days later she left a message saying that they would accept my request to reduce the charge. I still had to go to court and plead guilty (and it still cost me over $600 when all was said and done), but I avoided the demerit points, which was my main goal.
For someone like me who has a real fear of confrontation, going to court is extremely stressful. It not at all hilarious like Night Court or exciting like A Few Good Men. Even with the absence of Bull the Bailiff or Tom Cruise, it was still a neat experience, and hopefully a one-of-a-kind experience at that.
Be a defendant in court? Check.
Duane Elgin, author of “Voluntary Simplicity”, talked about the “invisible wealth of experiential riches.” My “I’ve Never Club” is inspired by this idea and chronicles my reflections on the novel things I’ve done recently.
Funny stories. Good advice. Josh Martin is the author of the book “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy.