Saturday, June 02, 2007

Ticket: The Final Chapter (I hope)

So I went to a mitigation hearing for my latest traffic infraction. A mitigation is different than a contesting hearing, in that you admit to the offense, but want the penalty reduced for some mitigating reason. I’ve always just paid my tickets (yeah, that’s right, tickets) so this was a first. It was a…uh…uh…experience.

The Bellevue courthouse itself wasn’t even in a proper building. It’s near a small park, so I wasn’t sure if I was walking to the courthouse or the park’s bathroom. The building was tiny and outdated, perhaps 60’s or 70’s; parts of the cushioned benches in the waiting room were torn. I wondered if I was still in Bellevue, the sanitized neighbor of Seattle, or East LA. It didn’t help that over half of my fellow traffic violators were of Hispanic origin. The room the hearing was held in was also quite small. If you’ve read my previous posts you’ll know I have zero spatial skills, so I can’t tell you how small, but I’m almost certain you have a closet that is bigger. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but it was small.

So we all filed into the tiny room, the judge went over the rules, and then she called us up one by one to explain the mitigating circumstances. This was probably the third time in my life I was happy to be at the bottom of the alphabet, because she was calling us up in alphabetical order. This not only ensured that I wouldn’t have an audience, but I was able to asses the tolerance of the judge (which appeared to be at a negative 10), learn from the mistakes of my fellow defendants, and see how far back the dirt she had on us was (appeared to go back at least to 2005, this was important because I got three tickets 2003).

There were two types of defendants, repeat offenders and first timers. I felt kind of bad for the repeat offenders, I say only kind of because they were pretty foolish to think they could get a reduction since they obviously aren’t learning anything, but I understand the desperate attempt. They would explain circumstances of their offense, then the judge would explain this was their 3rd (sometimes more than that) similar offense, give the date of each offense, and then state there would be no reduction in the penalty. The defendant would keep talking and then the judge would yell at them, and call out the next name. All the first timers got a “deferred finding” (if the driver doesn’t get another ticket in one year, the charge is dropped and does not appear on their record, I had one, but I got another ticket within a year :-( ) and the judge was pretty nice to them, so no entertainment there.

Right before me was native Mandarin Chinese speaker, whose English was at an intermediate level. The guy was trying to describe why he was speeding, but the judge couldn’t understand him. However, because of my extensive exposure to imperfect English I understood him quite well. I thought about saying, “Limited English is my second language, I can translate.” But I had a feeling I’d get yelled at. After his description, despite not really understanding him, she wasn’t going to reduce the penalty. He then asked for a deferred finding instead. Since you’re supposed to ask for that before you describe the events, she yelled at him, told him to see the clerk to pay his fine and called out my name. Either the guy really didn’t understand or he is a genius, because he didn’t move, he just stood there. The judge again told him he needed see the clerk, but he started describing the event again. She said it was clear there was a language gap so she ordered a new hearing with a Mandarin translator present. So hopefully he does is right next time and asks for the deferment.

Now it was my turn to be slaughtered. I knew before I even marked the box asking for a mitigation hearing, that I had no case whatsoever. I had already received a deferred finding via letter for my first infraction. Then, for this infraction I was going 45 in a 30, but the cop gave me the penalty for one going only over 5mph over the speed limit. There was really no way to reduce the fine. The only reason I asked for the hearing is that it buys some time before it appears on my record and activates my last infraction, which was previously in deferment. I want to delay the process because my insurance rate is about to be adjusted and I am loosing two previous tickets I got in 2003. I’d like to see how it is to pay a somewhat normal premium (I still have the accident on my record). Let me enjoy life for 6 months, then I’ll suffer the next 3 years. Without the hearing I would have paid the fine and it would be on my record by now

So as I was saying I had no reason to be there. If I was smart I would have spoke some broken English in a German accent so I could delay the inevitable even further, but I wasn’t too quick on the toes. Instead I tried to play dumb, and asked if I was eligible for a deferred finding. She looked at her computer and said no. I then figured I’ll try to fight the good fight and explained that the only reason I was driving at my law breaking speed was that I did not see the speed limit sign which, upon returning to the scene, I noticed is hidden behind tree branches. However, if I were hooked up to an interpretation device that translates lies into truths, the machine would have outputted “You could have posted the speed limit on the bare, muscular chest of a hot guy standing in the middle of the street, and I still wouldn’t have adjusted my speed.” Luckily those haven’t been invented yet. She then said she would not reduce the penalty because I was already receiving the fine for a lesser infraction and sent me to the clerk to pay.

At the clerk’s desk I asked it they take credit card, then before I could open my mouth to say “I’ll get my checkbook from the car” she handed me a paper, said I could mail in the payment, and left. Ahh, got to love the service you get from government employees.


Sariah said...

So, I'm not doing Church today, so I thought I might comment! :0) My favorite part of this post was this:

“Limited English is my second language, I can translate.”

I almost peed my pants! I had no idea there was a "limited English" language. Must be the same language my 2 year old uses with me. I might need you to come down and translate a few phrases for me. Although, I have gotten quite proficient myself (almost 5 years experience) in this "limited English" that you might suppose I could put that down as a third language (Spanish my 2nd) on my resume? lol.

Sorry to hear about your ticket drama...then again, it makes for some fun reading! ;) You do sound as if you might have worked the situation to your favor however, so, this is good!

Carrie said...

I think visiting my blog could be counted as church, minus a bishopric, speakers, choir, people, babies crying, an uplifting message, etc. I bet it at least could be counted for something. I'm inactive and need to be brought back to the fold. VT is done for the month of June my friend!

Oh yeah, Limited English is a real language all right. In fact it's becoming my only language, because it's all I ever hear (except with Will who tries to correct me). I bet little Reese and I could have a full on conversation, except she'd be the one confused by me.