Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Day In Night Court

Stop. One. Two. Go.

That's how I was taught to approach stop signs and red lights (when turning right of course) in drivers education when I was 15-years-old. Stop the car. Count to two. Proceed when safe. This method has been serving me faithfully for each of the 12 years of my driving career. Until about a week and a half ago.

I had approached a red light. I used my trusty method and proceeded to turn right. A couple blocks down, the red lights started whirling. I was very confused. I wasn't sure if the officer was just trying to pass or if he was actually pulling me over. I pulled over and, sure enough, he wanted to chat. He said that I had run the red light a few blocks back. Bull. I didn't argue with him. He was just a bored cop in a small town and there's no sense in fighting with those guys. I was, however, really irritated when he was complaining about the mosquitoes as he was writing my ticket.

So, thanks to that officer, who I hope is miserably allergic to mosquito bites, I got the distinct pleasure of visiting the Kilgore Municipal Court. I don't know what I expected, or that I had any expectations really. I was told that court would convene at 5:30 so I put on some nicer clothes, got my ticket, my ID and my proof of insurance together, and arrived at 5:00.

As it turns out, my arrival time was probably about 40 minutes earlier than it needed to be. When I got there, people were sitting in a waiting room but I'm not really sure what they were waiting for because no one was taking names or registering people. At about 5:40, they opened the doors to the "court room". I use that phrase very loosely. It was like no court room I've ever seen before. The nicest thing about this room was the lovely tiled floor. The walls were brick and very institutional. There were chairs for maybe 50 people or so. In front of the chairs was a crude wooden railing that wasn't even attached to the floor or a wall. Behind that was a conference table with 4 or 5 office chairs. These chairs sat empty for the time I was there. After we were shuffled into the court room, a gentleman (we'll call him the bailiff I guess) came in and explained how the process would work. We would all meet with the prosecutor individually and then the judge would come at the end to hear any contested cases.

They heard the juvenile cases first. One by one, the teens would head back with a parent or two. Since they hadn't taken names, it was a simple matter of hand raising and the bailiff choosing who would be next. They each would leave the room to speak with the prosecutor for about 5 minutes (give or take) and then they would come back and exit the courtroom through the main doors, never to be seen again. No meeting with a judge. Seemed interesting.

After the juvenile cases, they started seeing the rest of us. As I continued to wait for my turn, I noticed that some of the other people were starting to talk to each other about their offenses which made the waiting process MUCH more entertaining as I'm sure you can imagine.

I really hate to paint all of these east Texans with the same brush, but sometimes, it is really hard not to. Probably 70% of the people I waited in court with last night fit many of the same descriptions: mullets, incomplete sets of teeth, dirty clothes, smelling of cigarette smoke, speaking with improper grammar...it was really sad. I realized that the time spent changing out of the clean jeans that I had worn to work earlier in the day was a total waste. What made things interesting was that I observed that the more serious the offenses of these people were, the more willing they were to talk about them...loudly and in great detail.

Most of what I heard were people swapping stories of driver's license suspensions and being busted driving with no insurance. The sad thing is that most of these people had several citations of the same thing piled on. One gentleman behind me was married and with two kids. He couldn't have been more than 23 or 24 but had already had his license suspended 9 times in his life. That's more than one suspension per year! It started getting REAL interesting when he and the woman in front of me were discussing which of the 3 county jails in the area were the nicest. For your information, Gregg County is the best based on the toilet facilities as well as the fact that you are permitted to smoke there.

As you can imagine, one could get incredibly wrapped up in listening to all of these conversations. Despite that, I was more than ready to go at about 7:20ish when it was my turn to meet with the prosecutor. The bailiff led me out of a side door into a hallway where the prosecutor, a well dressed (thank God!) woman in her 30's, was sitting behind a card table with some paperwork and a computer. Classy. Again, I don't know what I expected but a card table in a hallway was not it. She explained what my options were. If I wanted to fight the ticket, I would not get a court date until late in December after Leni and I would already have moved to New Mexico. So instead I opted for deferred adjudication. I still have to pay the ticket but as long as I do not receive any more citations in the city of Kilgore within 90 days, they will not report it to insurance. Fair enough.

So that was my experience. Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't wish night court on anyone, but it could have been much worse. I leave you now with a picture of the cast from the popular sitcom from the 80's and 90's, Night Court. If you aren't familiar, you should definitely Netflix it.

18 days until Leni graduates

Keep It Real!

1 comment:

  1. How many times have you been on deferred adjudication? Like 5?