How hilariously law-abiding is my life that I now think I’m a total badass because I’ve been to COURT?
Ridiculous or not, I am very excited that I have been through the courtroom process and that I pled guilty to a crime (okay, a violation) and I got to address a judge as “your honour” and everything.
I arrived at the courthouse at 9:15. There were many people milling about, waiting for their own trials to begin. I was very pleased to note that I was the only one wearing sequins, but I did see a dapper older gentleman in a fedora and a girl wearing a feather boa and stripper heels. I wasn’t worried about the competition, though – if it came down to sheer fabulosity, I would win by virtue of not wearing brown lipstick alone.
Various police officers were standing around looking official. While I technically should have hoped my own personal officer wouldn’t show up, I was glad to see she did – this way, I would get the whole experience. Each cop is supposed to talk to their arrestee to learn their intentions before approaching the court, so she took me aside to talk in the corner.
She got straight to the point. “Are you intending to plead guilty today?” I thought for a second, then explained why I was here: she entrapmented me! I was pulled over on that fateful night some 16 months ago because of the “illegal” turn I made, but my ticket was issued for the tinted windows (which were no longer tinted). Entrapment isn’t right, so I was here to fight for great justice (take off every zig) and my rights as a Canadian citizen! I erred on the side of caution and didn’t blurt out that I really was here because this was totally awesome – I ‘ve never had an excuse to appear in court before and I didn’t necessarily want to break laws for my chance so I was going to milk this experience for all it was worth.
The cop explained that she was actually doing me a favour by giving me the tinted window ticket – the fine for breaking a posted traffic law was greater, and given that I was clearly an Upstanding Citizen (she actually said that – twice – you heard it here folks; Delicious Juice Dot Com is an Upstanding Citizen) with an exemplary driving record, she hated ticketing me at all. She wasn’t going to argue with the judge; she would accept whatever he or she decided – but if I plead guilty, she would introduce my Upstanding Citizeness and perfect driving record to the court, and that plus the fact that the windows were now clear would probably get me a reduced fine.
I decided that I would do the smart thing here and plead guilty. There wasn’t much I could do about it – the ticket said “tinted windows”, the rest of the situation was heresy, and let’s face it – my windows WERE tinted. Also, not paying the $109 fine sounded like a good idea to me. Perhaps at some point in the future I could go through a real trial and present witnesses and evidence and shocking twists, but in the interest of my wallet, I decided to cave. Deep down I really wanted to plead not guilty just to see what would happen, but this didn’t seem like the place to do that. Next time, though, I will totally do it: I’ve never seen a holding cell, or worn handcuffs and clothes at the same time.
A little after 9:30, we were ushered into our various courtrooms. I had never seen a courtroom outside of TV before, so I was amused to note that this one appeared to have been built and decorated sometime in the Beige Era of the 70’s. The judge was seated already, and while he wasn’t wearing a powdered wig, his fancy judge cape had some lovely green satin piping. I don’t know what that means in judge ranks, but it was pretty fancy. I bet he was at least a level 3 judge. He took attendance of the cops present, and dismissed the charges against anyone who had a ticket issued by a cop who didn’t show up. He then called the first policeman to the stand, and asked him to present his first case.
The cop called up some guy who was prepared with an envelope full of paperwork. Judge Spiff wasn’t having any of it though, and told the man he wouldn’t be needing his carefully prepared documents. He seemed a little disappointed, and I totally knew that feeling. The judge read the charge – speeding – and asked the guy for his plea. After pleading guilty, he was given an opportunity to explain himself (or as it went in my head, the part where he is allowed to throw himself at the mercy of the court). It seems it was the day after this man’s wedding, and while he knows he shouldn’t have been speeding, his mind was elsewhere with excitement and it won’t happen again. The judge accepted his plea, reduced his fine to the mandatory minimum, and dismissed him from the courtroom.
Next up was Junior McArgyle. He was there on two counts: speeding, and the failure to display the province mandatory “N” for new drivers. He had a long boring story to tell that boiled down to pleading guilty for speeding, and not guilty on the N count (it fell off, he says). The judge asked him his financial situation and how his fines would affect his life. Junior McArgyle was a student who lived at home, and didn’t have much money so the judge gave him six months to pay his reduced fines, then sent him on his way. Another verdict for Judge Spiff!
While Junior was talking, someone came into the courtroom. A very confused young man came in and stood at the back of the room during the session, and after Junior was dismissed the Judge asked Flat Brim Ron for his name. He gave it three times, as the Judge was unable to find him on his docket. It came to pass that Flat Brim Ron wasn’t actually there for himself, he was there for a friend – a friend whose name he had wrong, and needed to be corrected by the judge. After it was determined that his friend’s name was Johnson (not Jones) and he was there in his place, he was asked to give his name. The instant he did, the cop looked at him very sharply and very closely – I really, really wish I knew what was up with that, but there was some definite recognition and a story in there somewhere.
Flat Brim Ron’s case took longer than most, because he had absolutely no idea what was going on. He wasn’t really sure why his friend got the ticket, or what he wanted to plea, or why he wasn’t able to be in the courtroom himself. He shook his head blankly at every question asked, and as the cop was giving the judge the details – Flat Brim Ron’s cell phone rang. Judge Spiff was less than impressed by the entire situation: that Johnson hadn’t shown up, hadn’t given his friend any information, hadn’t tried to arrange something else with the court, hadn’t just paid the fine, hadn’t told FBR not to dress like a complete douche bag who didn’t have the sense (or read the signs telling him) to turn off his phone in the courtroom, and hadn’t taken responsibility for whatever it is he did. FBR eventually muttered something about wanting a later court date, to which the cop protested – Johnson had ample time to deal with this as the ticket was over 18 months old, and it was stupid to drag this out any longer. Judge Spiff agreed, and the request for continuance was DENIED. Johnson was on the hook for the entire fine, Flat Brim Ron could go away now, and it was time for the next case.
A few more cases came and went, including one that required the use of a translator (put off until the cop had a chance to talk to the defendant) and one that went to actual trial because of the Not Guilty plea (Judge wanted to hear the whole story in greater detail). After those were set aside and others dismissed, it was MY TURN!
My name was called, and I took my place at the podium with my cop to my left. The judge asked if I was the person I was supposed to be, to which I answered “Yes, your honour” and bit my tongue to keep from giggling. He read my crime – I had done a 7.05 (7) – and asked how was I to plea?
I took a breath and announced that I would be pleading guilty. I felt a pang of shame as I said this, because I didn’t WANT to be guilty – hell, it wasn’t my car and I didn’t tint the stupid windows and also there was entrapment – but I knew it made the most legal sense. The judge noted that the car was not mine, and I admitted that it was actually Ed’s. The cop spoke up at this point, to introduce my exemplary record to the court and explain that I was an Upstanding Citizen with no prior offenses and that she was asking for leniency on my behalf. Sweet! The judge looked over the ticket, then asked about my financial situation. I hadn’t expected this, and I stumbled for a few seconds before giving the lame answer of “umm .. regular?” with a helpless giggle. I didn’t know how to say it: I have a job, it doesn’t pay very many chickens, I work in IT so what do you expect, I only look rich because I am wearing sequins, I spent my last $4.25 parking the car to get here – so I went with a description that could be used to describe, among other things, bowel movements and menstrual flow. The judge seemed confused by my answer, repeating it back to me. He then announced that the court accepted my guilty plea and acknowledged my Upstanding Citizenship, would therefore reduce my fine from $109 to $25, and how would I like to handle it? I chose to pay the fine immediately, so the judge dismissed me from the courtroom and told me to go downstairs to pay. I thanked his honour, gathered my things, and left the room.
SUCCESS, SORT OF!
Now to pay my fine. I trundled downstairs, stopping to take some pictures. I quickly noticed the large sign saying that any cameras or recording devices were strictly forbidden, so I stuffed my camera in my bag and went looking for the cashier. I found it – after accidentally finding myself in the Small Claims line – and handed over my debit card to pay up the $25. I saw a lanky teen with another flat brim being handcuffed, several other people paying their fines, and lots of sheriffs standing around looking official, but I was done quickly and with half an hour to spare.
Since I *was* done so early (I put two hours on the parking meter; I wasn’t sure how long this thing would take) and I had sort of won my case (if you consider a guilty plea and still having to pay a win) AND I happened to be directly across the street from a MAC store that launched the HK line two days early .. well, I bought myself a treat by way of congratulating myself for only spending $25 on my crime instead of $109. Hey, I earned it. I fought the LAW today, and if that doesn’t call for celebratory lip gloss, I just don’t know what does.