Robert Bush 11:18 p.m., May 25
Central Division Traffic Court: Traffic School and a Pedi Cab
Thursday April 29, 2011 The traffic court auditorium is segregated - peace officers on the right side, defendants on the left. This afternoon there are about 30 officers, some in uniform and others in suit and tie. More than twice that number of citizens are here to fight their traffic ticket, but the capacity is much higher. Two guys are noticed wearing their Navy BDU’s. One by one, numbers are called and defendants move up to the podiums at the front of the courtroom; the defendant goes on the left and officer on the right. The first case is for driving 25 mph over the speed limit. The fine is established at $528. The officer, on the judge’s request, agrees to permit the defendant to attend traffic school with an additional fee of $52. Next is another speeding ticket for exceeding the 65mph speed limit. This fine is reduced by $100 to $308 for a guilty plea. Traffic school is granted.Traffic school when permitted, removes violation points reducing implications for increased insurance rates and possible license suspension. An elderly driver is given a break on his red light camera ticket, but still want’s to address to the court and continues until stopped by a bailiff. The judge tells him, “This is not a forum on political views regarding statues,” and offers him time to speak his mind at the end of the docket. Two more guilty pleas come up for sign violations. The fines are both $238 along with traffic school. Another case is presented for driving 90mph. The driver is fined $568 and is given traffic school. One more speeder follows, but I can’t hear the details except he’s fined $528. Several motions to dismiss are heard and granted. The defendants leave smiling. One individual pleads guilty to jaywalking and has his fine reduced to $100. The judge notes a couple ‘failure to appear’ on the docket, assesses $300 civil assessments and moves on. One more speeder is fined $408 and is permitted to complete traffic school. A driver pleads guilty to a red light camera violation, is fined $536 and given traffic school. The next case is for the same violation, but is dismissed for lack of evidence. A woman, with an attorney, steps up for a ‘pedestrian interfering in the way of an emergency vehicle’ violation. It’s explained by the attorney that she hasn’t been in the country for long and didn’t understand she was in the wrong. The judge and ticketing officer agree she deserves a $100 reduction in her original fine of $480. Then another speeder is fined $271 for a guilty plea and permitted to attend traffic school. Several cases change courtrooms to be held as trials by another judge and I follow along. The first is a Pedi cab driver requiring a Turkish interpreter. The ticketing officer, in a suit and tie, notes he has been on SDPD for 15 years then presents his case. Downtown at 11:10 p.m. while stopped at a light in an unmarked car, along side of him comes a Pedi cab with two passengers. In his plain view, he can see the passengers are not wearing seat belts. Leaving the traffic light, one of the passengers stands up and places his arms above his shoulders. When safe, a traffic stop is made and the officer requests the driver’s operation permit, insurance, drivers’ license and tax certificate. He cannot provide the last two items. Because the license is a new requirement, he is only given a ticket for not having the tax certificate and the witnessed seatbelt violation, both municipal codes. The defendant, a wild haired 20-something, says he drives the Pedi cab because it’s a fun job that pays him well. He tells the court through the interpreter that his passengers were military members having a good time. He said that he personally belted them in as he always does. In fact, he teaches other new Pedi cab drivers to do the same. Once on this particular trip he stopped the bike and advised his passengers to belt themselves again. He also recounted that his passengers admitted their guilt telling the officer that the driver was innocent. Able to provide the missing documents, the judge rules on reduced fines of $75 for each of the two counts, down from a potential total of $900. Before the defendant left the courtroom with his interpreter, he shook hands and thanked the officer. The next case was also downtown and late night, for a ticket written by the same officer, this time for a left turn from the right lane. The officer provided a diagram to indicate the street layout and movement of the defendant’s car. The defendant attempted to make his case with a printed Google map of the intersection. The officer managed to use that against him. Discussions continued regarding the maps before the judge heard enough and she found the defendant guilty of a moving violation, fining him $231. Because she heard he was polite and respectful to the ticketing officer, she waived the $52 traffic school fee. Last up, an officer reported seeing a yellow motorcyclist moving past his marked SDPD vehicle at a high rate of speed as he traveled west on I-8 onto the 805S interchange. The traffic officer with over five-years experience said the biker canted the machine to a noticeable degree while on the ramp, indicating high-speed movement. Continuing to follow the biker, the officer noted his speed was 80mph while the biker continued to accelerate away and was now weaving through traffic. The officer provided the judge with a record of his speedometer calibration. He did not use radar, but paced the driver for an acceptable distance until he was able to make a traffic stop. The defendant reiterated the officer’s testimony, questioning when he was seen, how long he was followed, at what distance. He attempted to cast doubt on everything the officer just said. He told the judge he didn’t believe it was possible to have his speed clocked or estimated while merging. He maintained his speed never exceeded 65mph. The judge charged him as guilty and assessed a $375 fine. She also asked the officer if the defendant’s demeanor was polite and respectful during the stop. The officer affirmed this so judge offered traffic school. The motorcyclist however declined the offer as he recently completed a course.