Jay Allen Sanford 12:58 a.m., May 21
Central Division Traffic Court: 40,000 per Month
Today’s visit to Traffic Court B was brief, but productive. This courtroom handles first appearances on tickets. No police are present here to contest the ticket with, just the judge. Plead guilty or ask for a future trial. The bailiff starts with a lengthy discourse regarding the processes and procedures. Listen-up. “Phones off. OFF. I mean it. Or I take ‘em”, he says. “Sit here when called. Squeeze in.” The judge arrives and tells everyone, “Plead guilty right here and the fine will be reduced. If you’re eligible for traffic school, I’ll grant it.” “If you plead not guilty, a trial will be scheduled in 45-days. If you lose, the fine will not be reduced; it might go up. You will not go to traffic school and your license may be suspended. A trial isn’t risk-free,” he advises before continuing with the first case. First up, a lawyer presents on behalf of a bedridden client and a continuance is readily granted. The judge takes a break and gives more advice from the bench: “If you are on the freeway and exceeding the speed limit, it doesn’t matter if you were keeping with the flow of traffic. That’s not a defense. You’re guilty.” Regarding cell-phone use: “If it was in your hand, you’re guilty. No defense.” For red light photos: “If you have the pictures, I want to see them. And we know the fines are high. They’re set by the legislature. Pay them in 90 days or be subject to late fees and a license suspension.” Then, a woman needing a Spanish translator is up for driving on the right shoulder and use of a cell phone while driving. She pleads guilty to the phone and the other violation is dismissed. Fine is $120. No reductions will be given for phones. He also lets the court know, “Phones may become a violation with points and the fine will be higher. The bill is waiting for the governor’s signature.” A red light photo violator pleads guilty. The judge knows the location well. Defendant is given traffic school with a fine of $325. Next, a speeder comes up and pleads guilty. He can’t take traffic school because of two other recent enrollments. Fined $275. Another speeder pleads guilty, gets traffic school and a $350 fine. Fishing without a license #1 shows a license he bought 30 minutes after the ticket. Not good enough. Gets a $250 fine. Cell-phone driver pleads guilty for a $120 fine. Fishing without a license #2 pleads guilty for another $250 fine. No trolley fare #1 pleads guilty for a $75 fine. No insurance and cell-phone use. Provides proof of insurance and not guilty on the phone. Trial scheduled in 45 days. A seat belt violator pleads guilty for a $250 fine. A sign violation, cell phone and no insurance. Provides proof of insurance. The moving violation is dismissed. Fined $120 for the phone use. Cell phone use and another violation I didn’t hear. Judge says the latter wasn’t submitted in a timely manner by the officer so it’s dismissed. Fined $120 for the phone. Trolley fare #2 pleads guilty. Also gets a $75 fine. A right of way violator pleads guilty. Gets traffic school and has to pay $150. Judge asks if he’s a student, works, is under 21 or has a hardship. None apply. Sign violator pleads guilty, gets traffic school and a $275 fine. No registration, no license and speeding. First two cleared. Will take his chances going to court on the speeding. Loud muffler and modification of smog equipment. Muffler is fixed. Guilty plea on the smog charge and takes a $450 fine. A speeder clocked at 85 mph claims his speedometer is broken; off by 20 mph. Judge laughs at his excuse, tells him he’s seen dozens like him. If he’s guilty at a trial, he’ll get a six-month license suspension. Traffic school is initially denied for three other recent speeding tickets. He finally pleads guilty and is given the 12-hour classroom traffic school. Didn’t catch what his fine was. Another speeder pleads guilty. Can’t attend traffic school by 3-days. Judge relents and lets him go anyway and fines him $250. One more speeder pleads guilty to a higher speed and gets traffic school with a $300 fine. No insurance. Provides proof and the violation is dismissed. That was all in just 30 minutes, but with another 200 people waiting to see the judge, the routine will go on for the whole day. According to a Sergeant in the lobby, the court house processes about 40,000 tickets a month.