One morning back in June a police officer stopped me, said I hadn't stopped "long enough" at a stop sign (he didn't say I ran it), and gave me a ticket. He also told me that he was being ultra-picky because there had been complaints in the neighborhood, he didn't think highly of his current assignment, and if I were to plead "not guilty" he wouldn't show up in traffic court unless specifically ordered to. O...kay. Not how I particularly wanted to spend a couple hours, but my unblemished record and exaggerated fees were at stake, so I did that. (Traffic tickets are kind of like phone bills, apparently -- $20 or so base cost plus $100 or more in fees...)
My hearing was this morning and, as expected, was successful. Most hearings took about a minute: the clerk tells the judge what the charge is, the judge says "talk to me" after swearing you in, you tell your story, and he either says "ok" or "no" and sends you on your way. I didn't say anything about what the officer had told me, of course; I merely said (honestly) that I had stopped, that the officer had an obstructed view (he was on a narrow side street behind another car, with buildings going almost to the street), and that I've never had a moving violation in (mumble) years of driving. That was sufficient.
What was interesting were the cases that weren't so straightforward. These were generally the ones that people brought lawyers for. These included:
A charge of driving on a suspended license. There was a quiet, heated exchange, and after the judge ruled the defendant guilty I heard his lawyer say "I need to talk to you right now". Sounds like somebody wasn't completely straight with his counsel...
A charge of an illegal turn (admitted) with an add-on of reckless endangerment. The lawyer argued that the latter requires intent and this wasn't intentional; the defendant hadn't seen the sign -- and also, this would carry six points. The judge asked the police officer if he was ok with that, there was a huddle, and the officer agreed.
Aside: that police officer stayed there for three cases in a row all at that same intersection. I couldn't tell if they were on the same day, but I assume so. (Locals: a no-left-turn sign at the five-way intersection on Blvd of the Allies.)
One defendant said it was his car but he wasn't the driver. The officer said something like "I always process these the same day; either he has a twin out there or it was him". The judge asked him how confident he was on a scale of 1-10; he said 8. Guilty. (I have no idea what "process" means here.) Since no mention was made of a driver's license having been shown, I suspect this was a case where the driver didn't stop and the ticket was issued based on the plates.
One defendant was initially stopped for an expired inspection sticker, which led to the discovery that he was driving on a suspended license. The defendant said he had borrowed the car from a friend and who thinks to check the stickers? (I can sympathize for that part, though not the suspended-license part.) The police officer took a hard line with him, saying that it's his responsibility as a driver to check these things. There was then a discussion I couldn't hear, and I think he was found guilty on all counts. (Aside: how can they even read those stickers on moving cars? They're not big. Are they relying on cameras with zoom or something?)
A feeble, elderly man who, on being asked how he pled, launched into a long, fairly-incoherent babble about how he's a good driver and not like those reckless kids and blah blah blah, and he's 93 years old and knows how to drive -- and never actually answered the question or said what happened during his traffic stop. The judge just said "ok" and sent him away. Were I that guy, I might have considered paying the ticket by mail even if I wasn't guilty, because the alternative might risk too much scrutiny -- though, demonstrably, his approach can work.