Last night was the showdown, the State of Texas vs. Robert Guest. Allegedly, I was speeding through some godforsaken town on I-45. The citizens of this horrible city have decided to forsake gainful enterprise and instead steal money from commuters. Theft, not industry or commerce, that’s their tax base. To that end, the city has unleashed an army of rabid officers to prey upon, and cite with reckless abandon, the driving public.
As I have blogged before, the whole muni court process is about stealing your money and inducing massive give up among defendants. Tickets have nothing to do with justice, little even to do with public safety. Instead, cops act as tax agents and harass hard working otherwise law abiding commuters, like me.
Really, should speeding a few miles over the limit be a criminal offense? If so, should it require a $200 donation to some municipality? Who set that amount? That’s not justice, that’s extortion.
Muni courts know that commuters have jobs, and lives. So they try and maximize time waste in order to make defendants beg for mercy and hand over their hard earned cash.
My first court appearance-
I received the ticket and decided to call the court and ask for deferred adjudication. I’m busy. I don’t have time to waste on a traffic ticket. I’m told that to get deferred I have to appear in person.
So I show up at court for a “pre trial” hearing, and expect to work this out with the prosecutor/city attorney. (City attorneys prosecute in muni court. Most small towns farm this work out to Dallas firms. Blog idea- I should get the contract between the city and city attorney and see if there are any incentives to maximize revenue.)
Only the city attorney isn’t there. That’s right. The city has no lawyer present to dispense justice at this “hearing.” Instead, plea bargains are to be struck with court personnel and/or the judge herself. Practicing law without a license is still a crime in this state. And I can’t see how one can plea bargain a case and not be practicing law. But I digress.
My court helper decides I can’t have deferred because, allegedly, I was going too fast. One hour of my life wasted, never to return. So I ask if I can call the city attorney and work this out. I was informed that I can not have the city attorney’s name or number.
So I set the case for jury trial which was supposed to be last night. 20 something defendants appeared and we finally met the elusive city attorney. Mr. City Attorney informed us that a) if our cop didn’t show up our case was dismissed and b) if your case isn’t dismissed you will have a trial that night. And, by the way, last time we had trials until 1am so if you really want a jury trial you’ll have to sit around for another 6 hours.
But….. if you want to discuss a plea bargain he has 15 minutes to talk before the jury gets here. Nice. The old “your money, or (6 hours of) your life” routine.
Ok. I’ll play along. I speak with Mr. City Attorney and show him some case law that shows his case is FUBAR. No gray area here. What I provide is 100% on point, from our State’s highest criminal court. I win, you lose, game over.
His reply. “That’s an appellate issue. Our judge will let the evidence in. But if you want to plea I’ll offer you deferred and lower the fine.”
So my options are-
1. Appeal the case, make another appearance in a county court and then get the case dismissed;
2. Have my trial, see if the judge really does ignore the law and appeal if I lose,
3. Pay this reduced fine, take deferred, and leave.
The opportunity costs of fighting this ticket are reaching epic proportions. I kiss the ring, pay my fine, and plead no contest to a very beatable case. Just another day in muni court.
Muni Court 1, Robbie 0.