A traffic court story follows. In March 2010, I received a ticket that the officer should not have issued. Yesterday made my fourth day spent in the perfectly delightful DeKalb County GA traffic court environment, which is next to the jail. I believe it is an annex of the jail, in fact the traffic violator who was brought up just before me was dragging chains and wearing orange.
There were a few hundred people stuffed into that room. They said there were a hundred people somewhere below in the bowels of the building. The judge said this would take all day. Nobody explained anything. People were getting $1,000 fines, they were getting their driver's licenses taken away, they were being placed on probation, there was talk of jail time. Nobody during the first four hours was getting their ticket dismissed. We were made to stand in line against the courtroom wall for hours at a time. There was no oxygen and often no a/c, sometimes a little, and it was high 80s or 90 yesterday. I was like Private Benjamin when she reported to boot camp: this isn't the traffic court I joined.
If you recall, my Honda Fit (with previously not a mark on it) got rear-ended as I waited to enter a surface street from an expressway exit lane. It took an hour and a half for an officer to show up. He didn't answer me when he finally arrived and I said I wanted an accident report. He spent the next 45 minutes arresting the other guy, handcuffs, put him in police car, called a tow truck, towed off his car. Why? Who knows, the officer never spoke to me. Two and a half hours into it, he gave me a citation for failing to clear the roadway. I had cleared the roadway. I had to ask him again for the accident report, the whole purpose of the call. He reluctantly gave me the information. I should have filed a complaint against him but wanted to plead not guilty so was afraid to.
So four traffic court days, and four hours into the fourth day yesterday, they said they were breaking for lunch and we should come back at 2:00 and the judge, overflowing with good will, said he was going to lock the door right at 2:00. The merry little band of security officers downstairs who put you through the detector won't let anybody in until 2:00pm. You do the math. I love threats.
They told everybody to get in line against the wall again to see the clerk. Trust me, nobody knows what is going on throughout this whole thing. I thought maybe this was a fresh group of people who were signing in for the first time (because they mentioned they had another hundred people downstairs waiting for their opportunity to suffer in the courtroom) and that I had gotten caught in an endless loop.
Standing in line, I finally started crying. Crying throughout, I told the clerk "I have already done this". Turns out the purpose of the line was to get a voucher for parking so we wouldn't have to pay twice. I fully expected that we would have to pay twice judging by how we were being treated. Still crying, I said to the security guy who was standing next to the clerk and the judge, "I have been down here four different days about this and still haven't talked to anybody about it" and he said, "I know, I remember you" lol.
I walked out crying into the 90 degree blazing sun and walked to the parking lot. Back again at 2. People were finally so angry that they were grumbling and mumbling at the high penalties imposed; they were cheering at the few dismissals. Security Guy kept admonishing us that court was in session. But people were ready to blow and I was hoping for a revolt because citizens should not be treated this way. I sat there with my head between my knees in complete desperation (the wooden pew had begun to hurt my back; I am sixty years old after all) until 3.
After the traffic violator who was already in jail made his appearance and left again still in chains and his fashionable orange, the judge said "Moe? Mow?" and I knew it was time for Mowery to go up there. Turns out the cop had not showed up for the morning session. He had not shown up for the second session in October 2010, either, apparently. He finally showed when they called him for the third time that afternoon. Why was he scarce? Because he knew he shouldn't have issued that ticket.
He mumbled out the complaint from the computer screen while I held on to each side of the podium, sick and dizzy and wondering how I was going to get through this. Stuff like this scares me and I was so angry. I still hadn't decided whether I was going to ask the officer the questions I had hurriedly written out earlier, which you could do or skip, and then the judge asks you what happened. I only knew this by observing the hundreds of earlier sufferers. The officer said, "judge, honestly, I don't remember this case", the judge looked at me and said, "dismissed". I looked at Security Guy, who gave me a high five. This morning, I wrote a letter to the editor for the first time in my life.
P.S. The officer had not forgotten the case. I was the one who started screaming at top volume when he gave me the citation. I love how Atlanta treats its women.