It’s always nice to have a victory when going up against the system. Today I had one of those victories.
Early last November, I was heading back from Logan Airport after having spent the day in NYC on a business trip. One of my co-workers needed a ride back to his place in the North End and I happily obliged. Now, if you’ve driven around Boston over the past few years, you’ll most certainly know that the Big Dig has been making the lives of Boston drivers very interesting. It seems that every few weeks there are new tunnels, new exits, closed exits, etc. If you drive infrequently like I do (I commute to the city via boat), routes seem to change every time you drive.
So, I’m driving back from Logan, and lo and behold, my “usual” route from the airport no longer exists – I now get to use the Ted Williams Tunnel instead of the old Callahan Tunnel. Fine, I enter the Williams Tunnel and start trying to figure out which exit I need to take to get to the North End. No sooner do I see my exit than I drive right past it. OK, no problem. I’ll just take the Storrow Drive exit and use back roads to get to the North End.
The Storrow Drive exit is fairly short, with a stop sign at the end, and it curves rather tightly. It’s not the sort of exit ramp where you can drive quickly. In fact, the speed on the ramp is 25 MPH and it’s not possible to go much faster. I’m not really sure where I’m going, and while trying to figure out where I need to go Im not paying close attention to my speed. I come to the stop and make a left turn, only to see the flashing blue lights of an unmarked State Troopers car in my rear view mirror. I get pulled over and I’m told that I was driving almost 45 MPH on a 25 MPH off ramp! Hmmm, I don’t drive *that* quickly, but OK. The officer comes back and tells me that he’ll reduce it to 35 in a 25, which is still a $100 fine plus points on my insurance. Yikes.
If you’re like me, you have better things to do with your limited free time than spend it in a court room. Still, several of my coworkers convinced me that it’s always a good idea to spend the hour or so fighting the ticket. The worst that can happen is that you’ll just wind up paying the original fine, and you waste an hour or so in court. Against my better judgment, I decide to plead not guilty and go to court.
A month goes by with no word from the Massachusetts court. Finally in late December I get a notice telling me to report to the court in Post Office Square, right around the corner from where I work downtown. Very convenient. I start to think about what I will say in court. Will I simply lie and say that I was not speeding? Will I make up a story that I had my kids in the back seat and that I never speed when I’m driving the children? Or, will I simply tell the truth – that I may have been going over 25 MPH, but most certainly not 35 (let alone 45).
A few more weeks go by, and it’s court day. I walk over a bit early, hoping that I can see a few other people plead innocent before it’s my turn. No such luck – the court room is empty. I sit down and play some Tetris on my cell phone. A few more people arrive, and it’s finally time. In walks the Magistrate (i.e. a clerk) and a state trooper. We’re sworn in and then the Magistrate explains what’s about to happen.
I was under the (mistaken) impression that if the trooper that wrote the ticket does not appear, you automatically get off. Well, it doesn’t work that way. We were told by the Magistrate that the trooper is there to represent the troopers that wrote the tickets. If we did not accept that, we were free to appeal (at a cost of $20) and come back at a later date to see a judge. So much for the easy out. I’m going to have to go up and present my case. By this time I’ve decided to take the high road and admit my guilt (hell, I *was* going too fast), but state that I was not going 35. The trooper had not used radar but had instead estimated my speed while he was parked on the side of the road. This was a good thing, as the ticket became much more subjective – his word against mine.
The first guy goes up, dressed in jeans and a sweat shirt (I’m in a brand new suit, btw). 74 in a 40. His excuse my wife was in the car with me and she distracted me by talking too much. The female Magistrate is not taken in by his story and in fact looks a bit pissed off, and even cuts him off. She offers to reduce his fine to $200. He accepts. A total of 2 minutes from start to end.
That was pretty easy!
A woman gets called, and we find out that she had hit a jersey barrier, swerved into a car, and swerved again into another car. They won’t even reduce her fine as she was the cause of a multicar accident. She decides to appeal and is given another court date, this time in front of a Judge. Again, shes finished in 3-4 minutes.
After a few more people I get called (Mr. Jär-nŏt). I sit down, the trooper reads my offense to the court, and I tell the Magistrate that I admit I may have gone faster than 25, but not 35. There was no way with the stop sign, curve, etc. She stops me there, and tells me that due to my clean record the fines would be dropped. She writes something and hands me a copy. Not responsible! $0 fine, no points on my insurance. Success!
Im out of the court by 3:15, only fifteen minutes after the session started. Well worth the time.