Jun 17, 2014

Pass GO - Collect $221 Dollars

It was that easy.  Well not really. It all started the afternoon of April 5th when a Doraville Police Officer with Badge #1118 gave me a ticket for going 76 MPH in a 55 MPH Zone.  Yikes ! ! ! 

I had no excuse, maybe I was day-dreaming or maybe it was all the cars racing as they merge onto 141 Peachtree Industrial from 285 - always makes me a bit nervous and or yeah maybe it was the slight downhill section of the highway right at the point where the officer was stationed with his laser radar device. 

When I pulled over and finally stopped the car I think the officer was mad  because I exited off the Winters Chapel and drove into the parking lot of a package store so I could be "safely out of the way". He had to follow me with the lights flashing a tiny bit longer than what he'd planned.  

So at the appointed time today I went to the Doraville Traffic Court, coincidentally about 5 minutes from where I live. I am glad I read the back of the citation, specifically the "Proper Attire" section. I was going to wear shorts, it is summer and hot in Atlanta in June.  

I saw 2 men turned away from the court entrance because they were wearing shorts.  Certainly it wasn't a problem for the ladies who had the "mini"mini skirt and "mini" mini dress on, or the two ladies with backless halter tops with their body parts screaming get me out, that attire was OK.  Interesting that the boring cargo shorts the guys were wearing were not "proper".  

I got there at 10am. I was told by the officer who checked me at security to go to courtroom 3 and get in line.  There were 20 to 25 people ahead of me, we stood in line to get the official PLEA document that we had to complete and present to the judge.  

Somehow the court system has the process and capacity figured out just right, by exactly 11am, courtroom 3 was full.  There were 94 metal chairs, 47 on each side of the room and about 80% of them were occupied.  A man in a beige uniform with a gun kept everyone informed, moving through the line, seated and mostly calm.  

The room was a cross section of all demographics: age, gender, race, color, economic status, personalities, attire. Some people came with attorneys. Some with friends, relatives, some with children. One Mom had a tornado of kinder care around her, she brought in tow 3 small children, approximate ages 2, 4, 7. One had a toy, one had a book and one a blanket and they were all over. They were not loud, but the children could not be still.  The man in the beige uniform quickly got the MOM out of line and asked her to sit right up front and he passed her the PLEA form. 

At 11am the man in the beige uniform closed the back door to the room and the judge came in and took his seat at the bench.  I'd asked 3 court employees, what determined the order by which the citations are taken care of, no one could tell me. I had no idea how long I would be waiting for my name to be called. Someone did clarify that citations were not handled in alphabetical order.  

The judge spoke briefly, he seemed annoyed and whatever he was saying, I was in the 2nd row from the back and could not hear him. After speaking for 3 or 4 minutes, the name Milton Garcia was called, he was first. 

Milton walked up to the front of the room through the tiny wooden door that swings towards the bench where the judge is seated. The man in the beige uniform took the plea document, reviewed, while the judge asked and answered questions from Milton.  The whole transaction took about 4 minutes, I started doing the math. 70 or 80 citations X 4 or 5 minutes, this could take some time. 

I was surprised to hear my name called 4th.  I was actually surprised and delighted.  The judge asked me if I had questions, I did. He answered in great detail.  He confirmed that I could pay the fine today and by 11:10am I was out of courtroom 3, headed to the payment window. 

The payment transaction took 20 minutes, only one person taking payments and three courtrooms proceedings going on at the same time. I paid, got my receipt and it was all over by 11:30am.  

For going 21 MPH over the speed limit, the fine $221. My plea: NOLO CONTENDERE. 

The lesson for today and certainly since April 5th - pay attention.  

Driving is one of my least favorite things to do, I certainly can't be day dreaming while driving and acquire any additional traffic citations.