What I Learned on My Trip to Traffic Court – It Was Amusing at First, and Then Turned Expensive

by Kent Sterling

imagesAn unmarked cop waited for some poor boob to fail to come to a complete stop at a three-way stop in a traffic-free neighborhood.

Enter Kent Sterling, willing boob who tends to check for traffic without acknowledging the need for the wheels to stop rolling.  By my own reckoning, I’m a very safe driver.  That policeman’s opinion differed, and he wrote me a ticket.

My appointment in traffic court came today, and I dusted of my fancy blue suit to look like a responsible guy.  For the portion of the show where other offenders admitted their guilt and offered an absurd array of excuses that seemed to sway the judge, I had a fine time.  I never laughed out loud, but came dangerously close.

There was one kid who got caught doing 61 mph in a 30 mph zone, and several people who all seemed to go 42 mph in a school zone.

For the minors, parents were required to show up, and the kid who did 61 in a 30 even packed his great grandmother for the show.  The mother explained that her son was on his way to fulfill his responsibility of taking care of great grandma.  When she found out that the kid got a ticket, she took away the car “for up to at least two-to-three weeks.”

The judge was moved by this unsure, vague, and nonsensical explanation of punishment, and fined the kid a pittance.

One lady who just moved from East Chicago, and was driving with a suspended license when she was pulled over for two different moving violations was given the choice of getting her license back and paying a light fine, or paying a heavier fine.  She had recently been ticketed for driving without insurance as well.  Her excuse?  Because she has no license, she was unable to update her current address in the Bureau of Motor Vehicles database and the mail describing her problems was not correctly delivered.

She told the judge she would try to get a permit.  What that meant, as she appeared much older than a learner’s permit candidate, is anyone’s guess, but she earned a light fine.

Another guy, was pulled over for running a stop sign at a railroad crossing and then earned a second ticket in the same stop by running a stop light before the cop caught up to him.  He was very quiet in his explanation, but the judge was moved.  Total fine and court costs totaled $200.

Then, it was my turn.  The judge looked at my driving record which features roughly one moving violation for every two years, which I believe to be outstanding.  Judging from his expression, he did not share my opinion.

I decided while listening to all the tales of woe from kids, parents, people to busy to get a license, and a guy who missed his last hearing in traffic court, that I would just cop to my offense without excuse or ludicrous explanation.

Here’s how it went:

Judge – Mr. Sterling, you were cited for running a stop sign.  Do you want to admit the violation?

Me – Yes.

Judge – What happened?

Me – I missed it.  Went right through.

Judge – Went right through?

Me – Yes.

Judge – Mr. Sterling, do you know how many violations you have had during the last decade?

(I could see the sheet he was looking at, and was able to count six)

Me – I would guess between four and six.

Judge – This in addition to the previous six would make your seven.

(I resisted the urge to smile proudly for being right.)

Judge – Are you aware that if you receive 10 moving violations in 10 years, your license will automatically be suspended for five years?  And that means no driving at all.  If you do drive, your license will be suspended for life.

Me – I was not aware of that, your honor.

Then, he fined me as much as the knucklehead who rang up the two for one at the tracks and stop light.

Here are a few lessons that you should file away should you be required to attend traffic court:

  • Honesty is not a good play.  Any excuse is better than no excuse.  I was the most honest guy in the room today, and my reward was a tie for size of fine with a goof who was cited for separate violations during the same stop.
  • Wearing a suit is a waste of time.  I looked like a religious salesman amid the teens in white tee shirts.
  • While traffic court is a little like a required high school course, where all levels of students are gathered, there is no advantage to being a smart guy.  There are no honor student winks for the guys in suits with clean hair.
  • There is no winning because the state legislature mandates a $116.50 court cost that is non-negotiable.  One lady, who claimed to be a special-education teacher, was before the judge having been ticketed for speeding in a school zone.  She got a $3.50 fine, but added to the court cost paid $120.

Blindly following the rules has always seemed the lazy choice, but until some of my seven violations start dropping off my rap sheet, I may have no choice.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned on My Trip to Traffic Court – It Was Amusing at First, and Then Turned Expensive

  1. Rob

    Dude, if I had been in court watching, I would have been suppressing laughter as you responded to the judge, waiting for you to tell him politely how to do a better job. Alas, you didn’t and got hit with a big sloppy fine for trying to conform for “the man”. Honesty doesn’t work in court? Good to know….

  2. MickeyG

    Good lord man, why did you waste time going to court? Did you bother to read the rules of court and examine your paperwork (ticket)? A few flaws are there, major ones at that. A clue, try to file a lawsuit with no plaintiff, no defendant, no case number, no claim and no signature. You wouldn’t get past the clerk.


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