ATTENTION READERS: WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ IS A CONTINUATION OF AN EXISTING STORY. FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR, I WOULD SUGGEST YOU START AT THE BEGINNING
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Just hours after I was issued my second citation for loading a flag, I was fighting morning rush hour traffic on the 15 to get downtown to the Regional Justice Center in time for my first ticket's hearing. We can add waking up early and rush hour traffic alongside the prison-DMV, the butch security guard, the snot nosed ADA and six months of waiting on the list of things that are undesirable about fighting traffic tickets. When I finally made it downtown, I decided to save time by paying for parking in the garage and thankfully I still had a few minutes to spare even after walking to the courthouse and passing through the airport style security checkpoint. After putting my belt and shoes back on, I made my way up the elevator to the my assigned fourth floor courtroom.
I opened the over-weighted courtroom doors and took a seat near the back. Less than 20 people filled the room, 5 or 6 of those uniformed officers. None of the officers looked familiar to me but that isn’t saying much. Let’s not forget, by this time it had been almost 8 months since the Metro officer cited me. A few court administrators were busy getting ready for the days sessions while a Judge, who wasn't wearing a robe, seemed to be giving a tour of the courtroom for some media members. I glanced at the time on my phone before muting the ringer and placed it back in my pocket. To kill the time, I removed my papers from the manila envelope that carried them and began to re-read my statement, waiting in silence for my name to be called.
It wasn’t long before a young man in a suit walked over to me and asked what my name was. I told him and after ruffling some papers that he was carrying, he told me to hold on and that he would be right back. The man walked up to the desk located to the right of the speakers podium and returned with some new papers and said, “Ok Mr. Funk, please follow me.” The ADA.
I followed the man and we exited the courtroom through a side door and entered a small room the size of a walk in closet with two chairs on either side of a table. Solitary, again.
“Please. have a seat,” the ADA said, shutting the door behind him. “It says here that you are pleading not guilty to LVO 11.60.040 - Taxi stopping, standing or parking. is that right?”
“Officer Riley* who cited you, is unable to attend this hearing, I could motion for a continuance but I’m hoping that we can work this out between the two of us.”
“I see,” I said.
“First of all, what is to be your testimony, you’re claiming that you never loaded at all?”
“No, I believe the Officer’s and my testimonies will mirror each others on that point.”
“Then what is it you plan to say?”
“Well I’ve prepared a statement for the court that you are welcome to read it if you’d like,” I said and handed the document to him. I continued as he looked it over, “the first thing I’d like to do is inform the Judge today about some, what I believe to be, unethical behavior on the part of the ADA at my first appearance, secondly, the bulk of my argument against the charge is that the ordinance in question is, in addition to it being misinterpreted, actually contains a provision within it for doing precisely what I did.”
“What do you mean unethical behavior?”
“At the time I was entering my plea, the ADA lied to me in an attempt to convince me to alter my plea. Coercion I believe, is the term.”
“Do you remember that persons name?”
“Actually no, I never thought to get it at the time. I’m sure it’s on record.”
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
The man stood up and exited the room. I wasn’t sure what I was onto with this whole coercion bit. I didn’t expect anything of substance to come of it and undoubtedly this sort of thing is a daily occurrence in that court, but I still felt that something wasn’t right with the whole situation and I’m no longer one to shy away from calling out something that needs it. I’m not an overzealous patriot by any means, and at the expense of sounding cliché’, even regardless of the form of power, it is the populous who is charged with calling leadership on their bullshit. For it is us that gives them this power in the first place.
The future of my accusation was very much in doubt but I did know one thing for sure, there was no way this guy was going to seek a continuance for this charge. Because he knows, as well as I do, that in all likelihood the Officer is not going to show up the next time either.
In short time the ADA came back and returned to his seat. “I don’t have enough time to find the record of who was working that courtroom that day, there is a way for you to do that at which point you can file a complaint if you so choose.”
“Regarding the reason we are here, as I said the officer was unable to attend this hearing so instead of requesting a continuance I’d like to see if you and I can come to an agreement. If I seek a continuance, you will have to return at a future date and appear with the officer here and do this all over again. Do you understand?”
“I understand the previous ADA offered to make it a parking violation, a $190 fine with no points and no traffic school in exchange for your pleading guilty is that correct.”
“That is correct..” I said. The first rule of haggling; always be willing to walk.
“Well I can get it down to $120 and you’ll have two months to pay it if you want and you won’t have to come back.”
“I won’t have to come back?”
“Who’d want to do that right?” I said with a chuckle.
“I don’t know though, I think I’m not guilty, and I think the Judge will see it that way as well, so if I have to come back I have to come back. Parking was pretty easy today anyway.”
“You can never say what a Judge is going to think, how about 75? I’ll drop it to 75 dollars and we can be done with this today.”
“Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Ok wait here a second.”
The man stood up and left again however on this occasion he returned in a very short amount of time. Nonetheless it reminded me of the used car lot when after the first guy couldn’t close you, he’ll leave the desk to go talk to the sales manager to see what they should try next. After he returned and sat down again the AHA said, “50 dollars is the best I can do, you plead guilty and pay your minimum $50 fine today and we can be done with this.”
I’ll tell you it reeks in here. Desperation. Three years ago I would have said something like, “we both know you’re not requesting a continuance for this sir so why don’t you just drop the charge and we can go about our business.” But there is no reason to bait the ADA. He can after all, fuck with you. Yes of course we are trying to make a point here but the real point is to win, remember?
“I’m not guilty sir, so why would I want to admit guilt and give you guys some money for the pleasure? The language in the ordinance is clear and I feel as though I can make a strong argument on my own behalf, so I’ll take my chances in front of the Judge thank you.”
The ADA ruffled his papers back together before standing up, “Ok sir you can return to your seat in the courtroom and just wait for your name to be called.”
“Thank you,” I said and followed his directive.
In short time everyone arose as the Judge entered the courtroom and took his seat on the bench. The cases before mine went by quickly because for some reason, in most of those the defendants failed to appear. That’s bad news, don’t do that. If you plead not guilty and the officer shows up and you don’t and you waste everyone’s time the court doesn’t appreciate that very much. Not only will you lose your case by default and get the maximum penalty, but there are usually other penalties and possibly even arrest warrants waiting for you as well for failing to appear.
When the Judge called my name and case number I stood up and walked over to my place at the podium. The Judge read the charge and then said to the ADA “What do you have Patrick*?”
“Your Honor, Officer Riley* who issued the citation could not attend this morning, we are unable to proceed.”
“Prosecution is unable to proceed,” the Judge said, “case dismissed, Mr. Funk you are free to go.”
“Thank you your Honor.”
I turned around and exited the courtroom, choosing not to make eye contact with the ADA as I did. Now you know why he went from $190 down to $50 in zero flat. He knew he was going to lose. Might as well try and get something out of me. Right?
As it turned out, I didn’t even get to read my statement that I had worked so diligently on but even worse than that, I didn’t get the opportunity to test my argument. Never the less, I found myself batting 1.000, halfway home with one victory in my pocket already and one to go. Or so I thought at the time. However in hindsight, my adventure had only just begun. My true test, the overbearing clouds of the Nevada TaxiCab Authority, could already be seen looming on the horizon.
To be continued…PART VI
* Fictional names.