I recently have had more than my fair share of opportunities to interact with the law.
The first episode happened on my way to work one morning this summer. I was driving down Peachtree Road, staying with the flow of traffic, and listening to the radio. Suddenly, my daydreaming was interrupted. The lights and sounds from the police car directly behind me made it perfectly clear they were intended for me. I pulled off onto the side street and patiently waited along the curb. I was baffled. The officer approached and asked if I knew why he pulled me over. I confessed that I was clueless. He then revealed my crime…driving with an expired registration. Crap!
The car, titled in my husband’s name, was due to be re-registered back in June. Through the course of packing and moving to a new home however, the paperwork was misplaced and he forgot all about it. I tried to explain all of this to the policeman – emphasized this was my first offense and not really my fault – but he didn’t care. I was driving with an expired registration. Period. He handed me the ticket and told me to appear in court.
I went to court, pled guilty, and paid my fine. My husband will never ever forget to register the car again.
The second situation happened barely a month later. Around 9:30 one dark, windy evening, I was heading home after a work function. I pulled out of the parking lot and approached the intersection, preparing to make a left turn. A car was waiting at the red light and I waited patiently behind it. The light turned green and, following the other car, I turned into the left lane. Then, from nowhere, the blue lights brightly flashed in my rearview mirror. What?!?! Not again, I thought. What now? This time, the officer said I made an illegal left turn.
“I don’t understand,” I said, “why did you pull me over and not the car ahead of me?”
“That was an unmarked police car on official police business,” he replied.
“Well,” I continued, “where was the NO LEFT TURN posted?”
“It’s a confusing intersection,” he admitted, “but there is a sign.”
I went down to court at the appointed day and time and refused to plead guilty. I have pictures showing the confusing intersection and the blocked NO LEFT TURN sign. My court date was moved to January. I intend to fight this.
If those experiences weren’t enough, I had to report to jury duty too. The trial I was selected for was a child molestation case. A felony. As it turns out, the defendant took a last minute plea bargain – he actually was guilty – and will serve eight years. His victims were eight- and ten-year-old sisters.
And though I was relieved to be released, I learned a lot in the process. Through the questioning of potential jurors, I became painfully aware of others’ various brushes with the law and experiences with the criminal justice system. DUIs, murders, assaults, sexual abuse…these crimes are rampant in real life; not just on TV. Many people – walking around us daily – have some real problems they’re dealing with. It was scary hearing their stories.
My recent ones pale by comparison. I’ll take my various fines any day.