Justice Is Not Always Just – Traffic Court Edition

Imagine you are riding a motorcycle through twisty mountain roads, traveling well within the speed limit, and when you brake to prepare for a sharp turn, you hit a patch of gravel, your bike slides like it’s on marbles and the back-end comes out.  The end result is a sizable flesh wound to your left knee and a ticket for reckless driving from the state trooper who responded to the scene with the ambulance.

Document1You explain to the officer that there were no road surface warning signs and that in your decades of experience, gravel is usually on the side of the road and on the double yellow, but not in the middle of the travel lane.  And that given the sun/shade from the trees, you could not see the concentration of gravel.  The officer’s response?  That motorcycles come through there all the time and don’t crash.

Now imagine the reckless driving charge is a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine requiring you to appear in court.  And imagine that the traffic court is in a small town.  Are the judge, attorneys and police all good old boys?  And if so, will that have an effect on your case if you are from out of town?

Perhaps you believe that your riding was not reckless, that you had taken every precaution.  Will the judge believe you?  Will the judge rule in your favor and against the officer?  Will you need to hire a local lawyer?  Could you really end up in jail for this?

Imagine sitting in the courtroom watching other traffic violation cases where the judge is handing out judgments in mere minutes, and those with attorneys are in the hallway discussing pleas to lesser offenses.  And it occurs to you that maybe justice isn’t always just in traffic cases where the choice is going before a judge who could be buddies with the officer or admitting to a lesser charge when you believe you are innocent.

Would would you do?

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Center for Legal Practice Reform
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