November 4, 2005

Traffic Violations Not Simply a Ticket You Pay

Don’t get a traffic ticket in Texas unless you have ample time to deal with the courts. In this state you are not given a ticket with an amount to pay, due date and a means for submitting a dispute and requesting a court date. You go straight to court. Do not pass go, do not pay $100.

When I got the ticket, which of course I didn’t deserve, I was determined to fight it as soon as possible. That Monday (got the lovely ticket on Saturday) I went to the court house, on my trusty bike using not-so-trusty mapquest, and learned that the ticket had not yet been processed.

Apparently two days later it had been since I immediately began to receive a flood of solicitation letters from lawyers. Ah yes, there is an entire industry that thrives on tickets. Seems that for somewhere between $45 and who can guess how much I could have a lawyer argue my case. My case? Yes, I had a court date and this would go to trial with a jury. Freak out. So, falling beautifully into the scam I phoned the cheapest lawyer with the closest office and signed them up for my case.

The lawyer and I met earlier this week. Meeting with the lawyer is not a standard practice with this firm. He has two hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few mid-day appointments, convenient for anyone with a life. Of course the reception area was filled with people that had no lives or were at the end of theirs. I waited an hour and finally got my turn after catching a nice nap in the squishy chair.

The lawyer was quite nice and willing to answer my questions. I was disturbed that he didn’t have my file, no paper and absolutely no writing tool. You see this is a “paperless office”. Being familiar with theater I suspended my disbelief, ignored the fact that there weren’t any paintings on the walls and the furniture looked rented. Hopefully I won’t end up in jail for not showing up to court because the lawyer said my court date is actually when the trial date will be set. I don’t need to go, he’ll do it for me.

He looks for opportunities to get the case dismissed when the “court doesn’t follow policies and procedures by the book, which they frequently don’t do.” Are you saying that I have to go through this entire procedure regardless of my innocence or guilt? Do the facts even matter? The lawyer informed me “at least in this state you are innocent until proven guilty where as in California you are assumed guilty until you try to prove yourself innocent.” But he also told me that Houston and LA are tied for the cities issuing the most tickets.

This case can go on for years. He doesn’t expect a trial until somewhere mid-2006. To think, Stephen and I were just trying to enjoy the free museum day and it turned into a nightmare. Folks, my recommendation is to walk everywhere in Texas. Apparently you can get these same nasty tickets for bike riding.