Mitigating circumstances

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It’s not fair.

I spent last night in traffic court fighting a ticket that I had received from one of Lewisburg’s Finest last summer. The ticket in question was for no registration on my vehicle. Apparently, you are supposed to renew your registration and inspection sticker every 12 months. Huh. I’ve always operated on the assumption that you renew those things after the cops pull you over and give you a warning; however, according to the officer in question, those are actual ticket-able offenses. Also, according to the officer, you are required to not only insure your vehicle, but you are supposed to carry proof of that insurance in your vehicle. At all times. Welp.

So, in my eyes, and in the officer’s eyes, he had cut me a break by only issuing me one ticket for lack of registration after a firm lecture on the need for a current inspection sticker and proof of insurance in my glove compartment, not on my desk at home.

My good friend, an attorney, disagreed. According to her, because I had remedied the registration/inspection/proof of insurance issues within five business days, the ticket should be thrown out. I didn’t argue with her – she’s pretty forceful in her opinions, and, quite frankly, I’m a little afraid of her. So, when she told me to plead not guilty and that we would fight it in court, I reluctantly agreed.

Last night, we travelled to municipal court and listened in disbelief to the people who were ahead of us, all of whom were there on DUI charges.

“I can’t believe all these people are fighting DUIs without a lawyer,” she griped. Meanwhile, there I was, arguing about a registration ticket armed with the meanest sharpest lawyer in town.

Municipal court was surreal. First of all, the fire chief is the municipal judge, so, when I walked in, I mumbled a “Hi Chief, uh, Judge,” in his direction, and, in turn, he acted like he didn’t even know me! Like I don’t use him as a news source on a regular basis! Weird.

Municipal court is set up in a small room with, in addition to the Fire Chief/Judge bench, a large table. I sat at one end of the table, and the ticketing officer sat at the other end. We avoided eye contact, and didn’t acknowledge each other, which was totally awkward because we were the only reason the other person was there!

So, the prosecutor argued her case, which basically stood on the fact that my registration had, in fact, expired several months before I was pulled over, and my dear friend/lawyer recited several statutes and wherefores that sounded very clever and intelligent. The Fire Chief/Judge wasn’t having it though, and refused to throw out my ticket.

OK. Whatever. It’s fine. I mean, we all knew I was guilty. Last night, we just made it official.

Now. This past weekend, a dash-cam video of Jim Justice was released to the public which features him arguing with a Lewisburg Police officer over a ticket. Jimmy the Wallet calls the officer a lunatic. Jimmy gets a speeding ticket anyway. But, it turns out, Jimmy called the police department the next day, apologized to the chief, and got the thing thrown out. No harm. No foul. (Well, until last weekend, when the dash-cam video debuted on You Tube, and his disgruntled employees and political opponents began using it as fodder for their I Hate Jim campaign.)

Mayor John Manchester is quoted in Hoppy Kercheval’s “Talkline” post on the matter as saying that the city agreed to drop the charges because there were “mitigating circumstances,” and that Big Jim had “learned his lesson.”

Well, shoot. I guess I should have called the chief. I mean, heck, I learned my lesson too! And as for mitigating circumstances, well, let me give you a list: I couldn’t afford my property taxes because I was going to have to pay a luxury tax on my “new” car, purchased “used” the year before; I couldn’t register my vehicle until the taxes were paid. I couldn’t get an inspection until my registration was current. I couldn’t find my car insurance card, because it was buried under a stack of papers on my desk. Meanwhile, I still needed to go to work and take my kids to summer day camp.

If you ask me, “mitigating circumstances” means the size of Jimmy’s bank account. Maybe if I was known as “Sarah the Wallet,” things may have gone my way. Thankfully, the Fire Chief/Judge reduced my ticket cost by around 50 bucks, because, frankly, I had the good sense to show up with a lawyer.

As for the ticketing officer, the mayor, Jimmy the Wallet and the rest? Perhaps, after this column, I’ll come to be known as “Sarah the Target.” But I hope not. It wouldn’t be fair.