Front AND back
Defining moments


Are you sick and tired of being run over by the "system"?  This corner of our site is dedicated to sharing stories of standing up for yourself and making the "system" take note.  In other words, a WIN is where you, as an individual, have thwarted yet another shake-down, insult, or assault by a governmental system that tends to ignore individual rights.

Front AND back...

My state (bless ‘em) is another of those who demand vehicles have front AND rear tags whenever someone goes about their business. So, when the cop wrote my ticket, he was telling the truth about the missing front tag.

There was plenty of time to devise strategy while waiting for the trial date and that "front AND rear" wording started taking on significance.

Most of you have experienced the confusion of traffic court. On this day the judge tried to scare the hell out of the full courtroom of us "offenders." He did this by lecturing about his "authority" to impose punishment greater than the fines listed on the various "offenders" tickets if he thought anyone was playing with the truth.

I think his threats had an effect: far too many people just gave it up with those never-ending pleas: "guilty with an explanation, your honor." You know what I mean---in the old South it was "Sorry, massa', sorry."

When they loudly read my "offense," I just as loudly responded "Guilty to the charge of no front plate, but ABSOLUTELY NOT GUILTY TO THE CHARGE OF FAILURE TO HAVE A REAR TAG MOUNTED!" I then added, "and that cop must testify that I did have a rear tag mounted because he copied it."

The judge said to the cop, "Did he have a rear tag?" Getting a nod, he then turned to me and said, "OK---and by the way---do you want to offer an explanation for the missing front tag?" What could I do? I offered up a wondrous tale of loose bolts before pausing.

The judge, without actually letting the cop testify, then said, "You pled guilty to the charge and innocent to a supposed second. There’s no need for more testimony: I find you innocent of both charges!" The cop got a really dirty look as the judge whacked the gavel down.

That was several years ago. I don’t know if they’ve changed the traffic laws.

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My friend’s son was driving through a small town where he lived, got stopped by a cop who recognized him, and was cited for operating a dangerous vehicle because he had a crack in his windshield.

My friend wanted to show his son that you can, too, “fight city hall” and encouraged him to contest the ticket.  In preparation, we searched the “operating a dangerous vehicle” statute that he was cited with.  Guess what?  No mention of cracked windshield whatsoever!                                                   

His son promptly filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that the statute needed to give him notice that his conduct was proscribed (which it obviously had not).  Upon receipt of the motion, the prosecutor amended the complaint to “operating a defective vehicle.” 

We looked up the statute he alluded to and there was no mention of cracked windshield there either.  At that point I got to wondering about what function does a windshield perform?  We concluded that its primary function was to keep the wind off of the occupants, which gave rise to the question, did the officer that issued the ticket have any first hand knowledge that the crack was letting wind into the car?  The three of us concluded that we needed to go to trial and find out.  

During cross-examination, the son read aloud the statue, reminded everyone he had been cited for a windshield, and then asked the cop, "Did you have any first hand knowledge that the crack was letting wind into the car?"  Of course, the cop could only answer in the negative.  The judge then asked the prosecutor, "Do you have any statute that makes it illegal to have a crack in your windshield?"  The prosecutor didn't.  The judge then said, "I'm going to have to find for a---q---uit---al."  Few could have failed to notice how hard it was for the “a” word to come out of his mouth.  And few could have failed to enjoy that kid strutting out of the courtroom with a big smile on his face as he passed the cop.

"A---quit---al" is based on a report by "legalbear" <> who can be reached at 970-416-1737

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Defining Moments  by Ralph Swan 

I love traffic court. It can turn even a dyed-in-the-wool socialist into a libertarian activist. 

When I was 18, I got a ticket for obstructing traffic. A guy about my dad's age was standing at a bus stop with his thumb out, hitchhiking. I figured I'd save him the fare, so I put on my signal, pulled over, and gave him a lift. A mile down I was pulled over and ticketed. I explained to the cop that I'd done nothing more than what the bus would have done to pick up the rider. As it turned out, I was talking to a rock. 

I set my mind to fighting this ticket. I went to the Town Hall and looked up the ordinance cited on the ticket. All it said was that the municipality adopted the motor vehicle code of the state. I found that pretty strange. How would I know what part of that code I'd violated from the info provided me?  Today, I'd know that was lack of due process. All I could do was operate on the assumption that "obstructing traffic" as defined in that code had to be my so-called offense. 

That took me to a law library. Boy, did I feel out of place. Everyone else was wearing wingtips and three-piece-suits. The cliche, "ignorance of the law is no excuse" kept running thru my mind. I began to realize, looking at enough reading material to last 100 lifetimes stacked around me, that I was destined to remain pretty ignorant and, thus, forever quite inexcusable. 

I found the state motor vehicle code, looked up "obstructing traffic" and discovered that it had to be committed with intent. Ah, that had not been my intent. So, photocopy of the statute in hand, I went to traffic court. I watched a couple dozen cases while waiting to be called. I was scared silly. Nobody, absolutely nobody, was beating their tickets. Most of the people raised some rather inane defenses, but there were two or three where a "guilty" verdict from the judge should have been impossible. The judge had to be irrational to convict, but convict he did! 

What had me so scared was that the fine for obstructing traffic was 10 bucks. I had only $2 in my pocket. If I lost, which sure seemed likely, I figured I was "goin' ta' jail." When called, I raised my "lack of intent" defense. The judge wasn't having it. I finally pulled the folded statute from my pocket, handed it to him, and said, "But it says here that I could only commit this offense if I intended to commit it." 

"Where did you get this?" he barked! 

"I got it from the law library." 

"Hmm---it does say that. Officer, do you have knowledge that he intended to obstruct traffic?" 

"Well, he put his blinker on, so he musta' been planning it---at least for a few seconds." 

I retorted, "Your Honor, I put my blinker on so that the people behind me would know that I was pulling over and wouldn't hit me. I put it on so they would pass me rather than sit there behind me. I put it on so that I would NOT obstruct traffic." 

"Guilty!" he barked again, "Fine waived due to lack of intent. Next case!" 

Whew, at least I wasn't going to be serving 10 days. I walked out scratching my head. The admitted lack of intent proved me innocent. His guilty verdict was irrational. The judge was either a fool or a lunatic. 

That was a defining moment in my life. I've often thought that the best and quickest way for America to get back to what it was supposed to be would be to eliminate the ability to pay traffic fines by mail. We should make everybody, especially young people, go to traffic court and sit there for a few hours listening to other cases---in particular the strange verdicts of irrational judges. Perhaps we would all have defining moments and the restoration of America might arrive without any further action by us. 

Note: it’s far too easy to make up tall tales for this section. If you want to submit something for inclusion, we’ll need some sort of verification that it actually happened before posting it.

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