Friday, January 14, 2011

Justice: My Day In Court And Picketing Christians

Do we yell and tell the hurting people (including minors waiting in line to enter the court) they are going to Hell, or do we extend a loving hand and say, "I know you're hurting, what can I do for you?"

But I digress . . . For me it's been about the we're-sorry-but-we-can't-locate-your-case citation. The day was December 4, 2009 and the road to home was blocked by a massive amount of police officers under floodlights that lit up half the town. I promise you, the PD was emptied out on our street that night. No car was left behind. Everyone seemed to have something worthy of a ticket. I had a headlamp out and I couldn't produce registration. My bad!

No problem, I thought. Visit the nice officers at the local PD and have one sign the ticket once I fix the headlight. Done. Took the citation to court and pay the $25 fine. I came five minutes before closing time so the clerk put the necessary papers in the appropriate box.

Five months later the court returned my check with a letter stating they could not locate my file. Whatsoever!! I decided to check on it and try to pay online. Still no case. Let's try calling. "Can't locate your file number, Ma'm." Okay, how 'bout we wait a few weeks and go to court? They said they were very sorry but the officer hasn't filed the citation yet.

With Halloween and Thanksgiving just around the corner I called one last time. No record of my case was the reply. The sweet lady on the other end of the phone says that I am no longer responsible for this ticket. Mmmm, didn't quite believe that, but I let it go.

Sure enough in January of 2011, I receive another citation in the mail and this time the fine includes the no-registration violation which carries a $400 + fine. Problem is, I don't have the car anymore and going to the DMV to get proof of registration for 2009 . . . well, who knows how that deal will go down.

So off I go to the Riverside Superior Court and try to tell them the following; don't own the car anymore, I've been trying to pay this fine for over a year now, you returned my check. They said, it wasn't their problem. Go see a judge. The court clerk was nasty. Or maybe she was just doing her job and there really wasn't anything she could do.

A week later I return to the same clerk and this time I remembered to be nice, courteous, and ask the Lord to give me favor with this clerk. She said that if I did not have proof of registration she couldn't do anything about this. By the way, I did pay registration. My bank statement even says so. But I kept smiling and I asked, "May I know when the officer filed my citation?" The clerk said sure, and then her face went a little sour.

"Oh, she says. This wasn't filed until 13 months later."

Well now. A chilly Friday morning, 7:30am, I stood outside the court with about 20 other "offenders." We were confronted by a man with a large wooden cross that said, "Are You Ready?"

I thought of taking a picture, but I was feeling rather mousy. He had three friends with him all carrying Bibles. I started to pray, they started to yell. Their message, "You are all going to Hell if you don't know Jesus Christ." The message got louder and condemnation flew all over the place.

Oh oh! I started praying softly. With people waiting in the cold for their day in court (some in family meditations) perhaps a better message, gently spoken, would be "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). We all have those burdens and these people were definitely ready to hear the Gospel of peace, love and rest.

I prayed for everyone who entered that court room with me that God would give mercy to those who deserved it (I know, none of us do) and that we could find favor with this judge.Before the judge came, the court officer was an absolute teddy bear. He put our hearts and minds at rest and addressed the minors with a message of hope. "Don't worry," he said, "this won't be painful. Take the community service. It will do you some good." He even gave me a pen so I could scribble out my signature on the court papers that said I was guilty. Not guilty, not guilty. Note to self: Don't sign anything before you get an explanation of what you are signing. 

There were three minors who plead guilty (truancy, smoking and whatnot), one who plead not guilty and the judge lowered her bail to almost nothing. They were all given community service and one had to write a two-page essay on the dangers of tobacco. There were others that day and to my pleasant surprise the Judge was fair.

When I finally stood in front of him, I was ready to plead my case when he read out the infraction. But before I could say anything the court clerk stood up, gave him a paper and whispered something to him.

The Judge then asked me, "Do you have any idea why it took over a year to file your citation."

"No, your Honor."

"Case dismissed by speedy trial."


It took less than 60 seconds. Thanks for reading my rant. 

Debby A.
court image

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