Thursday, February 12, 2009

Is there no justice??

For the first time in my life, I did my civic duty by serving on a jury. It was a DUI case. While the trial certainly didn't mirror any TV episodes or movies, it was still interesting least for the first couple of hours. After that, it was a case of "enough already". Both attorneys and the judge patiently explained to us all the ground rules, what we would hear, differences in types of evidence, etc.

And then it began...

The trial began around 11:30 or so in the morning, and it ended around 4:30 PM. The jury adjourned to our room, hashed out what he had heard and seen, re-watched a video taken from the arresting officer's patrol car, discussed some more, and then settled on a verdict. Guilty. 12-0. We finished by around 5:00 PM at which time we were thanked and dismissed by the judge.

I strolled to the city parking garage adjacent to the courthouse. My chin was a little higher and chest out a little further with the satisfaction of having served this noble cause.

As I got in my truck, I noticed two pieces of paper on my windshield. I removed them, read them, and couldn't believe it. Two tickets for overtime parking! I specifically avoided the prominently-marked 30 minute parking spots, and I pulled in head-first to my spot. (Backing into a spot is forbidden per the easily seen signage on the walls.)

So how could I have violated the law - especially a law-abiding, jury-serving, civic-minded individual such as myself? A re-read of the tickets indicated I was parked in 1-hour spot. I looked again at the wall. I looked for any markings on the concrete floor by my space number. I looked on the opposite wall. Nothing! There wasn't anything to indicate the spot could only be used for 1 hour - until I looked UP. Sure nuff - there it was. Spots "x" through "y" were 1 hour spots.

Either tradition or urban legend has it that jurors are paid a nominal amount for their services. Some folks get to keep the money. Others have to turn it over to their employer in exchange for getting a full day's pay yet not working. I wouldn't know as I didn't get paid.

I also wondered if the court provided box lunches or if each person was on their own. Turned out to be the latter. So I paid about $13 at a nearby restaurant for a pretty lousy turkey sandwich and a very small bowl of soup.

To recap, I received zero extra pay and was out 13 bucks for a less-than-average lunch. Now I'm holding two tickets totalling $37 for a parking violation! A grand total of $50 to be paid BY ME to serve as a juror.

The tickets included a phone number to call if I choose to contest the ticket. I plan to do that - to plead my case, suggest I was insane, that ignorance is bliss, that I'm the victim, that I don't have the money right now but that it'll be on its way as soon as Reid-Pelosi-Obama send me my check, etc.

I'm guessing the clerk will likely yawn in my ear, cup the phone and talk to someone else while on the call with me, and ultimately say "your court date is 6 weeks from today". And I also have a sneaking suspicion it may cost be $100 in court costs to contest $37 worth of tickets.

But if that's what comes to pass, at least now I know the name of at least one defense lawyer - even if he isn't good at defending clients with DUI charges against them.


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