My Day in Court by CDW

January 8th, 2008

My appointment with the municipal judge was scheduled for five-o-clock in the afternoon.  Right around four, I started to get jittery.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find my tag receipt which was my only proof of having paid for my expired tag.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to find the ticket the officer had given me which I needed to give to the judge.  I worried that I had the wrong time and kept checking and re-checking the e-mail that the clerk had sent to me with the new time and date.  I made a cup of tea to calm myself down and then left the house with plenty of time to find the municipal court.  Never having been accused of a crime before, I wasn’t sure where it was.

Note to readers – we live in a small town.  Our municipal court is located in our police station which used to be the library which moved across the street to a building that used to be a bank.  The bank moved out to the highway across the road from the new hardware store which used to be downtown, but got torn down to make a larger parking lot for the Methodist church. 
When I arrived at the police station/court/former library – the entrance hallway was crowded with several people.  I quickly located the small courtroom and sat down.  Three other people were already in the room.
“Is this the only courtroom?”  I asked a lady that was already seated when I arrived.
“Yes,” she paused a minute and then added, “they usually start right on time.”
“Oh good.” I said wondering what kind of hardened criminal gets to be so experienced about court start times and why such an unsavory character was wearing a nurse’s scrub uniform.
Five-o-clock came and went.  More people filed into the room and took seats.  A thin man with impressive horn rims and a tie came in and sat at a long table in front of the judge’s bench.   He turned out to be an attorney.   
The judge came in at about ten after five.  He sat down and immediately began to rattle off courtroom factoids about pleas, arraignments, representation, remaining silent, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.  
The judge called the first person forward.  
It wasn’t me.
That’s when I realized that everyone in the room was going to be on trial together.  We all had the same five-o-clock appointment.  The judge read off the crimes of which the person standing in front of him was accused.  This person stood awkwardly in front of the judge balancing on one foot and then the other, trying to find a place for his hands.  The judge asked the person for a plea and the person said, “guilty”.  
I had read (on the internet) that you should never admit guilt in a courtroom.  Even if you are guilty, you should say “no contest”.  I was a little concerned about that person admitting guilt to the judge, but I reserved my right to remain silent.
Several more people got up before the judge and had their crimes read publicly and then plead either guilty or not guilty.  No one said “no contest”.  I started to get a little nervous about my courtroom strategy.
Finally, my name was called.  I got up before the judge.  He cited the violation for which I had been accused which was operating a motor vehicle with an expired tag.  He stated that the maximum penalty for my crime was either thirty days in the county jail or twenty five hundred dollars.  I started to sweat profusely at that point.  
I handed my tag receipt and my ticket to the attorney.  The judge asked me how I wanted to plea.  
“No contest.” I said.
“No contest?” the judge asked.
“Yes… no contest.”  I repeated.  I did not mention that I had learned this answer from the internet.
“If this case were to go to trial, do you think you would be found guilty?”
“I… well… I don’t know…” I said.
“Do you think the county has a clear case against you?” he asked again.
“Well…I… um… I really don’t know Your Honor…”
I wanted to say, “Do you have a crystal ball?  Can I whip out my tarot cards?  Do you mind if I conduct a seance to find out?”   I mean heck… the County Treasurer sent the renewal to our old address, but managed to send renewals for the truck as well as outrageous real estate valuations to our new address.  Is it my fault they don’t cross check these things?  Is it my fault that I don’t sit around chewing my nails every year until my tag renewal shows up in the mail? It’s not like I don’t have anything else to do!  There are walls at which to stare! There are ceiling fans that need me! 
The Judge said, “I need a yes or a no.”
“What…?” I asked.
“I need to either enter a yes or no to my question,” he stated, “Do you think a trial would result in a guilty verdict?”
“Oh” I said, “um… well… I guess.”
“Okay,” the judge sighed, “I will take an ‘I guess’ for a yes.”   
He bent over his desk to write something down, probably:  this defendant is a complete moron, while the attorney looked over my receipt.  
After a few seconds the attorney looked at the judge and said, “The city moves to dismiss the charges against the defendant.”
I didn’t even have to cry or beg or rent my clothes or scrape my boils in a pit of ashes or… or.. or anything!
The judge then asked me why I had not paid my tags on time.
“Well your honor, we moved…  and the notice did not come to our house… we got the truck notice…  but we bought the truck after we moved…  so I guess it is registered under our new address…  and I just didn’t think about the van…” I stammered.
He then looked me over and said, “weren’t you supposed to be here a few weeks ago?”
My face turned bright red and I stuttered, “Uh… yes… I just got the uh… the wrong date in my head… and uh… well… I am easily flustered.
I have no idea why I said I am easily flustered.  Maybe I should have just said… I am easily an idiot… but I think the judge already knew that.
The judge went on to explain that the reason the penalties for expired tags are so high in our county is because the same statute that covers an expired tag also covers a blah blah blah bl

ah blah…

“Oh… um… well… yes… okay… thanks…” I said wondering when the hell I could leave.
The judge grew silent.  
I smiled at him and at the attorney and said, “thanks” again.  
Then I grabbed my bag and FLED THE COURTROOM.  
What can I say … I am easily flustered.
The end.