March 21, 2008

A Change Of Plea

I heard traffic trials today up here in Lancaster. My calendar had six trials. Not a single case ever went to taking evidence.

In the first two trials, the defendants did not show up. One had posted bail, which I ruled forfeit. Since the bail is equal to the fine for a conviction, that was that. The second hadn’t posted bail and the matter was referred to the court’s collection unit. This is not going to work out well for that defendant. Easy, no-brainer cases.

The third trial was for speeding, with a ninety-five mile an hour allegation – the defendant showed up but there was no police officer. That was a very lucky break for the defendant – case dismissed with prejudice. 95 mph on the ticket often means that the officer suspected that the speeder was actually going over 100 but decided to cut the defendant a break from the automatic misdemeanor trial. She could have actually done time for the underlying offense if I’m right that she was going over a hundred.

The other three trials were photo-robotic red light enforcement. The fourth trial on my calendar today was dismissed by the people. The officer said that the defendant in court was a different person than the driver illustrated in the evidence. The defendant wisely did not say a word and I dismissed his case, too.

But the most interesting were the last two trials. I called each one and the officer placed a packet of evidence in front of each defendant as the defendant walked up to the table for the case. They opened up the packet and the first thing they saw in each was a photograph of themselves driving a car, with the red light clearly visible through their windshields. Both of them said that they wanted to change their pleas to nolo contendre as soon as they saw the photos. I walked them through their waivers and imposed the mandatory fines.

Powerful evidence, those photographs!

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