Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Quality of Mercy

Shakespeare said it wasn't strained, and I believe it after this morning. Mercy came unexpectedly and I am thankful for that.

A few weeks ago, I picked up a little speeding ticket for going 40 in a 25 mph school zone. Now, lest you think I am a Bad Person who endangers the lives of innocent children (or teenagers since it involved a high school), let me say that 1) the school zone lights were not flashing, or I didn't see them if they were, and I am very careful about school zones, having a genuine regard for the young people who will pay my Social Security, and 2) I was going 40, keeping up with a pack of about four other cars in a 35 mph zone. It's a little strategy I use in traffic around here to keep from being run over. So, by my reckoning, I was 5 mph over. The officer didn't see it that way and said it was 1:50 PM and the school zone lights were on (or not since they weren't using his watch), and I would receive a little pink certificate he filled out carefully by hand.

I know, speed kills and the officer was pleasant and professional, but there I was, looking at a fine of $167 ($7 x 15 miles over the limit plus $62 in court costs) which I would rather not pay. I had the option to send it in and "pre-pay" the fine and not have to go to court and have points on my license. Or, I could fight it and plead innocent, but it would come down to a he (the officer) said/ he (I) said, and the court would probably go with the sworn officer. Or I could plead guilty and hope for a reduction in charge based on my good looks, driving record and history of helping orphans who have no shoes (pick the most likely of the three).

So I decided to go to court, plead guilty, and throw myself on the mercy of the court. I have always wanted to use that phrase and this, my first time in court, would be my chance. Maybe.

I took the online driver's improvement class and passed the test (multiple choice--I was hoping for essay) and took myself to the local county courthouse. There a nice officer explained what would happen. The Commonwealth's Attorney would talk to each of us (only about 15 in the courtroom I was in) and tell us the likely disposition of the case. He said that for me he would recommend dismissal of the charges (based on one of the three factors I've mentioned before), a driver's improvement course (had already taken it) and court costs of $62. It sounded like a plan to me and when the bailiff called my name, the Commonwealth's Attorney recommended dismissal, noted I had taken the course and reminded me I would have to pay court costs. The judge agreed and minutes later I was a free person.

I think anyone who receives a ticket and who has a good driving record should realize that it is worth your time to take the case to court, plead guilty(if you are) and have a reduced or dismissed charge. It worked for me, and I am grateful. It's worth a try if you ever find yourself in this situation.


  1. Good to know. Once upon a time, a teenager who I knew well got a well-deserved speeding ticket. I imposed no punishment myself, but did come forth with a pretty good lecture on how I didn't need to, that that blot would be on her record and she'd have to explain it if she ever wanted a job requiring driving, etc. I was pretty proud of myself. Then she went to court; they dismissed the charge as long as she and a parent attended a 6 week driving course. Saturday mornings at 8. So...who got punished here? Sigh.

  2. I am mulling over this idea of an Essay test for your driver's license. Mine would begin:
    "Webster's dictionary defines 'driving' as....." Then I would write: "There are three reasons why I would make a good driver. First,..."


  3. @ Mary Mac: So good to see you and the whole crew today at a sad occasion. We need to meet regularly as our lives permit!
    A six-week driving course! O my Lord! What a punishment...for you. The improvement course I took was online and took four hours but it was obnoxious because they allotted far too much time to each page and you couldn't go on to the next page until the time was up. So I organized my desk (sort of) while I waited. Anyhow, I'm free and clear...this time...

    @Mary G: I like your idea. I think I would write about the recommended procedure for getting away from a car stuck on the tracks with a train approaching. Here's the start of my essay:

    "The instructions in the driver improvement course said that if your car is stuck on the tracks with a train rapidly approaching, you should get out of the car (duh)and run TOWARD the train while bearing off at an angle to the tracks.

    "This is pure stupidity. This boy ain't going to run TOWARD any oncoming train. I know the idea is that the debris from the collision is thrown forward and you're trying to get away from that, and I know there are some people who would run parallel to the train away from it. Maybe they think they can outrun an Acela at full gait. I ain't that dumb. And speaking of dumb, if I ever get stuck on a track with a train coming on I would first of all deserve to be hit and killed and secondly I would run as fast as I could in a perpendicular direction to the train and put a ton of daylight between me and it...