For the first time in my life I felt the anger of having my rights violated. I was denied the right to plead not guilty to a traffic violation.
I come home from work on June 25th and look through the mail that was delivered three days earlier. I notice a letter from the county superior court so I opened it and read that I must pay $456 or appear in court by June 27th. Of course, my response was WTF!
According to this paper, I received a citation three and half years ago at the location of Clayton Road and Galindo in Concord, CA. My name and car license plate number are shown in the letter but the spaces for my driver’s license number and date of birth are suspiciously blank.
Being more than somewhat agitated, I decide to show up at the court house the next day. My first encounter was with the clerk and she looks at the paper and said, “wow, this is strange and goes back several years…I’ll let you go in front of the Judge”. About a half hour later I’m sent into the court room with about fifteen other people who are there for various traffic issues. Before the Judge comes in we are shown a video explaining that we have rights in traffic court just like any other court and we will be given the opportunity to plead guilty, no contest or not guilty. After the video, the judge shows up and explains our three plea options again but goes on to say that there is no discussion, you must say guilty, no contest or not guilty.
When my turn comes I say not guilty. The judge looks at me and asks, “what are we going to trail for?” So I explain that I’m being told to pay $456 and I don’t really know why and I’m not just going to pay without some type of reasoning and my only recourse is a not guilty plea. We have some additional verbal exchanges and then he says “I’m not sending this to trial; I’ll give you a no contest plea and a fine of $150.” Essentially telling I’m not being allowed a not guilty plea, I must assume implicit guilt even if the facts behind the fine were false.
I was in shock and I still am.
If you ever find yourself in front of a traffic court Judge, you may be denied your right to a not guilty plea and subsequent trail to defend yourself against your accusers.
I suspect the whole thing revolves around generating revenue for the local cities and county. Public safety and justice is a false veil.