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A Funny Thing Happened at Traffic Court
By Paul Dale Roberts
At Laguna Blvd and Franklin Blvd, they placed these automatic cameras that take a picture of your car if you run a red light. It finally happened to me. I made a right on a red light and didn’t stop and proceeded on. I received an automatic ticket in the mail. On the ticket it tells you where on the website you can see the crime of running a red light. I went to the website, put in my password and I could see my car clearly running that red light. Or did I? There seemed to be a fraction of a second stop and my brake lights were on. Hmmm.
I went to the courthouse on Bicentennial Way, where they have a zillion no parking signs along the street, so you will pay for parking at the courthouse parking lot. Yep, they try to squeeze every dime out of ya. When I talked with a representative of the D.A.’s office, he looked at the video and said I made a ‘California Stop’. He asked if I wanted to plead no contest, which in legal terms means I am pleading guilty. My answer was no. I wanted to have my day in court.
I went to my court appearance and two of Elk Grove’s finest greeted me and basically introduced themselves and showed me the compelling evidence, they suggested I go with ‘no contest’. I smiled and shook their hands and told them I would proceed with a no guilty plead. They looked surprised.
When it was my time to step up and present my case, I heard the evidence again from Elk Grove’s finest and they played the video twice for the judge. The judge then asked how I would plead after seeing the evidence. I pleaded not guilty and the judge was curious on why I would plead not guilty. I told the judge that I saw the video many times over and noticed my brake lights were on and that I may have stopped for a fraction of a second. I then told the judge that a representative of the DA’s office said I made a California stop and that I wanted to ask the Elk Grove police just one simple question. That question was……….“now that you have shown us the video, would you call that a California stop?” The one Elk Grove police officer hesitated and with two fingers balancing her chin says…”sure”.
I did my Columbo impersonation and started rubbing my forehead and said “that is where I am confused.” The judge looks at me and asked how I was confused. I told the judge that the representative of the DA calls it a California stop, the Elk Grove police consider it as a California stop and I have a Webster’s dictionary with me and it defines ‘stop’ as: cease to move, to halt. So no matter what you call the stop, you may call it a Hollywood stop, California stop, Michigan stop, Hawaii stop…a stop is a stop. There is no official definition for California stop.
At this time there was some snickering in the audience. The judge explained to me that it was a slang term. I then said, “that is my point your honor, it’s slang, it’s not official.” The judge explained that this term is used by the judicial system and by the police since the invention of the automobile. I explained that this term is incorrect and should not be used and a defendant like me becomes confused with this type of terminology. The judge blurts out that the term rolling stop is also used. I then said…”there you go again…that would be an oxymoron. How can you be rolling and stopped at the same time? That would be a contradiction of the term.”
We went on and on and when I noticed that the judge was turning red in the face and somewhat flustered, I told him I no longer want to argue the point.
The judge then said that I was still guilty and that I would pay the full fine and also granted traffic school. Total bill: $402.00.
I guess my point is, that if everything is supposed to be legal and correct in our judicial system, then correct terminology needs to be used, not slang.
Paul Dale Roberts
916 203 7503