The Verdict Is In

I fought the law and the law won.

I gave it a solid effort, but I knew getting my case dismissed would be a longshot if the officer was present — and he was.  Sure, the judge listened to the officer’s statement, listened to mine, which directly and relatively convincingly contradicted the officer’s statement, giving me a glimmer of hope that things might sway in my favor. But then the judge asked the officer some additional questions before allowing me to further rebut the officer’s statements. Then he found me guilty of failing to obey a stop sign. And that was that.

I refrained from any contemptuous outbursts because in the end it was — as it always is — a simple if infuriating matter of my word against that of a sworn officer of the law. And I’m sorry, but there is no way — without indisputable unimpeachable evidence — that any sitting traffic court judge is going to find for a civilian — worse: a civilian bicyclist.

Had I been in possession of my video camera sunglasses at the time I woulda coulda had that evidence. But I didn’t then and thus don’t now, thus: GUILTY.

My argument throughout this whole six-months since the ticket and in front of the judge this afternoon has been that the officer did not have a clear and unobstructed line of sight. This because when I made my right turn eastbound onto Clinton from Larchmont he was heading westbound on Clinton Street, away from me, watching either from his side or rearview mirror. Watching while in distracted motion and unable to see the stop I made.

On the citation and in front of the judge the officer claimed he was stationed near the limit line facing east on Clinton at a full stop and had been for some time, which was a fabrication. On top of that the officer initially testified that he was situated in his vehicle immediately behind the limit line, but then later changed his testimony to indicate he was parked some 50 feet behind the limit line.

The judge paid no attention to that discrepancy.

I asked the judge to consider that the officer should have been able to stop me almost immediately, had he been in either of the two positions that he claimed, but that instead it took two blocks for the officer to apprehend me — the reason being because he was in motion and headed in the opposite direction and had to turn the vehicle around.

The judge, pained by my contention then somewhat sheepishly asked the officer to answer my charge and the officer demonstrated upon a chalkboard that he was where he said he was, because in this case the burden of proof is not on the prosecution, but on the defense.

The judge asked if I had anything final to add and all I could do was remind him what I’d said at the outset of my defense: that the officer was misrepresenting his position and he was not stationed at Larchmont and Clinton. Having passed me northbound on Larchmont less than a block south of Clinton, there was simply no physical way for the officer to arrive at the intersection, execute a left turn onto Clinton, then make a three-point turn-around, and fully park his patrol vehicle in the few seconds it took me to arrive and stop at the intersection.

But it was all just a waste of air blowing out of my lungs past my gums.

“I find the defendant guilty,” the judge said, burying his face in the paperwork, unwilling or unable to look me in the eye.

Yeah Judge, well I find you and the officer guilty, too.

UPDATED (01.12): The question has been raised: Did you in fact make a full and complete stop at the stop sign, and if not just STFU? Fair enough. While I can waste time qualifying my answer by saying that I made what I consider to be an entirely appropriate “stop,” one that involved my slowing from 15 mph to a crawl through the crosswalk, giving myself enough time to look left and right and clear the intersection before proceeding with my turn, the truth is according to the strict letter of the law: no, I did not make a full and complete stop as defined by the California Vehicle Code. Some will see that as the end of the story, and that’s fine. In fact, had the officer been in the position he insisted he was, I wouldn’t have wasted a day from work going to court to fight it. But I simply could not ignore that the officer so drastically misrepresented his location of observation to his benefit and my detriment. In fact I felt it was nothing less than my obligation to stand up in court and point it out. If nothing else, the officer knows what he did, and might think twice before so failing in his duty again.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."