So one night I’m driving south down the highway, minding my own business, when I see a vehicle traveling northbound on the other side of the median at a pretty good clip. I hit my radar and confirm that the vehicle is traveling thirty-three miles over the posted limit.
Normally I don’t bother jumping the median for something like this since it’s almost a given that I’ll lose sight of the vehicle, making a positive identification problematic, but in this case, it’s a bright yellow, full-sized Hummer with a radio station logo on the side, so that won’t be a problem here. I hit the grass and bang a u-turn and go after the Hummer.
I catch up and stop it about a mile up the highway. It’s being driven by a young black girl who denies speeding. I tell her that I got her on radar and there’s no doubt at all, and then she asks: “Well how do you know it was this Hummer?”
Yeah. Because there are so many bright yellow Hummers with radio station logos on the side driving around.
Then she asks for a break, telling me that she’s “Hottie Melinda”, a DJ with the radio station whose logo decorates the side of the vehicle. She says that she’ll get in trouble with the station and not be allowed to drive the Hummer if she gets a ticket in it.
My heart bleeds. Really it does. In fact my eyes are so teary back in my cruiser that I almost have trouble writing out the Speeding and Reckless Driving citations that I’m giving her. Of course when she gets them, she gets upset and tells me that because of me, she won’t be allowed to drive the Hummer any more. And then she starts crying, and the tears are running down her cheeks like water from a faucet.
Whatever. I explain her options and point out her mandatory court date and send her on her way. Hopefully she’ll show up on the assigned date and just plead out to the usual deal that the prosecutors offer to anyone with a decent driving record—pay the speeding fine and the Reckless gets dropped. Almost everyone takes that deal because the Reckless is a heavy hit, with the fine and points involved, to say nothing of the hike in insurance rates.
A few weeks later though, I get the subpoena. Hottie Melinda wants her trial on the matter.
Now maybe some people think that they have a good chance of beating a ticket just because the officer may not show up. Well here, we get in trouble if we miss court, and my attendance record is flawless. Besides, if we ever need to miss a day and we let the Prosecutor’s Office know even a few days in advance, they’ll just get continuances on all of our cases. The defendants will show up, get all happy when they find out that we’re not going to be in court that day, and then get served with a new court date instead of the dismissal that they thought they’d get.
However it seems that in this case, my defendant really wanted her trial, because she had what she thought was a winning argument:
“Your Honor, I don’t think I was speeding at all. I think that the officer just stopped me because I was in a Hummer.”
This piqued the judge’s curiosity. “So why would the officer stop you just for driving a Hummer?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “Maybe because he’s jealous.”
The judge looked at me. I so tried not to roll my eyes, but I know that he saw me. How could you not?
The judge asked her another question. “The officer has already testified as to his determination of your speed. What do you have to say about that, if anything?”
“I don’t know,” she replied. “But I know that I wasn’t speeding. Oh—and Your Honor, I just want to let you know that I’m not just some kid…I’m Hottie Melinda!”
Ah yes…the old “I’m sure that I wasn’t speeding” claim, followed by the fabled “do you know who I am?” ploy. That almost always sways judges, right?
But alas, it didn’t seem to persuade this one. He replied by outlining my allegation, including my testimony regarding my radar reading, and asked if he should not credit my testimony because she thought that she wasn’t speeding and because she worked for a radio station.
Apparently she could read the writing on the wall, because she began to cry again. And I was impressed; this ability to just turn on the waterworks on cue like that is something not every girl can do.
“I know I wasn’t speeding,” she said again between the sobs. “I don’t speed, because the radio station won’t let me drive the Hummer if I do, so I wasn’t speeding! He just stopped me because I’m a young girl driving a nice shiny Hummer…and because I’m black!”
All right! There it was! I knew that one was coming sooner or later and I’d have been disappointed if that tired old ploy hadn’t been trotted out in this case. And now it was the judge who was rolling his eyes. He’s heard that one before, too…about a thousand times. And he knows me well enough to know that I don’t care about race, sex or any other criteria—I hammer every violator equally.
So he finds Hottie Melinda guilty of Speeding and Reckless Driving, and he suspends her license for ninety days because she’s got a few previous violations on her record, including a prior Reckless three years previous. Of course now she’s sobbing and hyperventilating, so the judge asks her if she’s going to require medical help from the court nurse. It was actually an honest question asked with legitimate concern, but she was angry now and snapped back at the judge.
“I don’t want nothing from this G-ddamned Cracker court! Just wait until my listeners hear about this bullshit!”
And quicker than you could say “contempt of court”, Hottie Melinda, was on her way back to the holding cells with the Bailiff. Some people just don’t know when to quit digging, and the defendant was obviously one of them.
She was apparently a bit more contrite when she was brought before the judge the following day though because I heard that he let her go.
'Twas the Night Before Christmas.... Again....
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