Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Paying the piper a $122 processing fee.

I suppose that intimidating aura has cleared a bit.

After all, it's not like in those old black and white movies, where a cowering defendant slouches, spot lit in the center of a courtroom, hovered over by a gray, scowling man who glares down with the ire of the Grim Reaper sans hood.

The vanquished convict twitches and spasms as the sadistic jurist dispatches the criminal to Sing Sing or Alcatraz or some other 1940s version of Gitmo. A faint closed-mouthed smile seeps to the surface of the judge's grizzled face.

His gavel slams the proceedings to an abrupt conclusion. Justice has again been served.

I tried to purge these exaggerated thoughts as I made my way to the Seattle Municipal Court building this morning to address a speeding ticket I'd received back in January.

I knew I wouldn't be pleading my case to a robed judge. My confessor would be a magistrate. I listened as an imaginary George Carlin contrasted those two words: Judge (elocuted in a thunderous baritone) or magistrate (in his best Sesame Street tenor).

And after wiling away too many hours of my youth-ish watching The People's Court and Judge Judy, I'd previously convinced myself that these magistrates have likely born witness to more childish behavior than the Kardashians summering on Jersey Shore. Besides, I figured, I can play fake lawyer with the best of them. I'll Just throw out some Latin terminology, like "Your honor, I hereby assert a prima facie writ of habeas corpus, and thereby petition the court to dismiss all charges leveled heretowithin."

Okay, maybe not.

Previously deciding to plead guilty to driving thirty in a school zone (marked speed of twenty), I nevertheless opted to present some extenuating circumstances. A few that originally sounded decent, but I later overruled were:

-I've got a rare genetic disease known as Cretin's Disease.

-It made sense to get through the school zone as quickly as possible, thereby placing fewer kids in harm's way.

-This cop-in-front-of-the-school thing is the very reason I joined the Tea Party—too much government equals too many cops.

-Thirty miles an hour is slow enough for a lot of the upper grade children to outrun.

-I understand we've never met before, your honor, but have you lost weight?

-I didn't even realize I was speeding. The all-time best driving song, We Built This City, came on my minivan's radio, and when that happens, I cannot be held responsible for any and all acts of bad-assedness.

Nope, as great as those ideas are and were, none of them traveled across the magistrate's desk from my mouth to his waiting ears. In fact, the whole thing took about three minutes.

I asked the friendly, nicely dressed man to consider deferring my $189 ticket. In the City of Seattle, a judge can opt to postpone your citation for one year. If, after that time, no further moving violations are committed, the misdeed is permanently removed and the Department of Licensing is not notified.

After settling up downstairs by paying a $122 processing fee, I was out the door and down the sidewalk. What the hell sort of processing costs $122? I wondered. For that much, you could be "processed" by someone after a lap dance and an eight dollar Pepsi.

Drive carefully, now.

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