My Day In Court...


Remember when I wrecked my car earlier this year while driving on the highway during a torrential downpour, hydroplaning off of the road, down an embankment, then smacking into a concrete barrier? - As Luck Would Have It - Well, the Texas State Trooper who investigated my predicament actually gave me a ticket for "traveling at an unsafe speed for the conditions".

Who was he to assume I was speeding? He had no proof. What about other factors that could cause one's car to hydroplane like tire size, car weight, road slope, and braking? There would be no way that I was just going roll over and accept the ticket.

And so began my first ever journey into the traffic court system.

Step One: Go to the County Clerks Office and tell them you disagree with your ticket. They will give you a date to return and speak with the D.A.

Step Two: Speak with the D.A. - not much of a conversation, however. She said that my fine was $162 but that she could reduce it to $122. Say what? I told her I disagreed with the ticket. She said I would have to go before the judge.

Step Three: Court date was set five months after the wreck.
I thought I was prepared. Who knew that I would have an opportunity to cross-examine my accuser? There he was, the picture of smugness. All outfitted in his police uniform, bullet proof vest, badge and gun. Sitting in the witness stand.
He touted himself as an expert in the area of crash investigation by saying that he had been educated in the field and had investigated over 300 car crashes. Because of this, he was of the opinion that I was travelling at an unsafe speed.

The D.A. (from Step Two) was representing him, asked him a few questions and then it was my turn...

Standing before the Judge and Bailiff, I was positioned at the desk next to the D.A.. It was all very 'Law & Order'. That being said, the whole situation remained somewhat intimidating but I did manage to squeak out a few questions of Barney the officer...

"You mentioned your education and level of experience with car crashes. Are you familiar with any other factors that could cause hydroplaning...other than speed?" He stumbled and hacked for a moment, then sputtered out "sudden braking". "Anything else?" I asked. "Not that I'm aware of." he flatly responded.


My next question alluded to the fact that it was raining like stink that day..."Do you recall sitting in the passenger seat of my car and writing my ticket?" I asked.  "Yes, I had to or my paper would have gotten wet" he said.


"Do you know the minimum speed it takes for a car to hydroplane?"
"No, I don't recall" he said.

It only takes a speed of 30mph or higher to hydroplane.

And he considers himself an expert in car crashes? What a poser.

So after giving my testimony, the D.A. didn't ask me any questions and the Judge told the court he was ready to make a decision. I was found ..."Guilty". The judge said that he had to make his decision based on Texas Law even though he personally may have decided differently. This particular Texas statute does not require proof of speeding.

The good news is that the judge told me the accident will not go on my record if I take a safe-driving course within 90 days. Cost for the course? $162 - in retrospect, I should have taken the D.A.'s deal.

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