Friday, March 17, 2006

I fought the law

And I won.

After a battle that began on September 15, 2005 when Hoboken, New Jersey parking officer "J" attached a boot to my vehicle and ticketed it for being parked in a "resident permit parking" area without a permit, I was found not guilty by a Hoboken Municipal Court judge yesterday after a 3 hour and 40 minute wait and a lightening fast 4-minute trial.

You might ask yourself, "self, why did the Pot fight a silly parking ticket and waste half of his day in court? Wouldn't it have been easier to just bite the so-called bullet and pay the fine?"

Very good question! Well, in order to get the boot removed from your tire, you must pay them $130. That is in addition to the $45 ticket. And since my car did have a resident parking permit clearly stuck to the windshield that Parking Officer J completely overlooked when he chose to boot and ticket my vehicle, I was not about to let Hoboken keep the $130 they were attempting to convert.

I must note the following before I get to the very exciting court dates: the "warning" sticker placed on my window telling me not to drive the car with a boot on stated that the vehicle was a "gray Kia" with New York license plates. There are several problems with this, not the least being that Parking Officer J couldn't tell the difference between a Kia and a Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is what I have) and that he couldn't figure out what state my license plates were from despite have the words "New" and "Jersey" printed clearly on the plate. This complete inattention to detail didn't surprise me all that much considering good old Parking Officer J missed the well-placed resident parking permit on the windshield.

So off I go to court (after several postponements) on Valentine's Day. I speak with the prosecutor and show him my evidence (I won't bore you with it all, but lets just say my evidence was good!). His response was that he was willing to dismiss the ticket (the $45 violation), but that the only way I could get the boot money back was to plead not guilty, have a trial and be found not guilty by the judge. So when my name was called, that's what I did.

Because making you wait once for 2 hours isn't enough, you cannot plead not-guilty and have your trial on the same day. So I was sent a notice that my trial would be at 10:00 a.m. on March 16, 2006. Being a lawyer, I spent a few hours preparing my case. I made copies of the permit and the permit receipt, called the Parking Utility to make sure the placement of my permit was correct (it was), looked through Hoboken's municipal code at the relevant ordinances, figured out under which evidence rule I could introduce my evidence, and preparing some questions for Parking Officer J in case I needed to ruin him on the stand.

I was ready for a fight. This wasn't just me v. Hoboken, this was everyman v. THE man. I had to stand up for the little guy and win against this big parking Goliath. I was David.

Okay, actually I didn't care about the little guy or everyman (or woman for that matter although I'll admit I did once like the Whitney Houston song "I'm every woman") -- I just wanted my f**king $130 back because I didn't feel like subsidizing the donut budget for the Hoboken Parking Utility.

Off to court I went yesterday. I arrived at 10:00 on the nose to a room filled with about 80 people (of course the Fire Marshall sign on the wall said that maximum capacity was 41). Court started and dragged on for some time. Parking tickets, speeding tickets, people who ran red lights. There was a gentleman who drive through a gas station in order to avoid a red light. There was a woman who was caught with "drug paraphernalia" (by the way, in New Jersey if you are convicted of any drug related crime, your landlord can evict you). There was a middle aged man who was appearing on a ludeness charge (thankfully he wasn't lude in court) and a few dumb kids who got caught jumping the PATH turnstile. The obligatory DWI case (a woman) and the equally obligaotry public unrination charge.

Then there was me. Dressed in a nice blue suit and looking like a million bucks, I sat patiently waiting while all these people had their day in court. Unfortunately, "trials" are held last. Well, after almost 4 hours of time, my case is called.

The prosecutor, who pretty much knew he was going to lose, explained the case and told the judge that Parking Officer J was "reliable." Then it was my turn. I told the judge that our Parking Officer was anything but reliable, seeing that he couldn't tell the difference between a Kia and a Jeep and coulnd't identify what were clearly New Jersey license plates on the Jeep (I had pictures!). I gave her my registration and parking permit receipt which proved that a permit had been issued for that car.

She sat reviewing the evidence and considering the testimony for about 16 seconds. The anticipation was almost too much to handle. But then, she looked up, and said that the evidence did not support the prosecution's case, that a permit was on the vehicle and that I was not guilty.


Now the fight begins to get the $130 back. Stay tuned.

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