He said I was…a menace to society and a danger to decent folk everywhere.
It was a fine September day, sunny and warm. After work, I hopped on the bike and headed for the highway in all its evening rush-hour glory. Since 35W traffic tends to flow at about 70 mph, I zipped up to speed on the entrance ramp and joined the rat race. Almost immediately upon entering the highway it happened. Red lights and a siren. Wonderful.
What did I do? Was I speeding? Everyone was speeding. Oh, wait. I get it. Just call me Mr. Example. All things being equal, chances are Joe Sportbiker will take home the ticket. This will help make up for all the times Joe didn’t get caught, right?
So, I pulled over, stopped and looked over my shoulder. Johnny Law happened to be a State Trooper. Bummer. These chaps tend to be a touch on the serious side. I got out my license and insurance card as John Law made the walk. He stopped short a few feet behind me, so I had to twist around to see him. It was a little uncomfortable. Maybe this was some kind of intimidation tactic Mr. Law learned in boot camp. Very sternly he asked me if I knew why he stopped me.
“Speeding?” I replied.
“No,” he said, and for the next few minutes he gave me a severe tongue-lashing. I was an inconsiderate and unsafe driver&emdash;a menace to society and a danger to decent folk everywhere.
Wow. This cat was pissed. Motorcycle hater? Probably.
Here’s what happened. The little econo-box car in front of me on the entrance ramp was doing a steady 35 mph. I knew that the result of entering the highway at half-speed would be my sudden and untimely demise, so I passed the slow mover and entered traffic at a safe speed. The State Trooper witnessed the scene and got his boxers in a huge knot. After the lecture, he wrote out a ticket. Unsafe passing. Ouch. Very bad for insurance.
When I got home I began thinking. The more I thought, the more certain I became that I didn’t deserve the ticket. I was under the impression that the safest way to enter the highway was to match the speed of traffic. My Trooper said I interfered with the rights of the other driver, and my act was the worse of two evils. I disagreed.
Off to court I went.
I went downtown to see a hearing officer about a court date. He offered to knock a couple bucks off the fine if I would plead guilty and pay up right then. No way. Not this boy. What about the insurance that will double for two years? I wanted to duke it out with Johnny Law in his own house and come out clean. We set a date for mid-October.
This was a pre-trial hearing. It was basically the same deal the hearing officer offered. After waiting my turn, the D.A. called me up. She said she would subtract $30.00 from the $130.00 tag, if I would plead guilty and pay up right then. No thanks. We set a trial date for early November.
Both parties had one chance to reschedule the trial date. I moved it to early December, then Mr. Trooper changed it to late December. Merry Christmas. Let the games begin.
The popular rumor that if an officer does not show, you automatically win is pretty much true, but you shouldn’t count on it happening. I’ve heard a state cop would rather chew off his own arm than miss a trial date. As I walked up to my courtroom there were probably 25-30 Minneapolis city cops milling about and one State Trooper. It was my guy.
After waiting around for what seemed like forever, a couple of D.A.s started calling people up to offer yet another deal. They called me, and The Man offered to knock 100 bones off my tag.
“What about the ticket on my record?” I asked.
“You’ll have to plead guilty, of course,” he said.
“Look. I really don’t think I did anything wrong. All I was trying to do was get on the highway without getting killed. I don’t know what I’m being charged with exactly. I mean&emdash;Is this a bad moving violation like a reckless, or what?”
I wanted an exact legal definition of my heinous act. Mr. D.A. started looking through his law book, then he excused himself and left the room. So, there I sat for ten or fifteen minutes at the front of the courtroom with about 30 people staring at me. Finally, the D.A. came back in and sat next to me.
“The statutes don’t apply to entrance ramps,” he said.
SWEET! He had to dismiss the ticket. ROCK ON! He rambled on a while about being careful and taking it slow and yatta yatta yatta…
Cops are just as human as real people. There are good ones, and there are jerks. I hope the guy who tagged me learned his lesson. All that yelling at me was wasted. Three months later, the D.A. bitched him out for writing a ticket based on a law he had made up all by himself.