I was traveling west on the Pike out of Logan Airport in November 2003. I had just flew into Logan from a week-long business trip to NYC and was driving home with my wife in the passenger seat. Beat after being stuck in Laguardia Airport, I was really delighted to get pulled over and issued a citation for doing 70mph in a 45mph zone. What a joke!… A 45mph speed limit on highway and taxpayers paid billions on the Big Pig for that!
When the police patrol that section of roadway it is like shooting fish in a barrel. There were at least eight additional cars pulled over with me. After I got pulled over, they had to stop, because there was no more room in the breakdown lane. The citation said the speed limit was posted and that was my speed was measured with LIDAR. On the drive home after getting the ticket I was naturally pissed off. I immediately photocopied the ticket and sent it in to appeal. I came across your website while stewing during the months before my hearing with the Clerk Magistrate. What a fantastic resource this site is for those of us that don’t have a relative on the police force. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You! There is a God!
After reading the recommendations on your site, I issued a public information request letter to the Massachusetts State Police. They promptly responded, stating who the officer was that operated the LIDAR device (he was a different officer from the one who wrote the citation), who to contact for a copy of the officer’s training records and who to contact for the state police’s FCC license on the use of LIDAR. The letter stated that there were no individual daily logs/journals. Attached to the letter were a copy of my citation (barely legible…I was thankful I made my own copy), a hokey high school diploma looking calibration certificate from a “Law Enforcement Maintenance Co.” dated July 2003 and the original calibration certificate from the manufacturer, Laser Technologies, which was not dated. I didn’t bother sending followup letters for the training records or the FCC license.
With this information I went into Boston in January for the Magistrate hearing, or should I say Magistrate charade. About 50 people appealing tickets sit on benches and each gets called up one by one to tell their story in front of everyone. The setting is intimidating and I will be polite when say that the Magistrate was “intimidating” as well, cutting everyone off in less than a minutes and issuing her decisions. One police officer is there representing all police officers, but she didn’t say one word, just wrote down information. I would say 30% of the people were getting Not Responsible rulings, 60% of the people were being offered a lesser fine, but still getting stuck with the gift that keeps on giving…insurance surcharges, and 10% were found responsible for the full fine amount. I got up, gave a short story without getting into technicalities as I knew I would be cut off by Queen Magistrate, and shortly found myself in the 10% minority getting the full hit. Her message to everyone else, don’t bullshit me or you will get exactly what he got! Many people who were found responsible were discouraged and didn’t want to appeal further. Only about 5% of that 70% who were found responsible decided to spend the $20 to appeal further. At the end of the day, the State would rather have you pay less of a fine than have you appeal. Some people think they are being offered a gift and take what they are given. Encouraged by reading some of the stories on your website, I knew going in that if I lost I was going to appeal. She gave me the ultimatum, “I find you responsible. You can accept my decision or pay $20 and appeal my decision to the court.” I confidently told her I would appeal, picked my choice of two court dates in March and headed upstairs to pay the $20.
My courtroom hearing was in March. This time I was more prepared, having rented the “NMA Legal Defense Kit.” The traffic courtroom was closed and the seven or so cases were shuffled into a packed courtroom mostly comprised of criminal defendants. The traffic cases were heard first. The first person got up and listened to the officer testify, then when given the opportunity to question the officer, he just began to ramble saying he didn’t do what the officer said he did. You could tell he was clueless, like most of us would be without the valuable resource that your website it! Anyway, he was found responsible and offered a reduced fine from $500 to $350 and he took it. The next person called up was told that the officer didn’t show up and she would be offered a final continuance with the date of her choosing. Flustered she gave a date and was visibly disappointed as everyone is led to believe that if the officer doesn’t show up you get off. I was the next person called up and the judge said that he would do the same for me and he asked me what date I wanted. I told the judge, “I don’t think its fair that because the officer didn’t show that the case would be continued. If I didn’t show I would be found responsible. I had to take off time from work on pay for parking to get here.” The judge didn’t even bother to look up. He just sternly said “WHAT DATE!” Flustered, I told him “Mondays are good” since the officer didn’t show on a Monday. I was told what the new court date in May will be.
My May date was today. I went into Court as nervous as the first time, even though I did not expect the officer to show. This time it was just 10 or so traffic cases in a smaller courtroom. I sat down at 8:50AM and saw a couple of police officers talking. They didn’t look all that familiar to me. A few cases were read off which were supposed to be in other courtrooms. My name came up and as I rose I saw one of the two officers in the room rise. Now I was really nervous, but I didn’t let on. We approached the two tables situated side by side in front of the Judge. The officer began to testify. I looked over to ensure that he wasn’t reading from notes or else I was ready to pounce with an objection. I continued to stare in an effort to intimidate him (I don’t like it when people stare at me and maybe he is not comfortable with speaking in a courtroom like most of us).
He began. “At approximately 9:30PM on November XX, 2003 I was monitoring traffic on route 90 westbound in the Ted Williams connector tunnel when I saw a Black Acura in a section of road posted with a 45MPH…” I turned to face the judge and interrupted the officer’s testimony by saying, “Objection Your Honor, That is heresy.” The judge asked the police officer to repeat what his last few words were and he said that he was just stating the speed limit. I jumped the gun, but the clerk and the other court officers were smiling at this point. The judge said “I am overruling you. Proceed officer.” The officer continued saying that “the vehicle was observed travelling at 70mph.” This time I knew was the appropriate time to object and so I said, “Objection Your Honor, that is heresy,” just like they do on The Practice! The judge asked the officer if he saw the reading and the officer said he did not, “it was officer ‘Smith.'” This was the name of the officer in the letter I received from the State Police and it was also written above the LIDAR box on the citation. The judge looked at us both and said, “Your objection is sustained and I am going to exclude that portion of the officers testimony.” The judge asked the officer if he had any other evidence against me and the officer said he did not. The judge looked down to write and 10 seconds later looked up and said, “I have found you not responsible, please take a seat and wait for the bailiff to give you a copy of my ruling.” I turned around to take my seat, trying to keep the shit eating grin off my face, and the attorney representing a cab driver in front of me said “good job!” How sweet it was!
The way I look at it, I earned $250 for the ticket and God only knows how much for the annual surcharges for the effort I put into fighting this. However, I honestly would do it all over again for that feeling of making sure the cops play by the rules! God bless the USA!
M. L. Waltham