Red light camera traffic snarled up in court

- July 31st, 2012

$325 seemed a little steep.

Even when I was caught red-handed rolling on through a red light triggering an automatic camera on Bronson to spring into action and take a series of unflattering pictures of my Subaru contravening at least one subsection of the highway traffic act.

By 0.02 seconds. And I am not an Olympian where that kind of time difference means the difference between gold and national disgrace.

Besides the point obviously. I am not going to argue against anything because of the fact I am not an Olympic athlete and the whole ‘photo evidence’ bit.

Option One on the ticket – Pay up and shut up

Option Two on the ticket – Guilty but with an explanation


I did have a moment of hesitation and instead of just paying it I thought I would tick box two “Guilty as sin but with an explanation” and explain that I don’t have any tickets for anything (apart from unlawful cycling through Hyde Park in London that one time but, y’know, c’mon!)

I went to Constellation Drive with Him Indoors Doug and sat where we were told to sit. Then a woman came out and said everyone pleading guilty to their red light ticket should head into the room and wait for the judge…So we followed all the other tangled haired wild eyed criminal sorts that live on the edge.

One by one the people got up and pleaded guilty to His Worship, a little man with a gray comb-over and a weary air . The excuses rained down on him like fairy dust yet he paid them no mind. One by one people shuffled up to the front, some with translators, some without.

“The light was in my eyes sir … I had been driving for five hours … It wasn’t safe to stop … I was working late and it was freezing rain”

The Judges only reaction?

That will be 260 dollars and a total of 325. How long do you need to pay?

Well, that’s understandable, those were all pretty lame and wouldn’t wash if you had hurt someone.

Then the guy in the flashy grey suit stepped forward. He stood a purposeful six feet tall and even brought a series of photos of construction in Stittsville.  He was an urban planner if not an urbane planner and proceeded to chat about grades dropping three metres and ice and … urban plannery type stuff. Judges reaction?

That will be 260 dollars and a total of 325. How long do you need to pay?

I squinted over at Doug.  It was becoming clear there would be no reductions in the fine in this court.

The next person up was a tiny blonde woman who spoke clearly and stoically explaining that she was there in place of her mother and that her step-father had been driving. He died last week, was buried yesterday and that was why she was there in her mother’s place. Cue the judge.

That will be 260 dollars and a total of 325. How long do you need to pay?

“My mother was having heart surgery …  I have driven half a million kilometres without a single infraction … the car behind me would have hit me”

That will be 260 dollars and a total of 325. How long do you need to pay?

I was getting a little punchy at this point and that may or may not have been why we in the back row started giggling with every verdict. It was clear my waffling on about unlawful cycling and such wouldn’t wash here. What was I even doing there? Obviously the photo evidence trumps excuses every single time without fail.

The question of our presence was also raised by the court clerk after the cell-phone incident.

Sorry, but Every Breath You Take IS a funny tune to hear in red-light court. As I had been directed to make noise outside the courtroom I decided to do just that and that’s when I found out we had been in the wrong place.

I was supposed to be seeing a judge about pleading guilty with an explanation, when I had mistakenly seen a judge about pleading guilty with an explanation. You can see how that would happen.

I blinked at the woman behind the desk as she tried to explain this to me a third time. I have to admit I was feeling a little unnerved and not a little Yossarian-esque.

So, the people in the court room picked Option Three – NOT GUILTY I DEMAND TO SEE A JUDGE – SEE YOU IN COURT!!!! but they were unable to plead “Not Guilty” but they can’t because of the photographic evidence. So they pleaded Guilty with an explanation.

I fetched Doug out of the courtroom and we were led into a little room instead where I pleaded guilty with an explanation (not a very good one either given the competition) and the judge reduced our fine to $180.

$180 and no court stenographers, judges or even all that Your Worship business. I feel like a person who had just witnessed a massive bureaucratic eddy of resources compounded by people with an infinite ability to misunderstand the concept.

Just to re-cap. Do not ever go to court to try and say the photo evidence of your car driving through a red light is wrong. It is futile. Compassion is to be found in the middle ground.  And also, all these years later, my Technical Science Teacher was probably right about me disturbing the whole class.



Categories: Bureaucracy, Courts, General, Social issues

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1 comment

  1. Lana says:

    I believe this is an example of being “lead down the garden path.” It seems that you stopped to smell the flowers too. Thanks for the lesson and a laugh.

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