As I was driving my children home from pre-school, a police car passed us, lights flashing. My daughters asked if they were going to lock me up again. All the way home I had to listen to wails of protest – “Waaa! Slow down Mummy, or the police will get you again!”
My girls have long (and slightly inaccurate) memories as it is a year since I was stopped for speeding. The nice young policeman kindly let me off the speeding but booked me for not being able to produce my license (dammit, why didn’t I pick up my handbag?)
Ten days after this I am driving with my girls, carefully sticking to the speed limit now. I passed a policeman watching cars who immediately spoke into his radio. I checked my speed – all okay – and my handbag was with me. I carried on, feeling smug. Further down the road I am flagged down by a policeman who politely informed me that I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. I just as politely informed him that I always wear a seatbelt and pointed to the undisputable evidence. He informed me that I could have put it on after passing the first policeman. Although I was armed with two ferocious daughters he was armed with a gun, so I pulled in, indignant but still polite.
My daughters by now were hissing loudly at me, “Mummy, were you driving too fast again?” “No darlings, the policeman made a mistake.” I replied through gritted teeth.
I called an attorney for advice. The attorney told me that as long as I had a valid license and could produce it at court the charge would probably be dropped. As for the seatbelt offence – it would be my word against a police officer’s and I would definitely lose, so pay the fine.
I duly attended court, produced my license, groveled a bit and was let off with just court costs. No problem. Bring on the next court case …
I attended court, pleaded not guilty … and had to interrupt the judge who didn’t listen to my response and carried on talking as if I had said guilty. I think I must be the first person to plead not guilty to not wearing a seat belt. The fine is only $46. However, I was not guilty and I was firmly entrenched in (on?) my moral high ground. The morning passed and there wasn’t time for my case … I had to return the following week.
In the meantime, my daughters are playing policemen and have locked up countless furry toys for traffic offenses. This is not encouraging.
To be honest I had pretty mixed feelings. The attorney said I wouldn’t win, but I couldn’t back down. I WAS NOT GUILTY!! I’d had a long chat with my husband who believed me and was totally supportive. Anyway there I was in court again, reading my book, waiting to be called …
… it wasn’t until the judge was explaining to me that I had the right to cross-examine the witnesses that it properly dawned on me that I was about to conduct my own court case and the witnesses were police officers. I was so busy being indignant and not guilty I had forgotten the nitty-gritty of proving it!
My knees suddenly turned to water and I just knew that my voice was going to wobble if I didn’t concentrate. I thought fast and spoke slowly. I asked my questions and even called back a witness as I gained confidence. Then I was in the witness box and being questioned. Part of my defense was that I was wearing a t-shirt the same colour as the seat belt, and I wore that t-shirt to court. It had a small picture on it and the judge asked what it was. “It’s a blue footed booby bird, sir” I happily informed him. “A what??” he said. “A BLUE FOOTED BOOBY BIRD, SIR!”
I won my case.
Although I am delighted to have cross-examined police officers, I am even more proud that my blue footed booby bird is now in the annals of American court history.
When I got out of the courtroom I called my husband. “I did it! I won!” I screeched down my mobile phone. “Excellent” said my husband, “I hope you have learned a lesson!”
BOY was there trouble when he got home that night!!