Facing Jail Time
I have a little exercise for you. Close your eyes and picture this (How you’re going to continue reading with your eyes closed is your own problem…let me know how it goes.):
The speedometer reads 85 mph. It’s dark…and late. Ben, the BFG (you know this one), is folded up in the passenger seat dozing off. We’ve been in the car for 10-12 hours at this point but we’re making good time. (Obviously. I mean, come on, the speedometer reads 85 mph.)
I see a cop car waiting by the side of the road off in the distance (and by “distance” I mean I saw him JUST as I past his darkened car).
“Shoot!” Before he even had time to pull out into traffic and turn his siren on I was already in the far right lane signaling toward the shoulder.
I have a couple hard and fast rules when it comes to getting pulled over. One of them is that I ALWAYS get out of the car. Maybe I’m wrong about this one but I feel like it puts you on the same level as the officer and you get to be a person instead of just a floating head that they look down on and hand a ticket too. Of course this tactic almost always gets you yelled at.
Or a gun gets drawn on you. (It’s not a move for the faint of heart.)
This time, because I was in someone else’s car, I decided to stay put and get everything ready. As soon as he steps up to the window I stick out my license and registration and start my pitch.
“I’m SO sorry officer, that was completely stupid. I wasn’t even looking at the speedometer until I saw you and realized how fast I was going–”
“Here’s the situation, I’m GOING to give you a ticket. You were going way too fast and there’s no way out of it.” He was very stern and obviously in no mood for jokes. “Do you know how fast you were going?”
“When I looked down as I passed you it said 85.”
“You were going 83.”
“Yes! That’s better than I thought! Saved two whole miles per hour!”
“This is a 65 mph zone.”
Turns out I was right. Definitely not in the mood for jokes.
He looked down at my license and explained that California and five other states are part of a group that have to pay their fines immediately in the state of Ohio.
“You have three options. You can come with me and we’ll get you a money order that you can make out to the State of Ohio. If you have a Visa or MasterCard I can process the payment in my car. Or you can go to jail.”
“How much is the fine?”
“For speeding it will be $130 dollars.”
“Officer I don’t even own that much money. Is there ANY way you could just let me off with a warning. It was stupid. I wasn’t paying attention but I can’t honestly say–”
“I’m not going to argue with you on this! You were going way too fast! Those are your options! What do you want to do?” (Now, when you read this you may say to yourself, “That’s pretty harsh. Brett wasn’t even arguing. He was just negotiating. Pleading maybe…but not arguing.” You’re right.)
“I told you, I don’t HAVE 130 dollars. It doesn’t sound like I have an option.”
“All right. Get out of the car.” He motioned to the flashing lights behind me. “Step to the back of the cruiser and keep your hands where I can see them.”
As he instructs me to place my hands on the trunk of his car so he can search me I turn to make one final plea. “Officer, I don’t–”
“I said, turn around!!”
My back to the officer and my hands outspread I explain, “I have a credit card with me but I don’t think I have enough credit left on it to cover this. If you want to try to run it before we go through all this…”
“Give it here.” He holds out his hand and manages to not yell at me when I turn to face him and dig my credit card out of my pocket. When I pull out the Visa he sees that there’s another card right behind it and makes some passing mention of it. “Go back to your vehicle and wait inside.”
I sat back down next to Ben who was at a loss for what to do. He handled the entire situation with complete aplomb and offered to pay for the fine or wait in Cleveland for the next day while I serve out my jail time but by this time I had kind of come to terms with the adventure of the whole situation. I had never been to jail before and–
“BRETT! CLOSE YOUR DOOR!” The officer boomed from his car’s PA.
If I was ever going to go to jail I would be hard pressed to think of a better situation. It’s not like anyone is ever going to fault me for not having the cash on me to pay for a speeding ticket.
Plus, being as disasters make the best stories, it would make for a crazy adventure if I ended up going to jail a quarter of the way across the country from where I needed to be and had to find a way to St. Louis afterwards. So, just as I had made up my mind that going to jail was the choice for me (good thing too, since it didn’t actually seem to be a “choice”) the officer comes back.
“That one didn’t work. Give me the other one.”
“Okay, but I know I don’t have 130 dollars on this one either.”
He took the card without saying another word and two minutes later he was back in my window proffering my card.
“Wow. You really don’t have any money do you?”
“No sir.” I thought I had already mentioned that but decided not to make a joke about that this time.
“Wait here.” He went back to his car…without yelling at me. I figured that was a good sign.
Moments later he was back again. This time with my license and the registration in his hand. “I’m not sure why– I really don’t know– You’re lucky. I think I feel bad for you. I don’t know why but–” He paused.
“Just make sure this doesn’t happen again. If you were going 85 it would have been a reckless endangerment charge. Keep it to the speed limit and consider yourself lucky that you ran into the one guy that decided to give you a break.”
“Thank you so much officer.” I reached out and shook his hand, exchanged smiles and went on about my business of making bad time the rest of the drive.
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