Saturday, April 10, 2010

The one about strict liabilty and a whole lot of other crap

I had NO idea what I was getting into.

When I got in a wreck back in January the officer who came to the scene gave me a ticket.

"I know this isn't fair and is like pouring salt in a wound, but it's just standard to get a ticket when you've been in a wreck," he said.

"That's retarded," I said.

I had slipped into another lane, on a temporarily very narrow and sharp bend in the road because of construction. I was going slow, but the road was just too sharp and in a second I was sliding head-on into an oncoming truck.

"I really do agree," he said. "If you'd like you can always appeal it." He gave me a number to call and took off.

I would have just payed the ticket if I hadn't talked to a girl at my insurance who said she had appealed a ticket once and she basically went into the court house and signed a paper. No big deal. So I figured, what the heck, I'll appeal it. I called and agreed that I would come back to the courthouse on a later date.

Such a dumb idea.

The first day I spent four hours listening to trials waiting for my turn to go before the judge. There were convicts in handcuffs for all sorts of burglaries, domestic violence, drugs, several teenage girls for shoplifting, a woman who was admitting that she'd lied earlier which wrongfully made her mother go to prison....

Sitting there huge, swollen and almost full-term pregnant for something as silly as slipping on ice, I felt so stupid.

Um, I've been turned into a cow, I thought, Can I go home?

Finally it was my turn and the judge set a date when I'd come back for my "trial". Sheesh. Can I just pay the fine already? What did I get into here?

Two weeks later I was back in court waiting for my turn. I was totally surprised how formal it was. I really had pictured that there would be several other traffic ticket appeals all lined up in a row and I'd sign a paper or something. I saw several people in the room who looked vaguely familiar. I smiled at them but was curious when everyone went in a room with a lawyer - except for me- for "prepping".

Who's here to prep with me? Wait- was I supposed to prep for something?

Then a woman came out of the room and introduced herself as my prosecutor.

Ummm, prosecutor? OK, this is so weird. Where's all the other traffic ticket appealers? Am I the only one in court appealing a traffic ticket? I was just here to sign something.

The group of familiar people came back out and then I realized.... this was ALL the people from the day of the wreck!!! The cop. The old couple in the truck. The girl who also hit ice and slammed into the back of the truck. A witness, and a "representative of American Fork". . . .What the. . ? They had all been called in to testify? By my "prosecutor"? Was this that big of a deal?!?

Keep in mind this was only 3 days before Dawson was actually born. Wasn't exactly feeling at my prime.

So after again sitting through several other trials, "Mari Farr vs. American Fork" began. The American Fork rep told the story. He drew diagrams. He called up the witnesses. All were sworn in. The wreck could have happened 80 times by the time the story was fully detailed. Pictures of the ice. Of the cars. Of the road. Drawings. Testimony's. Words that were a whole lot of mumbo jumbo.

"Miss ____, do you swear to tell the truth. . . .
Have you ever seen the person we have identified as Ms. Farr?"
Can you tell us when the last time you saw Ms. Farr was?
Do you recognize Ms. Farr as the driver of the vehicle shown in diagram C?
Can you go to the drawing board and draw where you saw Ms. Farr's car on the morning of January 20 at approximately 10:30 AM?
bla bla bla bla bla bla..."

Next witness, retelling the story, cross examining, testifying every detail of the accident etc etc.

Why they went into such detail is so ridiculous. There was no argument on my part. YES I drove my car that morning. YES there was ice. YES I slipped out of my lane into another car. YES the others were there. YES there was construction. . . . After forever, they finally convinced the judge of what wasn't even in dispute. What a waste of time.

It was my turn they asked if I had any witnesses. So just for fun, I called up the cop:

"Is it standard in American Fork to give a ticket to everyone who gets in a wreck"


"Didn't you tell me that it was standard? "


"Is it just YOUR standard to give out tickets when there's been an accident?"


"Did anyone in the wreck, including the other driver who also slid on ice into the truck, get a ticket"


"Did anyone give you any reason to think that my reckless driving caused the wreck?"


"So you agree that the wreck resulted from the ice and sharp bend in the road."


"Did you tell me you thought the ticket YOU wrote out was unfair, was 'like pouring salt in the wound' and that I could appeal it?"


I don't remember much more than that. But than I told the judge I had no argument to what the others had said. The wreck had occurred because of the ice and the construction lanes in the road. I hadn't been driving recklessly, hadn't been talking on a phone or in any other way a distracted driver. I paid for the insurance which covered the damages caused by the wreck and the ticket was unfair and unnecessary.

The judge's ruling went something like this.

"There is something called strict liability which states (basically) that it doesn't matter WHY you do something, if you do it, you are guilty. In other words it doesn't matter WHY you slipped on ice, YOU still slipped on ice. If the earth tilted and caused your car to go into another lane, YOU are STILL in that other lane. Therefore, although I do agree with you that it is absolutely unfair, I have to find you guilty."


Honestly I don't care that I "lost" the case. The whole experience was somewhat interesting in it's dead boring, big fat waste of time sort of way. But don't you think that it's a stupid that there's a rule that says that even if it's not your fault it's still your fault? To me it just seems like a way that a city, who hires a judge, who is paid by the city, can automatically win a case regardless of reason. After all they PAID all those witnesses etc to be there that day. If I wasn't guilty, I wouldn't have had to pay for the ticket and then who would have paid them?? In a trial that concluded concluded at an unfairly not at fault guilty, I can't help but think it had a little more to do with $$$ than "justice for all." Right?

Fun times. I left on friendly terms with all the witnesses, prosecutor, and "AF rep" who went up "against" me but who ended up being "for" me afterward. They were all so nice. Plus my sweet friend, Miki spent the first day with me, and Tiff my never-endingly-sweet sister in law went the second. Both going WAY out of there way to support me which was awesome. I really really appreciated not being alone in that scary place. Love you guys.

Anyways....Hilarious. Educational. A big fat waste of time... whatever you wanna call it, I'm just glad it's over. Next time, I'm pretty sure I'll just pay the darn ticket.

SIDE NOTE: Sitting there in that silly court room, I couldn't help thinking a lot of Grandpa. You spent your entire career as a Highway Patrolman and NEVER had a single ticket appealed. You must have been a really great cop :) I wish you were still here. I'd play those old guitar songs, the ones you love so much. You'd close your eyes & lean back with that half smile, telling me again how much I look like your bride. Love you, Gramps. Miss you so much.