I was on my way home from work one night in May, driving up Cook Hill Road, Wallingford, when I was greeted by flashing lights and a quick blast of the siren from an oncoming police car. He wanted me to stop.
I pulled to the curb, cut the ignition, turned on the lights and put my hands on the steering wheel. When it was time to get the registration and insurance card from the glove box I first asked permission. I was polite. I did all the things I was supposed to do.
Long story short I was ticketed for 51 mph in a 35 mph zone. Officially my charge was “Sec. 14-218a. Traveling unreasonably fast.”
Cook Hill Road is a lovely two lane road I travel nearly every night on my way home from work. On most nights I see no other vehicles on Cook Hill or any of the roads I travel in Wallingford.
Is 51 mph unreasonably fast under these particular circumstances? No. It certainly wasn’t unreasonably fast in Helaine’s well maintained SUV on a dry, deserted road.
I guess that’s beside the point.
I was pissed. I’m not going to lie. The officer should have given me a warning and sent me on my way. Rest assured a warning serves the same purpose as a ticket, if the reason for a ticket is to slow people down.
As soon as I got home I went searching for ways to fight it. Sure enough Wallingford’s signs are non-compliant with state code and weather conditions made radar use iffy.
When the state asked me to mail in my plea with explanation I sent a half dozen typed pages with photos and charts!
This morning I reported to the Meriden Courthouse for my arraignment.
Arraignment? Isn’t that for criminals? All of a sudden I was unsure I’d done the right thing.
I headed to a small courtroom in the basement. The word stubby comes to mind. It was a stubby courtroom.
Three attorneys were there representing the state, each taking case-after-case-after-case.
Before I could get to the specifics of my case, the prosecutor assigned to me offered a deal. I could plead guilty and get a reduced fine, plead not guilty and await a distant trail, or have the case dismissed and pay $75 to the Connecticut Injured Victims Fund.
I chose option three. Wouldn’t you?
$75 seemed like a reasonable price to make it all disappear, plus my money was going to a very good cause. I went upstairs to Room 128 where payment is made.
As I waited a man to my left signaled he wanted to ask a question. “If you’re arrested for driving on an expired license…” he began.
“I’m not a lawyer,” I replied. I shouldn’t have worn a suit!
A few seconds later I overheard the man to my right explain his need for information on a license suspension from the ’90s.
“I just got out after 17 years,” he told the clerk.
I didn’t dare look.
After a few minutes I was handed my receipt and drove home. There was still enough time to nap before work.