The wheels of justice turn slowly

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A few weeks back, I saw the ticket I received March 3, 2014, finally in the legal notices and it reminded me to encourage every one of my fellow citizens to take their tickets to court and exercise their Constitutional rights to be innocent until proven guilty. And when you do, perhaps my experience can help prepare you.

My first court date was only weeks after the alleged violation. I had high hopes at this point, but after going through the trouble to rearrange my work schedule I only ended up being there for 15 minutes to enter a plea of innocent.

They also set my actual trial date, however, so before I had even left my parking space at the courthouse, I had already called work for May 30. Work wasn’t happy and neither was I,  but I was determined to go through the process because I had done nothing wrong and was anxious to prove it.

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I also learned I had the right to a speedy trial and “speedy” is considered to be within 90 days so a May 30 court date for a March 3 citation made perfect sense.

Unfortunately, that date never happened. Apparently the officer was unavailable. When I was informed the prosecutor requested a reschedule (continuance) I wrote a letter to the judge telling him of the inconvenience this would cause me with my work schedule, and I also mentioned my right to a speedy trial. I received a prompt letter back basically saying “too bad” and that my trial had been rescheduled to June 27.

Well, that date never happened either. I guess this time the prosecuting attorney was not available. Another letter to the judge turned into a pointless endeavor and my fourth court date was set at Aug. 22, nearly six  months after the alleged violation.

When I finally had my “day in court” I was denied my right to make an opening statement because, unbeknownst to me, the subject of my statement was open to judicial review so I was interrupted several times and told I couldn’t say what I wanted to.

Once the trial started, the rapport between the judge and the prosecutor was difficult to ignore and the officer’s testimony was full of misstatements, but this was obviously due to the amount of time that had passed, how many stops he had conducted since and the fact that when my ticket was written he had only lived in town for a few months.

The entire experience was enlightening. Make no mistake; in regards to misdemeanor offenses, a trial is just for show. The goal is revenue. And to achieve that goal, the state will make it as inconvenient as possible for citizens to exercise their Constitutional rights hoping we will give up, waive our rights, sign our ticket (admit our guilt) and pay our fine.

Needles to say, my experience with the Freeborn County courts was horrible and you may wonder why I am recommending that anyone go through this hassle? Why lose hundreds of dollars at work and waste time on scheduling and rescheduling with a system predicated on predetermined guilt for the sake of revenue that has no respect for the people whose tax dollars allow it to exist?

The answer is simple: Because such a system needs to be challenged. It needs to be because it requires even more of our tax dollars still and it levies those taxes in the form of nuisance fines. And those fines were originally meant to be small deterrents but have since turned into much larger randomly assigned road taxes (in my case a $40 fine, with tax, was $130).

When well over 90 percent of us just pay these extra taxes to avoid the inconvenience of exercising our Constitutional rights, the system has no incentive to improve or attempt to live up to its namesake of justice.

Please, take the time if you get a ticket. The amount already includes the cost for your day in court so get your money’s worth. And good luck.


Brian Anderson

Albert Lea