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polydad
Let me work out if I'm nuts, here.

I got a speeding ticket yesterday. Also got my car towed, because my license had been suspended for not paying an insurance surcharge. I hadn't paid it because I hadn't been notified, and I hadn't been notified because the DMV hadn't recorded my address change despite having been told six times. But there's a law on the books that says I'm guilty of driving without a valid license *for any reason*. When I go to plead the ticket, the prosecutor will offer to "reduce" my "offense" from "driving without a license" to "driving on a suspended license" and expect me to plead guilty to the "lesser" charge, pay about $300 in fines, and then I "can go." Edit:Why now just drive more slowly from now on? I'm working on that, but at this time I was driving 62 mph on a four-lane divided highway. Seems both safe and reasonable to me, although I'm sure the judge will feel otherwise.End Edit

I expect that if I refuse the prosecutor's deal, the judge will find me guilty of the greater charge, as that's the way courts work. Bigger fine, possible loss of license. Edit: Courts work that way because they are in fact businesses, and if they don't find me guilty they don't get to make money by fining me. But they are *in theory* insitutions of "Justice." Question #1 is am I nuts for trying to actually *get* justice out of a municipal judge in New Jersey?End Edit

I know if I ask either my folks or a lawyer for advice, the advice will be "Take the prosecutor's deal and settle." Parents and lawyers both work that way.

I need to figure out *for myself* if that's bad advice or not. In the meantime I have to bike to work today, then bike to a train station to go to Trenton to get my license restored, then take Gabe to his dance lesson, then tomorrow go get my car back. Living without a car in this state is simply not possible, but *that* is a legal battle I can't fight; by the System, driving is a privilege, not a right, regardless of whether you can keep a job without being able to drive.

So the question I'm dancing around is, what is Law? Is it whatever the Legislature says it is? I don't think so; law gets challenged not infrequently, but again, part of the rules is only lawyers are allowed to do so. I'm merely a citizen. Think about that last sentence for a few minutes, if you will.

I'm not thinking clearly about this yet; I'll try again after I get back with my license restored.


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just remember - Law is not about Justice.

good luck!

Could I ask you the favor of a few minutes conversation? I'm at 732-249-4034, if so; I have to leave for work at 3am; about 40 minutes from now as I type this. Or send me your number and I'll call you.

best,

Joel

I just now got this. Sorry man.

Document, document, document. Do you have proof of any of the 6 times you provided proof of the address change. If you can prove that you contacted them and they failed to update your information, you might nhave a leg to stand on.

Unfortunately, it's been my experience that if you don't receive a notice about something like this, the onus is on you to call them, and keep calling them until you have the document. I never received the info to renew my license plates one year; I called them, and was granted an extension and finally allowed to go get a copy from the office -- but only because I called them, and they were not willing to go out of their way to make sure I got the document. If I had not been on top of it, and I'd been ticketed, I probably would not have gotten any leniency from them.

I must say that I don't particularly believe that the courts are businesses designed to extort money; fines are primarly intended (I believe) to act as deterrents. I know there are crooked judges and crooked D.A.s and crooked cops, but I don't think they're the rule.

"Crooked" typically means "takes bribes." I agree that *that* is much rarer.

I found a definition of "corrupt" that fits the situation; a system is corrupt when the motives of the individual are not congruent with the motives of the system of which the individual is a part. So here *the system* is corrupt even if the judge is nominally honest. His (yes, they're *all* male) motives are conflicted; his nominal charge is to "do justice," but the people he works with expect him to raise money for the town. And the prosecutor represents the town, and is the professional colleague he works with every day. So if I refuse a deal from the prosecutor, the judge is likely to interpret this as a personal insult. And the judge is aware that people going to court anticipate this; there's a feedback loop going on.

I'm in the middle of learning to stand up for my own rights and do things for myself; this may or may not be the issue on which for me to learn this lesson.

I found a definition of "corrupt" that fits the situation; a system is corrupt when the motives of the individual are not congruent with the motives of the system of which the individual is a part.

I seriously dispute any such definition. The motives of a thief, for example, is to take what is yours without your permission; does that mean that the system is "corrupt" if it prevents her from doing so?

A system is corrupt when it no longer follows its own rules; using the court system for "revenue enhancement" is certainly corrupt because that isn't part of the rules for a justice system.

(yes, they're *all* male)

So?

The motives of a thief, for example, is to take what is yours without your permission; does that mean that the system is "corrupt" if it prevents her from doing so?

Your example isn't germane; the motives of the thief are not relevant to the system. The system in that case wants to stop the thief's actions, regardless of their motive.

You do point out an imprecision in my language; is the thief in your example part of the system? If I'm an honest citizen, and I'm mistaken for a thief, am I part of the system? We're fairly sure the judge *is* a part of the system, and it was the motives of the judge to which I was earlier referring. We haven't here defined the boundaries of the system.

NJ municipal judges being all male was a curiousity; the only answer to your "So?" is "mu."

best,

Joel. Who *thinks* he speaks fairly precisely, but is often surprised by how much more precision there is with which he is not speaking.

Your example isn't germane; the motives of the thief are not relevant to the system. The system in that case wants to stop the thief's actions, regardless of their motive.

Your definition talked about the motives of the individual and the motives of the system; it didn't say anything about relevancy. My example still stands, as far as I can see, because the two motives are quite different but I doubt anyone would call that system corrupt.

You do point out an imprecision in my language; is the thief in your example part of the system?

Of course; the system you are talking about is the justice system of this country; if you're subject to that justice system then you are part of the system.

What you're talking about is an inept bureaucracy that puts the onus on you to verify changes; that has less to do with justice and more to do with bad political systems and lack of accountability.

I've beaten tickets because I was able to document (after the fact in my case) that what was written on the ticket wasn't true. Perhaps, as others said, if you could document your attempts to notify them of address changes, you can show you made a "good faith" effort and thus get off the hook.

Good luck!

If you're trying to figure out whether it's good or bad advice, don't forget to take into account your current situation and what will be the least stressful option for you. You've got plenty of stress on your palte already.

Speak to a lawyer of your own. When I received a ticket I thought was unfair, I spoke to one.* He didn't charge me for the advice (it was a half-hour appointment, of which I used about ten minutes), and told me what a fair "plea" in my context was.

Don't trust the prosecutor to give you a fair deal without consulting someone who would be acting in your own interest.

* My situation: The law had changed about a year before my ticket in Michigan. It was not required that, if a driver saw an emergency vehicle with its lights on on the roadway, the driver was to give at least one lane's clearance, or slow to significantly below the speed limit (if a lane change wasn't possible). Out of ignorance of the law, I got a ticket for the misdemeanor of Failing to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle, which carried a $200-$400 fine and four points. My lawyer told me that the likely plea would be $100 and a civil infraction worth two points, and that frankly he wouldn't be able to get that reduced (since I HAD violated the law, even out of ignorance). If the prosecutor didn't offer a plea like that, though, he told me to contact him and we'd go to court. (That's exactly what the prosecutor offered, so I didn't need to go back to the lawyer.)

Advice from a stranger

You need to ask a key question first:

Would I rather act in my own best interest, or in the interests of Justice. Anyone will tell you the two are rarely the same. Many people believe that the two SHOULD be the same, and so are very aggravated when they are not. Not taking the deal has a huge potential downside, particularly since you acknowledge that you are guilty of the infraction as the law is written. Any attorney can tell you that there is no such plea as guilty with an explanation. Fighting the injustice of a poorly concieved of law may be good for society, it may be good for justice, but it is a bad deal for the poor guy doing the fighting. You cannot win without a large investment of time and resources, and even after the investment you could still lose, because you are guilty as the law is written.

Do yourself a favor, settle put it behind you, get everything you owe any municipality paid. Get on with your life.

Be well

Re: Advice from a stranger

I appreciate the good intentions of your advice; thank you. It'll take me a few days to figure out if it's good advice or not. Practical, I'll grant it.

I hope to have an opportunity to extend hospitality to you, and however many people you may be connected to. This week doesn't look good, however, and if I'm to issue an invitation with any substance behind it, it'd probably be helpful to know how far you are from central New Jersey.

best,

Joel

Re: Advice from a stranger

Stormelord is the person who re-introduced me to D&D at the end of 1980. I wouldn't be shocked if there are other connections, but I know him as part of a milieu that includes musickat, mrkat, onecrazymother, and 1cmf (and chemoelectric, whom you may have run into on one of our journals). More the first two than the last two. You share with him being a parent of teenage boy(s).

Re: Advice from a stranger

Thank you, that is very kind of you.

Re: Advice from a stranger

Sorry, I did not answer your question, I am from Cranford NJ

And remember to document in the future ? Get someone to sign for any important letters you send.I got stung quite a few times by various organisations before I learned this little trick.

I kept getting speeding tickets when I was going across PA to visit my mother. I ended up getting license suspended, so I told mother I could not visit her for a year, until the points were off of it. Then I was always driving at the speed limit around SE PS until the suspension was off, due to my taking 'classes' in driving. (Driving classes were after license suspended for 30 days, but sorry, I was still going to get to work!) These are a total sham, due to nothing being about speeding, and everything being about bad driving. I was speeding, not driving badly.

If you have documented proof of the DMV not doing your address change right that many times, I can't see why not having paid something you never got is your fault.

Courts would act like that whether they collected money or not. They'd do it to reduce expenses, which can also be viewed as accomplishing as much of their mission as they can on a limited budget. In fact, that's how criminal courts do act.

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