I fought the law
May 20, 2011 1 Comment
To start from the beginning, back in April, I was driving home from work in Herndon, and as is my typical pattern, I took the Dulles Toll Road (motto: “why pay less?”). I have an ez-pass, because Big Brother watching me sounds like a great idea if it saves me time every day, so when approaching the toll plaza, I got onto the far-left side lane.
Here’s a map of where I was:
This happened to be one of the days that the beltway entrance was backed up all the way to the toll plaza. There’s a join between the inner lanes (the access road) and the outer lanes (the toll road) right after the toll plaza – this is fundamentally so that access-road users can get to the beltway or to Route 123. However, there isn’t a sign indicating that one can’t go the other way, and inherently it is just a typical freeway merge. Seeing the complete backup, a whole line of cars merged left onto the access road (toward I66).
And that’s when I saw the trooper who flagged me over. D’oh!
So I know better than to hassle cops – I had no idea what I had done wrong, but I figured it was something. I noticed that they were pulling over all of the folks who had merged left. I figured this must have not been legit (although why there was no sign saying “don’t do this” or perhaps any of those little poles to make it actually impossible I don’t know)
The citation I received was for reckless driving, which in Virginia, unlike pretty much everywhere else, is a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by gigantic fines, jail time, and all sorts of employment-unfriendly side-effects. Yikes! The irony of getting accused of something like this is not lost on me – I’m the person who gets mocked for not jaywalking, so this is pretty rich.
A conversation with a dear friend who is an attorney let me know that this was something where I was going to need to hire someone to represent me – it turns out that the court date you get is an arraignment, where your options are (a) plead guilty and receive punishment, (b) plead not guilty and get a trial date or (c) have your lawyer negotiate with the prosecutor to agree to a different charge, and then plead guilty to that. He was able to get me a referral to an attorney who was pleasant and good, and she agreed to represent me – she said the airport police are pretty aggressive about calling things “reckless,” and that statutorily, “reckless driving” was supposed to mean “a danger to people around you.” Interestingly, unrepresented individuals are NOT allowed to negotiate with the prosecutors – to me this smacks of being a jobs program for lawyers, but what do I know?
After a nerve-wracking month, during which I had Passover, the death of my father-in-law, shiva, and continued inflammation / likely severe long-term inflammatory problems with my hands, I finally had my day in court yesterday. By “my day in court” I mean “my day waiting in the coffee shop of the court house, followed by 90 seconds in front of the judge.” My attorney negotiated this to “improper driving conduct” (which makes it sound like I flipped someone off or something), and I pled guilty to that. I’ve rarely been happier to pay $300 in traffic fines than yesterday – that was a simple infraction of the “got a traffic ticket” variety rather than the “do the crime, do the time” variety.
My bandmate Patrick includes this verse in the song Silver Line Special, on our forthcoming album Movers and Shakers
If you’re ever in Herndon, you’d better use your brain
Don’t let the troopers pull you over, in that HOV lane
Cause the sheriff will get you, gonna take you down
And the next thing you know, your penitentiary bound
So that is one chapter closed, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this, it’s to avoid the Dulles Toll Road whenever possible.