Who the hell ends up in jail after going to court to
enter a “Not Guilty” plea for a fuckin traffic ticket? That would be me!
And where? In
fuckin Adel, Georgia of course.
That’s right. I went yesterday to my arraignment for a
lousy misdemeanor traffic ticket, thinking I’m going to get my day in court and
smash this ignorant redneck sheriff to hell and back for his southern white boy bigoted domination and I
end up being taken to jail because the judge demanded a $400 bond – cash no
less – before I would be allowed to walk free.
The courtroom, located in an ancient (for the u.s.)
marble, wrought iron, and golden oak tall (for Adel) two story building with
the 20 foot ceilings and lazy overhead fans, full of important white people expressing
undisguised surprise that I’m here as they buzz around to make sure I don’t
enter the hallowed court room with a water bottle. Of course the podium of the
judge, clerk, recorder have a can of soda, glass of water or clear soda, covered
coffee mug, bottle of water and bag of candies in evidence.
And three containers of anti-bacterial shit, which is a
much more dangerous substance that water in a bottle…even in the hands of an old not guilty womon!
We all are individually called up alphabetically to meet
with the million-dollar suited, tall, thin white male prosecutor (I assume – he
is not introducing himself), who sits with his back to us, goes over the
charges, records the pleas, and forwards the info to the judge, a very large,
very broad in all directions, white-haired white male judge who is probably in
When court starts, I’m shocked to hear how many people
are pleading guilty to minor traffic infractions, or some vehicle equipment
failure, speeding tickets – not even “no contest” pleas but one after the other
“guilty”. When one womon tries to change her “guilty” to “no contest” I get a
glimpse of why people aren’t embracing that lesser plea.
It seems when people plead “guilty”, they are given more
time to pay the fine and a lesser fine. When pleading “no contest” the fine
goes up and the time goes down: they have to pay now and more money. But guilty
leaves points on their driving record while no contest doesn’t.
A 40-ish year old Black man tells me he was stopped for
speeding, 82 the officer admonished, in a 70mph zone. When the officer returned
with the ticket, it said 92mph and when the victim questioned him, the officer
threatened to raise it to 100mph.
I think I hear the prosecutor tell a young Black womon
that usually fines are increased for those going to trial, but will be
decreased now if she pleads guilty.
Another Black man was stopped with an expired license
that he claimed was renewed but he hadn’t received the new one yet. The officer
calls DMV in Virginia because he sees a “St. Thomas, VI” address on the expired license.
Right. Virginia DMV of course has no record of the driver, so he issues another
In addition to the man’s home address, across the top of
the license – for those ignorant of the VA abbreviation for Virginia – in bold
large print are the words: “United States Virgin Islands”.
A young, very slender Black womon has been charged with
possession of less than an ounce of marijuana which the officer ‘discovered’
after stopping her for speeding….hmmmm
She trembles wide-eyed as she nods to the judge, giving
her a year’s probation with monthly probation meetings, fined $1367.50, 20
hours of community service. And by the way, she agrees to give up her right to refuse
the searching of her home, her vehicle, her possessions, and yes, her body by
ANY police officer or ANY public official at ANY time…
Then it’s my turn. I enter the only “Not Guilty” plea I
hear. The judge is not happy. He begins to read me my rights, which include a
right to a public defender if I qualify, and a right to a jury trial. I request
He then orders me to pay a $400 cash bond pending the trial. I’m
stunned. I ask why he is doing this and he lets me know that it is to ensure I will
return for trial.
I tell him that I’ve already come back to Georgia 2
months after receiving the ticket to this arraignment to enter a “not guilty”
plea. He riffles through papers, looks at the computer, and responds with
something like it’s the law.
I inform him I do not have $400 cash – I don’t say I wouldn’t
give it to the county of Cook (which the womon sitting next to me who lives
here claims this is Crook County) to hold for months and months even if I had
it, which I don’t.
He tells me I’ll have to go to jail if I don’t come up
with the money. I tell him he misunderstands, I WANT this trial, I’m looking
forward to this trial, I’m greatly anticipating going to trial.
He calls forth the youngish white woman police officer leaning boredly against the oak door frame behind which guilty people have been disappearing with the court bailiffs
and asks her to escort me to jail. I ask the judge about my vehicle – I don’t
really care about me going to jail but I’m worried about my truck. He assures
me it will be fine for a day or two.
What the fuck??? The officer is visibly embarrassed,
mumbles what sounds like an apology and a ‘just doing my job’ remark, then,
even tho she mumbles she’s supposed to, doesn’t handcuff me until we get to her police car.
The judge comes down and catches us before I sit in the car & says he’s heard I want to speak
to him. Has he? I reiterate again that this is not necessary: I want to go to
court. I ask him
to release me on my own recognizance and he claims he can’t. I ask him to reduce the bond to $100 and he claims he cannot.
So I ask about my truck, which he doesn’t see. He reassures me that will not happen and orders
the police officer to make sure it is not towed. And off we go to jail.