The “Been There, DiY’ed That” feature of DIY Lawyer provides us an opportunity to present real life stories of how people handled there own legal matters. The experiences related here should be instructive to others on what to do and what not to do in similar situations. In this installment of “Been There, DiY’ed That”, T.J., a 20-year old woman, received a speeding ticket which required a court appearance and threatened to put her first points ever on her driving record. However, unable to afford an attorney, she did consult with an attorney who advised her how to handle the matter herself. As she had from the police stop, she continued to be polite and was not afraid to ask the critical question with deferential politeness, “Can I have a reduction of points.” The interview was conducted by DiY Lawyer writer Martha Taylor.
Diy-Martha Taylor: Tell us what happened leading up to you getting a speeding ticket.
TJ: It was Monday, February 28, 2011 around 8:30am. I was on my way to school. I was driving on Route 1 when I was exiting and I saw a white police van flashing with sirens. I couldn’t understand why I was being pulled over. The policeman said he clocked me at 74 mph in a 55 mph zone. The officer asked me for my driver’s license and registration and gave me a ticket 15 minutes later. I had never gotten a ticket before and was very upset that I had gotten myself in the situation.
Q: What were the consequences of the offense?
A: I understood the original charge would result in about a $200.00 fine in addition to four points on my driver’s license. The area I was pulled over in was a double fine area.
Q: How did you feel when you initially went to court?
A: When I walked into court my court time was at 1:00 pm. I dressed in jeans and Uggs, prep style. Everyone else seemed to be in sweat pants and very, very casual clothing. Someone had pajamas on, or that’s what they looked like. As I stepped inside the court building, I was filled with anticipation, anxiety, depression and state of shock. I felt like I did not fit in because other [people] present were there for robbery, driving without a license, etc. It was scary. I cried 5-6 times before I saw the judge.
Q: Who did you speak to while in court?
A: The first person I spoke to was the prosecutor. I asked the prosecutor to reduce the ticket to a no point ticket. She rudely said, “No, you were doing 24 miles over the speed limit and you are going to get some points.” At this point, many things were going through my head: my dad was going to take me off his insurance; how was I going to get to school, work, etc.?
I cried and sat back down.
Q: How did you speak to the prosecutor?
A: I spoke in a conservative soft-spoken tone.
Q: What were your results?
A: Two hours later, the prosecutor called me outside the courtroom and gave me information about my [driving] abstract and told me what I had to do in front of the judge, which was plead guilty to a no point ticket.
Q: How did you feel about those results?
A: I felt relieved, jumping for joy.
Q: What advice would you give to others on how to conduct yourself in the courtroom?
A: Not to overreact, try to avoid the situation. They are tough [on you] because they do not want to see you again.
Editor’s Note: TJ’s final result was a guilty plea to a no point ticket. She scheduled a payment plan. She paid $100 up front and she had to pay the rest within a month . Although, there were a number of things she could have done differently to increase her odds of getting the best result likely, she got to the bottom line by how she presented herself and treated others in the judicial system. Her advantage was that she was a student and had no previous points on her license. Her disadvantage was that without an attorney she was forced to wait for two hours before a decision was reached. The representation of an attorney would have sped up the process significantly, but there is no guarantee that an attorney would have received such a positive result.
This interview was conducted by Martha Taylor. A native of New Jersey, by way of Alabama, Marti is currently a litigation paralegal at Ponder Tuck Ponder, LLC in Princeton, NJ. Marti is a graduate of the University of Kentucky where she earned her B.A. in anthropology.