The Princess Goes to Court

Last month I was taking the Fairy GodBoyfriend to pick up his car from the shop and was pulled over. The officer wrote me up for not having a Virginia inspection sticker. He gave me no time to talk, so when he got back to the car (with my ticket), I explained that I had a still-valid PA inspection sticker, which I had asked about at the DMV, and the DMV told me I didn’t need one for Virginia. I told the officer I was pissed (not at him) and wanted to give the ticket to the DMV because I was *trying* to be a good citizen and get everything paid and done and registered in a timely fashion and now I had to go through THIS.

Officer C implied that the DMV folks were uninformed. He drew stars on my ticket and told me to find him before court on the date I was to appear, and show him the pink slip verifying I had gotten my car registered in VA. He told me to say to the judge exactly what I’d just said to him, and it would probably be dismissed. He also warned me to show up early, since I’d have to go through security.

Today was my court date. As instructed, I showed up about an hour early. The doors opened at 9am. My appearance was scheduled for 9:30, but Officer C was the last one on the docket. I sat behind him, pretty sure I recognized him. My mouth said, “Officer C?” before my brain was ready to talk, but it needed to be done, so I did it.

“What’s your name?” asked Officer C.

“Kontis, with a K. You drew stars on my ticket and told me to come see you before court started.”

He looked at his paperwork for a minute. “You get that sorted out?”

I showed him my pink slip. “Yes, sir.”

“Remind me what the deal was?”

“I had a PA inspection and the DMV told me I didn’t need a VA one.”

“That’s right. Okay. Don’t worry about it. But I’m last on the list, so you’ll probably have to wait a while.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I’ve never been to court before. It’s an adventure.”

Apparently, my breaking the ice with him prompted three or four more people to approach Officer C. Since I was still sitting behind him, I overheard him give instructions and pointers to people, so I felt a little more comfortable about what I had to do.

Honorable Judge D arrived and explained a little more. After reading the cases that had been pulled from his list, he would call an officer’s name and then their cases, in alphabetical order. If your name was called, you were supposed to say “Here” and approach the specified podium. You were then asked if you understood your charges, and asked to plead Guilty or Not Guilty.

Oh, crap — was I Guilty or Not Guilty? I mean, technically I was guilty, but Officer C said it would be thrown out. I figured, “Innocent until proven guilty,” so I decided to start with Not Guilty. Judging by the cases who went before me, it didn’t matter what you plead; the judge decided for you anyway. It also seemed that brevity was the best course of action–one woman pleaded her innocence, explaining the circumstance of her ticket four or five times. She just wouldn’t shut up until the judge finally spoke over her and told her she was guilty. $200 and court costs. Move along.

Very few people (besides the lawyers) thanked the judge. And NO ONE said “Here” when the judge called their names. Silly people. I had visions of the judge calling my name and me saying, “Here!” To which the judge would reply, “Thank you, young lady for paying attention. Your case is dismissed, no matter what it is.”

While waiting, I tried to best sum up my explanation into something I could tweet. “I moved from PA last year and had a valid PA inspection sticker. When I asked, the DMV told me I didn’t need one for VA.” 120 characters — that would work. I repeated it to myself in my head, over and over.

Finally, Officer C was called. A, B, G, H, King…okay, the next one should be me…I had my pink slip out and ready to present for evidence.

Judge D: Uh-lee-thuh Madeleine K– (why is it NO ONE can pronounce “Kontis?” It’s spelled phonetically, people.)

Princess A: (Interrupting the judge and therefore saving him from pronunciation hell.) Here, your honor! (I made my way up to the podium.)

Judge D: You were charged with [blah blah blah inspection]. Do you understand these charges?

Princess A: Yes, your honor.

Judge D: How do you plead?

Princess A: Not Guilty? (I didn’t sound very convincing.)

Judge D: Did you get the car inspected?

Princess A: (Flashes the pink slip so the judge can see)

Judge D: Please show the Officer.

Officer C: I’ve already seen it.

Judge D: If you plead Not Guilty, you have to pay court costs. If you plead Guilty, I’ll just dismiss this. Would you like to plead Guilty? (Was he actually…grinning?)

Princess A: (With a big smile) Yes, sir.

Judge D: Then I dismiss all charges.

Officer C: The DMV actually *told* her that the registration was still valid…

Judge D: Officer, I’ve dismissed the case.

Officer C: Yes, your honor.

Princess A: Thank you, your honor.

At which point I turned and gracefully made my way out of the courtroom so he could get on to the next case. The uncontrollable shaking actually waited until I got to the bathroom. Turns out, I’m still just fine under pressure. And, true to form, I am still excessively polite when stressed.

It’s a very good trait to have.

For future reference: there are TWO inspections in Virginia. One is the emissions inspection, which is needed to obtain your registration and for which a PA inspection (safety & emissions, required to register your car in PA) is valid. The second is the Virginia Safety Inspection which, while it is illegal to drive your car without, is apparently not required to obtain your vehicle registration. Why? I have no idea. But I bet it’s a nice source of state revenue.