Richy Rich's Day in Court
Awhile back I wrote about a wealthy car owner who complained about the citation I wrote for parking his vehicle on a dirt lot. He called my Sergeant to complain and promised to fight the ticket in court (see the original post).
Well, our day in court finally arrived. As he and I were sworn in and seated before the judge, I was asked to present my case. I told the judge about the man's SUV parked on a vacant dirt lot. The city code violation states vehicles cannot be parked on a 'non dust-free lot'. The definition of which is: anything not paved with cement or asphalt (or, if in a residential yard with a single family home, three inches of crused rock enclosed in a border is considered okay).
He countered by announcing he was the owner of the lot (irrelevant) and that it was not a dirt lot. He claimed the entire lot was covered with crushed granite over three inches deep and, therefore, did not meet the definition of a non dust-free lot. He went on to ask if I've ever written anyone else a ticket for this violation (yes) and bragged about his numerous properties that have never been cited for poor landscape maintenance (again, irrelevant). He asked me about the names of the registered owner of the vehicle and when I gave his name, he wanted to know why I wrote the ticket out to his wife. I explained the car was registered to both him and his wife and that either name would suffice.
In closing, I explained to the judge how this guy complained to my Sergeant so I returned to the lot to double check my citation was valid. I even took pictures (but forgot to bring to court) to document the violation. I told the judge there were some scattered rocks on the property but it was almost entirely loose dirt and was certain the ticket was valid.
The man again denied the lot was dirt and stated in his best lawyer-wanna be voice, "If you are certain the lot was made of dirt, then why didn't you bring the photographs?"
The judge intervened and advised an officer's verbal testimony is valid evidence and pictures are not necessary. He then clarified the law and advised the crushed rock only applies to residential lots with a house on them.
"Well, my lot is zoned for residential and/or commercial use.", he stated.
"Is there a house built on the lot?" the judge asked.
"No, but it's zoned for it."
"There needs to be an existing house for the crushed rock to be an excuse. Therefore, I find you responsible as cited and order you to pay $140. Please see the bailiff for payment."
"Your honor! What am I supposed to do to ensure I don't get cited for parking on my lot?"
"I cannot give legal advice but you are welcome to look up the city ordinances at any library and make your own decision."
The guy was furious over being found responsible and couldn't believe a rookie cop beat him in court. It was a satisfying feeling to watch the angry rich guy come in with complete arrogance and leave in a much different attitude.
I'm proud to say I haven't lost a court case yet. I've had a dozen or so people challenge my citations and/or arrest in court and have yet to lose. We're told not to take court cases personally but I know it's a good feeling to have a judge uphold a ticket I've written.