Copping an attitude

It was 1:30 p.m. on a Tuesday when the judge took the bench for the incarcerable traffic docket. The doors had opened a half-hour earlier to allow the witnesses to check in. These cases are officer-driven; generally, the officer makes a traffic stop for a traffic infraction which leads to the discovery of more serious offenses such as driving under the influence of alcohol, driving on a suspended license or driving without a license. For the most part, officers are neutral when it comes to the outcome of their cases, leaving it in the ASAs' hands. Many just want to make their overtime pay for court appearances and leave because they have more pressing obligations and scheduling conflicts. You win their hearts the faster you get them out of court. Defendants often don’t realize they can go to jail for citations for driving on a suspended license or without a license. The state will often drop the charge if the defendant has no prior convictions for the same offense and if they’ve come to court with a valid license, absent some aggravating circumstance. On rare occasions, like that Tuesday, I encounter an officer who is particularly excited about the driving suspended citation he issued. Officer Mussoll had stopped Julie Smith for speeding and discovered her license was suspended. In looking through her MVA record, Smith's license was suspended at the time for failing to pay a ticket which she immediately corrected the day after the officer stopped her. She had no other prior infractions on her record. By 1:30 p.m., I was well into my wheeling and dealing. I decided to give Smith the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps the MVA didn’t send her notice that it was going to suspend her privilege to drive. After all, the MVA has a lot of people to account for and could have made a mistake.