Somewhere in Texas

Taking a Stab at Ticket-Fighting, Texas-Style

March 2009

They say the difference between a fairy tale and a Texas tale is that fairy tales begin with “Once upon a time…” while Texas tales begin with “You ain’t gonna believe this shit, but…” Well this is a Texas tale, but I swear it’s all true. The names have been withheld to preserve the possibility of repetition:

A few weeks ago, I was riding through West Texas on a portion of I-10 where the speed limit is 80mph. I had warm sunny skies, a long open road, and a wicked strong tailwind that made it tempting to open her up. But I kept it under 90, as the last thing I needed was another “performance award”, and the LEOs will usually give you the extra 10. Usually, but not always. Scanning my rearview mirrors, which I try to do frequently, I saw an unmarked black SUV coming up fast on my tail. The all too familiar blue lights started flashing through its windshield, and I looked down to note my speed at 88mph. Who was this, I thought, and why were they stopping me for being only 8 miles over on an open highway?

My questions were soon answered. As I put down my stand and killed the engine, a County Mountie swaggered up and demanded, “What’s the rush?” His tone was confrontational, so I replied with same, saying simply “No rush.” He then challenged, “Do you know how fast you were going?” I retorted a crisp “Yes.” “I clocked you at 93 miles an hour,” he claimed. I immediately came back with “I wasn’t doing 93 miles an hour.” There ended the foreplay, so next came the inevitable “Let me see your license, registration and insurance.” I dug’em out of my wallet, handed’em over, then watched his crew-cut head bob in my right mirror as he marched back to the SUV.

Through his windshield, I could see the over-starched deputy taking his own sweet time fumbling with a laptop and typing in my info. Several of what I knew to be “penalty minutes” passed before he finally stepped out and walked back to me with papers and ticket book in hand. I was not on a timed run, and pissed off about being pulled over, so I responded in kind. He stuck the paperwork and ticket book in my face, clearly expecting me to sign it immediately. Instead, I accepted only the paperwork, and took MY own sweet time reading it. Front … back … then front again … then back again … watching the veins in Dudley’s neck and forehead grow larger with each pass. Finally, I took the pen and ticket book from him. But before signing, I asked “Are you people running these speed traps to make up for tax revenues lost due to the recession?” The young deputy’s jaw firmed, then his lips semi-quivered as he replied “I don’t know NUTHIN’ about that!” I signed the ticket and handed back the book. He tore out a copy and almost threw it at me, then stormed back to his SUV without saying another word.

As he started up and almost burned rubber taking off, I took yet another look at the ticket and remembered that the exit to the county seat was less than five miles ahead, and the courthouse square only minutes from there. I fired up, sped to the exit, cruised to a Texas version of downtown Mayberry, and parked in front of the first lawyer’s office I saw. I walked in, and the secretary looked at me like I was from Mars. With wide eyes she asked, “Can I help you with something?” I said “Yes. I just got a ticket I want to contest. Can your lawyer handle that?” She told me he was the County Attorney, so obviously I had walked into the wrong office. She did volunteer, however, that there was a lawyer officed just a few steps away who might take my case. I thanked her and followed her directions, but the law office was closed.

What the Hell, I thought. The courthouse is right across the street. I’ll just try handling this bullshit myself!

I headed for main door of the stately old Hill Country stone edifice, and was surprised to see there were no guards, no metal detectors, nor security of any kind as I turned the worn brass knob and entered the building. Good thing that was, too: In my state of righteous indignation, I completely forgot that in addition to my skull rings and chains, I had a 9.5″ inch surgical steel bladed Case XX Model 286 Bowie Knife sheathed on my right side, and a 4.5″ brass-handled Pakistani lock blade bulging under my chaps on the left. I chuckled to myself thinking how different the situation might be if it was the Miami-Dade courthouse I was entering…

Anyway, once inside I asked a lady in the hall–the only person in the hall–where they took care of traffic tickets. She smiled and said “Just go through that door yonder.” I did, and found myself in the County Clerk’s office. No, I don’t mean a lobby with rows of clerical employees stooled behind protective glass where you take a number and wait for assistance. I mean the County Clerk’s OFFICE! There she sat at her desk on the left, with her one assistant on the phone seated to the right. Paying absolutely no mind to my appearance or, uh, accessories, she smiled a warm, disarming Texas smile and asked “How kin I hep ya?”

I immediately calmed down, as if some pressure relief valve had opened inside me, and politely drawled (it’s contagious, you know) “Ma’am, I just got a ticket that I think was unjust, and I’d like to know what I can do about it.” I handed her everything the deputy had handed me. She raised her neck-chained spectacles to her eyes, took a quick scan, then offered “I tell ya what. We normally charge $45.00 extra for deferred adjudication. But how ’bout you just pay the base fine and that be the end of it?” I smiled and answered “Deal!” then opened up my wallet and counted out the cash. The pepper-haired matron filled out a manual receipt, then handed me the top copy saying “See that ‘DA’? It stands for deferred adjudication. Just don’t get another ticket for 90 days, and you’ll be fine.”

I thanked her, but after a moment’s thought, made one small request. “Would you mind actually writing out ‘Deferred Adjudication’ on my receipt?” She took it, picked up her pen, looked out the window, then looked back at me and confessed, “I don’t know how to spell it.” (No shit, folks.) “Not a problem,” I quickly replied, “it’s d-e-f-e-r-r-e-d a-d-j-u-d-i-c-a-t-i-o-n.” As I was spelling and she was writing, another grandmotherly Texan came in. And when we finished, she asked “Was HE spelling that for YOU?!?” The County Clerk just blushed, threw up her hands, and laughed “Hey … I’m just a country girl!”

And what a sweet ole gal she was! Less than 45 minutes after signing the deputy’s ticket book, I had deferred adjudication with no points, no added penalties, no traffic school, and no attorney fees. That’s gotta be some kind of record…


Until Next Time … Ride Long, Ride Free!