Friday, April 16, 2010

Fool's Joy

This fool attorney appeared in court this morning for the first time in 25 years.  I went to my closet and dusted off a 20-year old gray suit with pleated pants (sorry, Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy).  I knotted a marathon tie full of little runners, then replaced it with a nondescript cousin.  Another no-no, I suppose, I chose brown casual shoes instead of black wingtips.  As it turned out, the other lawyers wore sport coats so I was overdressed.

I felt almost like "the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client" but I wasn't representing myself.  I was representing my son, who had been charged with a tail light violation.  Why debate a prepayable offense as minor as this one, you might be wondering?  It's a fairly long story, which I could tell you sometime if you're interested.  I think the best answer lies in the fact that it was my car, so I felt as if I were the violator.  In that sense, I was in fact the fool.

The officer had cited Virginia Code Section 46.2-1013, which requires 2 red lights on the rear of the vehicle visible from 500 feet, along with lighting of the license plate.  The neighboring section 1014 requires brake lights, which must be red and must come on when the brakes are applied.

The vehicle in question has various lights on its rear, including three brake lights (counting the Dole lamp up above, required on U.S. vehicles after 1986) that come on when brakes are depressed and two "tail" or "running" lights.  One of the tail lights was burned out.  My argument was that 1013 was not violated because at least 2 red lights were operating at all times and the license plate was lit.  The "creative" argument was that the brake lights, because they were on and red whenever the headlights were operating (of course, they also brighten when the brakes are depressed), met the 1013 tail light requirement. This actually wasn't that creative because some older cars, such as classic cars, meet the requirement this way.

 (Photo taken 8 AM, 6 hours after the citation; the officer claimed the "left center running light" was not working.  Perhaps he meant the right one -- it's a mystery to me, but basically irrelevant.)

A challenge was presented by a couple earlier sections, which require certain lights to be in working order.  To be safe, I felt I had to argue that those sections didn't apply.

After direct examination and cross examination of the highway patrolman, the prosecution rested and the judge granted my motion to dismiss.  The prosecution had not proved a violation "beyond all reasonable doubt."  High five!

The icing on the cake was returning home, picking up our mail, and discovering that my health insurance company has reinstated my wellness discount, which it removed a year ago because of "high cholesterol."  I managed to lower the cholesterol through diet and perhaps lifestyle. 

"Braggart," says Virginia, "but congratulations.  It's your lucky day."

Maybe.  Karen suggested I buy a lottery ticket.

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