Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's The Principle That Counts

I parked at the Gualala Union 76 gas station and let the tank fill as I picked up mail at the Post Office. Then I drove the four miles north on Highway 1 to the Banana Belt Properties office in Anchor Bay. With about a mile to go to Anchor Bay, I passed a California Highway Patrol (CHP) car going the other way. I reflexively glanced at the speedometer. It was just over 55, and I was in a 55 mph zone.

“Better slow it a bit,” I thought.

Just as I reached the south side of Anchor Bay, the CHP was behind me with his lights on. I thought he wanted to pass, so I pulled into the first part of the Anchor Bay parking lot and slowed, then stopped when he pulled in behind me. I was surprised when he stopped behind me, then got out of his patrol car.

“Darn,” I thought, “he’s going to ticket me for speeding, probably three or four miles per hour over the speed limit.”

Instead he said he was ticketing me for not wearing my seatbelt.

“I was wearing my seatbelt. I always wear my seat belt,” I replied.

“You are now, but you weren’t when I passed you,” he countered.

He then took my driver’s license and vehicle registration, and walked to the rear of my car to write the ticket.

When he came back, he said: “I could have got you for speeding, but that’s a moving violation, so I’m letting you off light just ticketing you for a seatbelt violation.”

(These quoted remarks, including my own, are actually paraphrased, but are accurate to the best of my recall.)

I protested again, and mentioned that I was a retired Air Force officer, and that in my over 21 years of service it was a military requirement to wear seatbelts at all times, and that I always did then, and always have since.

He said: “Then I’ll see you in court.”

And I said (I think): “I’ll be there.”

I’ll go to court because it’s a matter of principle. I may have been speeding slightly, but he didn’t ticket me for that. I was wearing my seatbelt, and I won’t say I wasn’t and pay a fine just because that’s easier than going to court.

When we go to court, there can be only one issue, and it’s very simple. The CHP officer will say I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt, and I’ll say I was.

My position will be that the CHP officer was mistaken, and could not see me well enough to notice that I had my seatbelt on.

The only position available for the CHP officer is to say I’m lying.

Neither of us can prove the other wrong, or prove that we were right.

When the judge decides, he will have no idea if he was right or wrong.

Neither will the CHP officer.

But no matter what the verdict, I’ll know.

Update: I had my day in court, and won! The officer was there, and said, among other things, that he could see the metallic buckle (or at least a reflection from it) over the top of my shoulder. I showed six photographs, similar to the one below, including one enlarged to 8 by 10.5 inches, that showed that all you could see was my hands on the steering wheel, and that the reflection of the high overcast off the windshield blocked the view of everything else on the driver's side.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
If the CHP officer could even see me, let alone whether I have my seatbelt on, he must have X-ray vision.

No comments: