June 11, 2004


I can now officially say that I've stood up in court and presented a case to a judge. Unfortunately, it was anti-climactic.

No one wants to argue that they didn't jump the turnstile as their first in-court argument. It was a minor consolement that I was not the only one in the court room who believed that they shouldn't be punished for failing to have proof of payment for a system that didn't allow you to pay at certain entrances, but still allowed you to enter.

So, I did what the system banked on me doing--I took the easy way out and gave my Muni story a simple, but not-so-bookworthy ending.

The scam they're running goes something like this:

1. disable money-collection slots of turnstiles so that no one can pay. Leave the free-swinging gate unattended and available next to the broken turnstiles.
2. place muni-cops on the trains to catch people who enter without paying.
3. write them tickets, which are $110, even if they show you their $1.25 and explain that they tried to pay, they just couldn't.
4. make $110 off the lazy and the people whose time is worth money.
5. If the ticket recipient's time isn't worth lots of money (like a law student during the school year), they appeal. The judge offers to reduce the fee to $21 for a plea of no contest, or they can come in for a third visit to the hall of justice, in the middle of a work or school day 45 days down the line, in order to present their case at a bench trial.

Given that I have no pictures or useful statistics, it would simply be my word vs. the muni cop. There would be no jury, just the judge, who seemed to think I'd be an idiot not to take his sweetheart deal. It's a bummer that the trial would have been scheduled for July 29th, because I couldn't justify missing more work for this silliness. If only they scheduled trials so far in advance that I'd be back in school, then I'd fight for all I was worth. Oh well.

The final verdict? At $21, plus an 8-block walk to the justice hall in order to make my appointment to appeal, plus taking off half a day of billables and driving to the city for my second visit to the Hall, plus parking--let's just say that was by far the most expensive bus ride I've ever taken.

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