The ugly side of traffic court
April 21, 2006 3:54 PM   Subscribe

I've finally gotten together the funds to remove my traffic ticket warrant but.....

The courthouse isn't exactly the type to take payment and forget it. My wife dropped by today to ask a few questions and discovered that their policy is to immediately arrest the individual in question (me) and jail them until a court date set sometime in the future. This won't quite work for me, especially considering I've managed to find (somewhat) gainful employment in the meantime.
A few points:
1) I won't be able to 'bond' myself and still pay the ticket cost, nor do I know what price such a bond might carry. (This I discovered poking around the intarweb.)
2) I did speak to my old divorce attorney this morning and he offered to drop off payment if I were worried about it. I am, however, a bit weary of this since I may still owe him money (long story, well, maybe not long but definitely twisted), and didn't find whether the court would accept this indirect method or not from my wife's conversation.
3) I've rather gotten used to being a heinous criminal on the lamb, though it lacks the romantic aspects to be found in old movies. Should I just stay put until I can get together enough for the warrant+hypotheticalbondamount?

It's too late today but.... should I get some other advice? Just walk in with my fingers crossed? Or hide out with the loot and a tommy gun?
posted by IronLizard to Law & Government (16 answers total)
 
Wite a letter to the courts, addressing a specific judge if possible. Make the letter brief, but explain that you have the money, what took so long to get the money and that you'd really prefer to stay a functioning member of your area's workforce instead of filling a cell. Very likely you'll be offered some chance to set things right without an arrest occuring.
posted by chudmonkey at 4:03 PM on April 21, 2006


Can't you just send your wife in to pay the fine?
posted by raedyn at 4:05 PM on April 21, 2006


That's what she was trying this afternoon, they said no. They did, in fact, refuse to say much of anything other than it was an instant arrest and incarceration until some undefined court date.
posted by IronLizard at 4:09 PM on April 21, 2006


The backstory.
posted by bigmusic at 4:41 PM on April 21, 2006


Consider just letting your attorney help you. He probably knows more about how to set this kind of thing right than all of us put together.

Your story's delightful, by the way. I am glad everything has turned out well so far.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:11 PM on April 21, 2006


Not to sound simplistic, but have your wife call back on a different day. It's a courthouse. Sometimes you get the asshole on a powertrip, sometimes you get someone willing to use common sense.
posted by desuetude at 5:30 PM on April 21, 2006


These folks might be able to give you some advice or help. Best of luck, I was in your shoes many years ago and life's muchg better once the problem is handled.
posted by buggzzee23 at 5:31 PM on April 21, 2006


I'd recommend doing everything you can to get it fixed, short of getting yourself arrested. If you get nailed again for something else, and get brought in, it could be much, much worse. And if you have an outstanding warrant, a cop isn't likely to 'go easy' on you.... he'll probably pile on the additional citations, if he can figure out a way to do so.

The lawyer sounds like a good idea, if you can do it.

You could also possibly pay your fine by mail.
posted by Malor at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2006


This doesn't completely make sense to me. And I've been in the same sort of situation (and helped friends out in such).

Either you can pay all fines and related and have all legal problems go away, or you can't. If you can, I'm very surprised that no one has told you how to do so. Arresting you costs money. If you can pay to make it go away, they want your money and don't want to spend money.

My experience and suspicion is that there's no way easy way to get out of an arrest warrant from a failure to appear charge. The issue isn't just the traffic violation.

But I could be wrong. A girlfriend of mine got stopped with a FTA warrant, and the officer was nice enough to let her call me, wait for me to meet them where they had her stopped, and then follow them downtown as they arrested her but processed her fine etc. all at the same time and let her go as soon as it was all done. Note that she didn't get to avoid being arrested.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:06 PM on April 21, 2006


Not to sound simplistic, but have your wife call back on a different day. It's a courthouse. Sometimes you get the asshole on a powertrip, sometimes you get someone willing to use common sense.

You have no idea how true this is. Unfortunately, this particular courthouse is very, very small. The asshole in question wouldn't even let my wife speak to someone else and is ALWAYS at the front desk unless, and here I'm assuming, she's called in sick. Her malevolent little half smile will forever remind me to keep insurance. I hate to say it, but this particular little municipality has the worst general area reputation for handling these types of things (anecdotal evidence abounds).

Thanks, buggzzee but those offices are quite a distance from me.

The only thing with my lawyer, as I mentioned, is that I think I owe him money. Giving him the cash I have to pay might settle one debt, but not the one that's most pressing. He hasn't, and probably wouldn't, asked me for a cent because of the twisted circumstances surrounding our ummmm past. He seems an ok guy, but I haven't really spoken with him in years.

Either you can pay all fines and related and have all legal problems go away, or you can't. If you can, I'm very surprised that no one has told you how to do so. Arresting you costs money. If you can pay to make it go away, they want your money and don't want to spend money.

You would think that would be the case, wouldn't you? If only. Apparently, they'd like to arrest me while I'm trying to pay off the fines (I'm including the failure to appear in this bundle). This could be just some wierdo scare tactic, but according to everything I've read, they can do this. It is, however, at odds with what happened the last time. The warrant officer demanded full payment and the warrant fee in exchange for letting me walk out of the building, which I eventually did anyway. So what's the trouble now? Why the stonewalling?

Thanks, Ikkyu2, and I probably don't deserve it, but it has been a relatively (for me) smooth climb from the edge of total ruin. :)
posted by IronLizard at 7:10 PM on April 21, 2006


Ironlizard, you're not stuck with a single lawyer for life. If you've got a bad history with the fellow, it's time to find a new lawyer. Every town has more than one - otherwise who would they sue?

Go getcha!
posted by metaculpa at 9:02 PM on April 21, 2006


"If only. Apparently, they'd like to arrest me while I'm trying to pay off the fines (I'm including the failure to appear in this bundle). This could be just some wierdo scare tactic, but according to everything I've read, they can do this."

Yeah, they can do it. Really, if you think about it, it shouldn't be easy to make a FTA arrest warrant go away by just paying some fines. That some places make it easy to clear up is, in a sense, doing people a favor (but more likely just saving money). From the court's point of view, a failure to appear is adding insult to injury. Having to bond out of an arrest and waiting for the court to see you and make a determination might be, in your jurisdiction, considered serving justice with regard to someone not even bothering to show up in court.

I'm just guessing, here. It's not really useful to you, but I think you should be aware that they're not really under any obligation to make this easy on you. Some people and places take FTAs very seriously.

Anyway, as others have said, it's possible that the clerk is not giving you the full story. You need someway of engaging the court without dealing with that clerk directly. If you can't get your lawyer do it, then find another. If you can't afford to pay them, try to stay out of jail until you have the money to solve the problem. I don't know what else you can do. But it can't hurt to find someone in that jurisdiction who can give you the information no one here can give you.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:46 PM on April 21, 2006


Well, the thing is I DID show up. To plead guilty and then to pay the first installment. On the second I was four days late (Would have been one, but they closed early on friday) and thats when this started. I had every intention of paying it and had the installment but the WO insisted on the full amount or jail. Period. So I split. Not as if I had much option, with our childcare situation being what it was. They won't speak to me regarding this issue over the phone and are extremely rude when I call. I have the feeling that since they, probably, use the county lockup here the cost issue isn't a factor, just some twisted sense of retribution. I realize that the circumstances here are irrelevant and that I do owe some reparations, what irks me is complete lack of reason behind this attitude unless it's to keep people out of the town....... I'll just write out the letter this weekend and start calling some more attorneys monday for more info. In the meantime, does anyone have a tommy gun they can spare?

Thanks everyone!
posted by IronLizard at 2:09 AM on April 22, 2006


Your attorney sounds like a decent guy. I suspect he might understand if you preferred to pay off the thing that's going to get you arrested before you paid him what you owed him.

Why not ask him?
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:30 PM on April 22, 2006


I agree with ikkyu2. Call your lawyer. Now that you're getting back on your feet, you can speak more realistically to him about a payment schedule.
posted by desuetude at 6:09 AM on April 24, 2006


Just a quick update, four out of five lawyers have said that this is ridiculous and they should be 1) taking the payment from her 2) Just taking the money with no arrest involved. The fifth said to show up on a day the judge is there to minimize the chances of something like this occuring. Wife's going to show up friday morning and make a nuisance of herself (her idea, she's very good at it) until she gets some better answers. Failing that, I'll just give it to one of these guys.
posted by IronLizard at 10:31 PM on April 26, 2006


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