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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Life :: Going it Alone, Part 2 / Not Guilty (Guest Post)

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In April, I had a fender bender. Oh man, it was such a fucked up situation. I was hitting up McDonalds after work, something I do a lot. Normally, I hit up the drive through and head out. But at this time, I had a new Nintendo 3DS. So this particular video game system has the ability to link up via WiFi and meet other people. They are called Miis, and they are cute. I had heard from a friend that McDonalds has Nintendo Zones that store all the Miis who come to visit and you could collect three or four by going inside.

So I parked, grabbed my 3DS, and headed inside.

When I left, as I was backing out of my spot, I backed into someone else. I had my music loud and didn't hear him honk, and it was a situation that plenty of people find themselves in...which is to say, it was an accident. I got out of my car and surveyed the damage, which was none. I managed to back into a Ford pick-up whose massive steel bumper was as high as my head. As I started to greet the other driver and apologize and offer my information, he began yelling at me. So I was there, sandwiched between a massive bumper and a huge dude yelling at me, and I just felt very threatened. I decided to leave...at which point, he stalked after me to my car, continuing to yell and threaten. I wrote down my name and number and high tailed it out of there.

Cut to a couple hours later when a cop is giving me a ticket for a hit and run. He was FULL of lectures about how everything was video'd and he had witness statements and anyway, the Ohio Revised Code requires that I leave a lot more information than I did and "ignorance of the law is not freedom from the law". The dude was a dick who was dead set on writing me up for a hit and run.

In the State of Ohio, a hit and run is the highest misdemeanor and if there is injury to a person, the lowest felony. So I was facing the possibility of six months of jail time and a fine of $1,500.00. So I went to court and plead not guilty.

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Initially, court was not such a bad experience. The traffic court judge was nice and actually encouraged everyone to plead not guilty. But when I did, he said I had to be transferred to a different court and that's when things really started to get scary.

I was shuffled to another office where some asshole behind a counter gave me a court date, told me I made too much for a court appointed attorney, and said if I didn't show they'd put a warrant out for my arrest.

In the two weeks leading to my next court date, I called a few attorneys who never got back to me. As the court date approached I became more and more nervous.

When I showed up for my next court date, there were more people behind counters who wanted to know where my lawyer was. I explained that I didn't have one, and they said I'd have to speak to the prosecutor. As I walked over to her office, the prosecutor met me in the hall. She gave me a dirty look and told me she wouldn't speak to me without a lawyer. One of those people behind the counter came out in the hall with a clip board and told me I had to fill it out for a court appointed attorney because the prosecutor wouldn't speak to me. I had to stand my ground and insist that I had a right to represent myself and I would stay and take care of this today.

I was shuffled into the court room and sat at a table. The prosecutor came in and offered me a "deal" : $150 fine, 30 days house arrest, and restitution. I refused.

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Then, I had to stand in front of the judge. She was actually really nice and set me up with the paperwork to get me a court appointed attorney and yet another court date. It was a roller coaster to get to this point and I was pretty happy to be leaving court.

Two weeks later and my third and final court date was at hand. I went to the original judge's court where there was a note that they were in an arraignment room one floor down. The arraignment room was scary and I entered as "tv court" was happening. This is where prisoners sit behind a mic and are shown on a monitor to the courtroom. Bail is set and they are released. It was interesting and very intimidating. After an hour and a half, my court appointed attorney came in. We sat down and talked for a minute. I explained the whole situation and that I never had any intention of just leaving that guy in the lurch, that I always planned on taking care of my end of the situation. He agreed that I had a good defense and asked me to wait while he talked to the prosecutor.

Another hour later and I was leaving with no fine, no points, and only court costs to pay. I was definitely a happy girl.

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However, getting to that point was super scary. The court system is not set up to be easy and most of the people in that building were pretty rude to me. There were many times that I wanted to give up and just take whatever punishment they threw at me so that I could leave the situation. But I knew that I was actually not guilty, and so I stood my ground.

And I did it all alone.

Sure, I texted my boyfriend throughout the situation and he was VERY supportive. But it was just me in each of those courtrooms and offices and navigating every person I had to encounter and it was scary and intimidating.

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But in the end, I really learned some stuff about myself. I sort of re-realized certain qualities that I took for granted. I realized that I am a strong willed person who is capable of feats of bravery, even if that bravery is simply standing up to rude court clerks. And I realized that I am a person of conviction who was not going to back down, despite intimidating situations. And while I probably could've convinced my mom or a friend to accompany me to each of these situations, I realized that I am perfectly capable of taking care of business on my own and that is very good to know!

*This is the second of two posts by Fenn of The Honest Badger! Be sure to check out yesterday's, about a fun Disney marathon she ran solo. I found her stories pretty inspiring. Thanks for sharing, Fenn!
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