Category Archives: Court Experiences

Fighting a Parking Ticket

Posted by Azhanae Evely.

I am going to tell you about my first encounter with being inside of a court room.  I was given a ticket for “No parking in a handicap zone.”  Through this experience, I learned a lot about how to prepare for a court hearing and what it is like being in court.

I live in East Orange, New Jersey, and there is a requirement for the overnight parking.  In front of where I normally park are two handicap spots back to back.

I woke up one morning finding a parking ticket. The ticket stated, “Court Appearance Required: The undersigned further states that there are just and reasonable grounds to believe that you committed the above offense and will file this complaint in this court charging you with that offense.”

The very first thing to do if you get a ticket is read the ticket. I had never thought to turn the ticket over and read the print there. Had I not read the back of the ticket, I would have been missed these words:  “If you intend to plead not guilty, to the offense charged in this complaint and summons and have a trial, you must notify the court administrator . . . of your intentions at least 7 days prior to your scheduled court date. If you fail to notify the Court Administrator, it may be necessary for you to make 2 court appearances.” The original court date that was printed on the ticket was 3/3/16. However, when I called into the court’s administrator’s office 7 days prior to the court date, I learned that they had never set a court date. Had I not called, I would have gone on the date given to me just to have to come back because it was not scheduled.

The next thing I learned is how to fight a ticket. The first thing I did was take pictures of my car in the spot. I took multiple pictures from different angles. The weather also worked to my advantage because at the time it snowed a lot and the salt on the ground actually made a ring around where my car was which gave sufficient proof that I did not tamper with the car to make it look like I was never over the line.

I looked up the statutes on what is an offense to parking in a handicap zone. The New Jersey Handicapped Parking Law in (C.394:4-207.9) says, “Access to parking spaces, curb cuts, or other improvements designed to provide accessibility, shall be unobstructed.”  I found that having the information helped when going into court because it can aid you in determining whether to plead guilty or not guilty. I had decided that I wanted to plead not guilty.

In East Orange, they have everyone that has tickets for parking sit in one room, which I found weird because everyone could hear you.  I can see why they do it; it is about having an open trial. The first thing that is done is the roll call. After a little while, the prosecutor comes into the court room and calls everyone up one-by-one by last name.

The first thing the prosecutor asked me was why I was there. After telling him what kind of ticket I got, he asked me why I committed the offense. This threw me off because we learned in business law class that you are innocent until proven guilty; yet, he was taking the stance as if I was already guilty of the crime.  So, I told him I wasn’t in the spot. This is where I showed him the pictures that I had taken.

The pictures indicated where the signs began as well as that there was no sign behind my car. I also showed him that there was a car in that handicap spot, which means I was not obstructing the spot. After they hear from you, they either tell you the best plan of action, or like in my case, just tell you to sit back down.

While in court they do ask you to turn off your devices, so my suggestion is to always have hard copies. The judge was the one to read everyone their rights and even talked about how they could appeal. He even mentioned the fact that the court can decide whether to go to trial depending on the severity of the case. When it was my turn, they asked me to state my name for the court records which I did. Then at that point the judge let me know because of the sufficient proof I provided his prosecutor, the ticket would be dismissed. It is almost like depending on what you show the prosecutor in the beginning affects the judge’s decision.

So, because I took the time to actually make sure I had images of that moment really helped me. It was better going in knowing as much as you can about the system, because you do not ever know what can really happen.

Azhanae is a business law student at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University.

My Court Experience, by Shaaliyah T. Lyons

Posted by Shaaliyah T. Lyons. 

Background:

On ­­­­one Saturday night around 11:00pm stopped at a light, I looked up and realized I was being pulled over on Central Ave., in East Orange New Jersey.  Already in the far-right lane, I moved over slightly to get out the way of traffic.  I turned the car off and my two friends and I immediately started trying to figure out why we were being pulled over.  Is it my tinted windows? Was I speeding? What is the speed limit? Did someone throw something out at the window?  All in all, no one was really sure what actually happened but we all assumed it was my tinted windows, which have caused controversy in past.

Finally, the officer comes to the car with her flashlight beaming in the passenger and back seat as her partner comes on the driver side.  First, she asked for my license and registration.  Out of curiosity I asked why was I being pulled over.  She was hesitant and asked for my license again, for me this was a red flag.  I asked again for her reasoning for pulling me over. She proceeded to give me two reasons, one being my tints and the other because I was speeding.  In response to my tinted windows, I quickly explained that according to NJ Tint laws it depends on the part of the car:

Windshield: No tint is allowed on the windshield.

Front Side windows: No tint can be applied legally to this window.

Back Side windows: Any darkness can be used.

Rear Window: Any darkness can be used.

Following this explanation, I showed her that my front windows were not tinted. In regards to the second the reason, I simply questioned what was the speed limit and how fast was I going.  It was at this moment in which friction arose between us.  She could not tell me how fast I was going but mentioned that she had to do 50mph to catch up to me. I gave her my information and waited for her to come back to the car.

As she walked back, her partner’s family member proceeded to pull up to the gas station next to where I was pulled over.  As I continue into the next part of the background of the incident, please keep in mind that the entire time her partner was not in the scene and conversing with his family member in the gas station.

When she came back, she explained that she had given me a careless driving ticket.  A careless driving ticket usually occurs after an accident or when someone is found to be carelessly driving and putting someone’s life in danger.  Her explanation went as follows, “Because I do not have a radar, I cannot give you a speeding ticket; therefore, I am going to issue you a careless driving ticket.” Here is when it gets confusing because at this point no one really knows if I was even speeding and if so how fast I was going.  My follow up question to her (before taking the ticket) was, “Just for clarification, because you cannot prove I was speeding, you have to give me another ticket (which is arguably worse than a speeding ticket)?” She did not answer the question. After a minute or so of going back and forth, she proceeded to aggressively place my tickets and paper work on my dash board.

 

My Court Appearances

A week after I received my ticket, I called the East Orange Municipal Court to go over my court date. From there, I was informed that the date on the ticket is not an accurate day; the court told me they would enter me as a not guilty plea and I was issued a new court date.  On my new court date, the first person I talked to was the prosecutor, who gave me the opportunity to plead guilty to the obstruction of traffic.  This was a fine under $100, no points on my license, and I wouldn’t have to be in court all day.  I declined this offer, as you can tell from my story, I was doing the opposite of obstructing traffic, I was in fact going with the flow of traffic.  When it was my time to speak to the judge, they realized that even though I previously pled not guilty, the officers involved were not notified.

The following week, I submitted a request for discovery regarding my case.  Almost a month later, I came to court prepared with the copy of my discovery request, my witness, as well as the facts of the case.  The facts of this case went as followed:

  1. A cop is not supposed to catch up to a car and proceed to pull them over; they are to pace behind them to have a gage of how fast they are going.A cop is not to place their hand on your property it can be considered trespassing on private property.

  2. As stated before, there are no laws against the tints on my car.

  3. In a 15 mile radius there is only one speed limit sign that is almost impossible to see at the time I was pulled over (brought in a picture).

  4. The officer could not prove that I was driving in a careless manner that could endanger others.

When I entered the court room, I was asked if I wanted to continue to plead not guilty.  I confirmed.  When it was my turn to speak to the judge, he issued me a new court date.  That is when I explained that this is my 2nd time and court and the officer has already been notified.

I motioned to dismiss this case due to lack of evidence against me, and he approved my motion and dismissed the case!  In the end, I did not have to pay any fine or have any points added to my license.

Shaaliyah is a sports management major with a certificate in entrepreneurial studies, at the Stillman School of Business, Seton Hall University, Class of 2017.

Burglary of Jewelry Store Bungled

Posted by Mihran Naltchayan.

On January 16, 2012 around 1:30am, there was a burglary at a jewelry store named “Taline’s Jewelry” in Edgewater, NJ. Burglary is the breaking and entering into a building with the intent to commit a felony therein.

The jewelry store was arranged with a front display space, and the store next door was empty. The empty store is a big building that wrapped around the backend of the jewelry store. The “Ninja Bandit Burglary Crew” cut into a common wall of the empty store and entered the jewelry store from the backend so nobody can see them from the front side. This crew had three people. They didn’t realize that the walls had a vibration sensor that sends a quiet message to the Edgewater police department. So when the police officers arrived, they tried to run away.

“An Edgewater cop fired at least one shot at a thief who used a police cruiser as a getaway car, after a group of officers interrupted an overnight jewelry store break-in involving an alleged member of the infamous ‘Ninja Bandit’ burglary crew.” (Cliffviewpilot.com). The officers arrested 2 of the 3 people. They found the cop car in Teaneck, New Jersey 9:30 am the same day. The third guy wasn’t found.

The two men were brought to a Municipal Court judge in Edgewater and the judge ordered the defendants to be held on $50,000 bail each; they were charged with burglary, resisting arrest, criminal arrest and possession of burglar tools. (Cliffviewpilot.com).

I wrote about this article because this jewelry store is my father’s, and I thought it would be a good article to use for business law, since we cover criminal law in class.

Mihran is a marketing major at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.

How I Fought a Cell Phone Ticket and Won!

Posted by Chris Widuta.

Did you ever stop to notice how busy life can be? Either you’re on your way to your parents, maybe going to class that meets twice a week during rush hour, or off to the gym to see your friends. Life got busy really quickly for me and I am still managing to handle the responsibilities that come with it, which includes bills, an apartment, a relationship, and most importantly my future.

On a Wednesday at nine o’clock in the morning, I was headed down the highway doing a steady 20-mile per hour in light traffic. I was headed to meet with my college professor to discuss statistics before the final examination. The entire drive was very smooth with no one cutting me off. At the same time, I thought the slow moving traffic would make for a great time to multitask. Isn’t it true that more and more people getting more done by doing two things at the same time? Walking and talking is more than simply talking, obviously. For me, that Wednesday morning I was working with my television provider to opt-out of the TV service I thought I didn’t need. Cable is expensive and those types of calls are stages of perpetual holds. I was multitasking.

I was just a few feet away from my exit, blinker on, driving with both hands on the wheel, using my cell phone by holding it with my shoulder. The state trooper was already conducting his business that morning in the emergency lane, when he turned and saw me, communicating. I thought nothing of it as I knew I was within the law. I continued to proceed off my exit, slowly accelerating since traffic was clearing up and all of a sudden, red and blue lights jumped right into my rear-view mirror. This trooper was able to do two things at once, too! The amount of time it took him to leave that scene and open another had to be less than 30 seconds, and quite frankly I was impressed.

He pulled me over and asked for all the necessary documents. I always ask why I was pulled over, because I know that by most tickets are written by the discretion of the officer. He stated that I was on my phone and quite frankly I agreed. I was on my phone, and I stated to him that I was not holding it in my hand. I stated that I had both hands on the wheel, and I asked the officer if he saw me holding the wheel with both hands, at the 10 and 2 position. I believed that if he was able to see my head and phone, he must have been able to see both hands, which would be unmistakable, being about chin level from his vantage point.

At this point, the officer started to look like a State Trooper. He had the hat and was very serious, more serious than a local police officer. I knew that he had to be in a bit of a hurry when he gave me my insurance and registration back immediately and held my license. The trooper then stated that it didn’t matter how I was holding the phone, but the fact that I was on my phone was worthy of a ticket and illegal. I didn’t make a fuss of it and proceeded to my stats lesson.

It took me only a few minutes to research the most recent statue description for 39:4-97.3, or “Operation of a motor vehicle while using cell phone.” The statue number was right on the ticket, and a quick Google search pulled up some results. I proceeded to the 215th Legislature because that lead to the most recent additions to the law. I know how important it is to know current law rather than outdated information from the Internet. After reading through the entire statute, I came up for air and formed a judgment. The statute clearly stated in Article 2 Section 1: “The use of wireless telephone . . . device by an operator of a moving vehicle on a public road or highway shall be unlawful except when the telephone is hands-free wireless telephone or the electronic communication device is used hands-free.” That line right there gave me great hope that I was within the law, and hope that my day in court I could prove that. I was mentally preparing for a trial, pro se.

My first appearance in Municipal Court came 11 days later. Due to the fact that the situation was minor, and really only a monetary fine, I knew that the “ball was in my court.” You see, most municipal courts just love these kinds of evenings. People who are “money right and time poor” just plead guilty, pay the fine, and go on with life. The municipal court makes hundreds of thousands of dollars on these court nights, especially since the average fine that night was around $290 a person. These fines are like a tax on a poor decision.

This situation is the exact opposite. I am a student with a part time job, 15 credits, and financially responsible, who has some extra time to save some money. The fine was $200, a pretty large amount, and something I couldn’t lose. I was charged to go in with the prosecutor and plead my case. The first step I took was to sit down with the prosecutor and told him I plead, not guilty. He told me that by pleading not guilty I would request to have a trial, acting pro se. The prosecutor aggressively asked me if I was ready for “trial” as if it was a big and scary event. Of course, I knew this meant a trial so I was prepared. I also told him that I would be sending an “order” for discovery, which was my Constitutional right. He repeated what I said in a joking manner as if I was doing something wrong, but I confirmed that was what I wanted and thanked him for his time. I proceeded to sit down in the court room, second row from the font. I chose the second row because I wanted the judge to see my face and I wanted to be in the right position to hear the lawyers around me and the cases being presented that night. It was important to hear everything that was said because I was going to eventually head to the bench.

I took notes, studied, and remembered what the judge and prosecutor said for over 4 hours before I had the chance to speak. They called my case. The judge read the statute, told me the fine, and asked how I plead. After a moment or two of silence, I clearly stated “not guilty.” I may have been trembling a little on the inside, but it was important that he heard no wavering in my voice. The judge stated that I should prepare for a trial, but included a certain lead that gave me great hopes; the judge said, “If that phone was in your hand, you’re breaking the law.” I thanked him, and listened to him say that I would be getting a trial date. I walked out of the court room almost 5 hours later.

I quickly wrote up an request for the prosecutor. This official letter included my summons number, the date and who I was. In the order, I reminded him that it was my constitutional right for this discovery. I asked for all recordations of the interaction, including but not limited to, officers notes, audio, and dash cam video.

Preparing for the case was a matter of determining what facts were going to be most important to getting the charges dismissed. It was imperative that I used the officer’s comments against statute and the judge’s interpretation of the law. I truly believed that I was within the law, so it was relatively easy to find good reasons to throw this charge out. It was also clear to me that I would be making decisions based on political decisions; to be exact, I realized that the courthouse was making a bet that the State Trooper would be a witness and testify, but more on that later.

Weeks went by and a discovery packet was never sent. It was the day before the trial date and I called the courthouse to speak with the court clerk. I had told her I have not received discovery and asked for a new date. She said that she could not give one and trial will still go on tomorrow. This was actually good news. Because it is my Constitutional right to have discovery, I knew that the court would not judge against me, and at this point, the worst that could happen would be a new trial date. I could live with that.

I appeared to the court house dressed well. I went to the prosecutor’s office to speak with him, mainly on the fact that I have not received discovery. He was surprised to hear that I sent an request and he never received it. I reminded him of his words and what address to use. He also included a very important hint of what was to come. The prosecutor told me that the witness, the trooper, was not at the trial. This means that the only witness that the State has did not show up! I knew my rights under the Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment that, “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witness against him.” These new facts greatly swayed my emotions to believe that I had a chance to get this dismissed that night. I was excited to sit in the court room.

Surrounded by lawyers, I was attentive and engaged. Every poor soul that stood up there took the charge and paid the fine. I prepared and thought of a response for what I would say for every one of the questions that the judge asked. Many other people had trials that day, and most if not all led the accused to lose their case. I did not give up hope, as I knew I had a different tactic. Instead of arguing the law, I planned to argue why the rules of the court should sway the judge to dismiss this case. They called my name and I felt much more confident this time around. All the possible scenarios played through my head already and I was ready.

The judge read the charge as I laid my papers on the table. Before I looked up, the judge quickly and effortlessly offered to cut the fine in half. This was completely arguable, I thought to myself. I said was that I was not granted my Constitutional right because I did not receive discovery. Before he said anything, I handed the officer a copy of the letter I sent to the prosecutor. He read it and asked a few questions about what I was requesting. The judge specifically asked how I knew that the interaction with the officer was recorded. Quite frankly, I assumed that it was recorded, I didn’t know for a fact, but I didn’t let him know that. I answered his question by referring to the fact that this was a state trooper and I believed the State installed video long ago, and how important it is to have video for more important interactions. He proceeded to ask about recordations, which I also requested.

The prosecutor followed up with a statement that the officer, who was their sole witness, was not present. He asked if it would be okay to reschedule for another date. I quickly returned his comment by asking for a dismissal. The judge rebutted with some guilt tripping remarks, including that ever since 9/11, State Troopers are very busy, and that certain arrangements for special occasions are required. I wasn’t going to fall for this guilt trip. It is important for the witness to be present at any trial, especially this one. I responded with the fact that this was a trial and asked if a trial is important enough to request their witness to be present. I also stated that he should have been subpoenaed for the trial. The judge did not respond. I asked to kindly accept my motion for a dismissal.

After what seemed to be an eternity, the judge looked up and said, “Case dismissed.” His words were truly the most relieving and gratifying two words I could have possibly heard. All of the hard work and time I put in to this exercise, not only saved me the $200 fine, but I confirmed to myself that I could stand up to my opponents and be victorious. The best part of this was, I didn’t even have to argue the law, I used the law in my favor and the judge nor could the prosecutor do anything to stop me.

Chris is a business administration major with a concentration in management of information technology at Montclair State University, Class of 2016.