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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.