An Unforgettable Traffic Ticket From the U.S. Court

The last Christmas Eve, I was driving my son Carson to the South Coast Plaza for Christmas shopping. On our way home, as we were getting off Highway 405 from the exit of Jamboree and waiting for the traffic light to clear, Carson saw a homeless guy on the side of the road. He said to me, “It’s so cold out there. Today is Christmas Eve, is it OK we give him some Christmas money to buy a hamburger?” I said, “Good.” and gave him a $10 bill. My son rolled down the window and fulfilled his wish. What was unexpected next was after I passed the block, a siren was heard from a police car and I was directed to pull over. Out came a white heavy police who would have none of my explanations and handed me a traffic ticket. Carson was on the verge of tears. I kept comforting him saying that daddy would appeal.

A month later, I received a notice from the court ordering me to appear in court per scheduled time and accept the investigations from the court.

I remember it was a day in March. I was driving my tourist group from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon and had to hurry back home. I went to the court barely prepared. Upon my arrival at the court, I searched for the heavy cop all over the place and was secretly happy I did not see anyone in the police uniform. Per California laws, if the cop does not show up, I would automatically win. I was not happy for long before my name was called by the court clerk and I realized I was not even close to winning yet.

Today’s procedure was only for court investigation. The judge gave me three options. First, he asked me if I was willing to accept the ticket, to which I responded “No.”. Secondly, he asked me if I was willing to go to traffic school so that no credit would be deducted and my car insurance would not be affected. I said “No” again. My last option was to argue with the cop and issue was to be decided by the court. I said “Yes.” And the judge said, “OK.”

I had thought that the hearing would have happened on that same day, but per the judge, the hearing would be scheduled at a later date, so that enough time could be given to the copy who accused me. According to the court procedures, I needed to first pay the $248 fine at the window across from the court. If I would lose in court, then the fine would be taken; but if I win, the check would be returned by the court.

Thus, the hearing was re-scheduled to be May 9 for the court to hear my violation of traffic laws.

It was my first appearance in the U.S. court under allegation from a U.S. cop. I was nervous. On the day of the hearing, I arrived half an hour early. With the hearing hour approaching, the court room started to be filled with all kinds of cops, and there he was, the heavy-set cop who handed me the ticket was sitting up tight in the plaintiffs’ waiting area. After I finished up all with the registrations with court, I waited quietly in the defendants’ area.

When my registration information showed up on the main screen in the court, my court interpreter arrived. She was a beautiful interpreter extremely fluent in both Chinese and English. She did a fine job with a seamless simultaneous interpretation. After she verified my personal information, she sat down beside me and told me gently to focus on my statement to the court, and she would interpret just as I said, and that she was not allowed to give me any tips on any questions. She also reminded me that when answering judge’s questions, to maintain eye contact with the judge. If I turned over to look at her, it would be considered disrespectful to the judge.

Next, the judge verified my identity such as my name, driver’s license, etc. Then the cop and I stood on the two side of the court answering questions from the judge.

The judge first stated what the traffic ticket said and asked me if it was true. I said “Yes.” Then he asked, “Do you accept the penalty?” I said “No.”. The judge asked, “Why?” I stated my three reasons of saying “no”:

When my son gave money to the homeless man, the traffic light started to change. If I had driven off abruptly, it would have raised safety concerns with both my son and the homeless man.

There are three left-turn lanes by the exit. I stopped at the far left lane and there was no car behind me, so I did not think I was in the way of other cars.

Christmas Eve is meant to be a night to give Christmas spirit to everyone by sharing love and gifts. My son Carson wished to give a hamburger to a homeless man for the sake of God, and it was a gesture of kindness. If such a kind gesture was considered a violation and penalized by the police, I believe it would cast a dark shadow in the heart of a 10-year-old.

The pretty interpreter was so good her interpretation was almost simultaneous. When I was done talking, so did her interpretation. Then the judge inquired with the cop if what I said was true. The heavy cop hesitated for a moment and said, “Sorry.” He told the judge that he decided to withdraw his allegations against me.

At that moment, the pretty interpreter tuned over and said to me with a big smile something aside from interpretation, “Congratulations. You won. And congratulate your son too. He is rewarded by his act of love.”

The judge told me loudly, “At today’s hearing, you won because the police withdraws his allegations against you. I am signing off the court order and your check will be returned to you shortly. However, I also think the police won too, because with this ticket, he let you know the importance of the traffic laws. You are supposed to immediately follow the indications of the traffic lights. He exercised his rights (as a policeman) by giving you this ticket. Of course, God knows you started off a few seconds late because of the act of love from Carson and that he wanted to give a hamburger to a poor person. May God forgive you.”

When I heard those words from the judge and met his eyes of amiable smile, and the kind looks from the cop, I was overcome with guilt and warmth. Amen! Thank God that I live in a society with laws, love and righteousness.

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