Sadly, this is a true story. It is also fairly long but please read it to the end.
An overcast day in mid-June of 2006 found me driving home from work along Chartres street behind the Geo. R. Brown convention center. The artery is a: 5 lane wide(wider than most freeways in Houston), one way road with few lights and no curves. Like many motorists that day, my journey was interrupted by a Houston police officer running into the middle of the road and flagging me over. It was then I noticed another officer standing on the roadside pointing a radar at the traffic. Two others (at least, may have been more) were near him writing citations. The posted limit on this 5 lane road is 30 mph; I was cited for going 43. There it is, end of story, I must be guilty. I got what I deserved! Perhaps, but this is where it starts to get interesting...
My friends tell me I should have been a lawyer because I love to argue about things. I just like spirited discussions. But I digress. I knew of a (State and Federal, which trumps any city ordinance) law that requires any posted speed limit be backed by a traffic and engineering study that sets the limit at the 85th percentile. This is the speed at which 85% of people would normally travel if there were no posted limits, no foul weather, light traffic and other criteria measured by TxDot. I won't go into the whole procedure (you can easily find the details at the TxDot website), suffice it to say that 30 mph is not the 85th percentile on this street. I decided to fight the ticket.
I put in many hours researching the law in this case, not only on the 85th percentile, but what the officer must PROVE in the case. Remember, we are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. He must prove the accuracy of the radar, or laser in this case, that he has firsthand knowledge of the reading, and there was no possible outside interference. If there was more than one officer involved, all of them must show up to testify as to what they saw. One officer can not testify as to what the others saw as that would be hearsay and inadmissable as evidence. I felt confident when it came to trial. Oh how naive I am!
When I noticed that only one officer: Matthew L. ( for Lloyd or Lieyourassoff, I'm not sure which) Davis, was the only officer to show I felt great. No way he could testify to what the laser said because he never saw it. Nor could he testify as to what the officer who flagged me over knew. That officer had been instructed by the one with the laser as to whom he should pull over.
I began my case with the 85th percentile defense. Upon my questioning, Officer Davis testified that the speed limit should be posted on the basis of a traffic and engineering study (less than 5 yr's. old). I immediately presented my evidence ( A letter from TxDot) that NO T&E study had ever been done for that street. It is an arbitrary speed limit, and as such, legally unenforceable. This agitated the DA who demanded the letter. I complied and she asked that it be inadmissable because she had no prior knowledge that it would be used in this case (well, she had her chance in discovery but decided to forego that since I'm just a stupid citizen). The judge sided with her and it was thrown out.
I pressed on with the laser defense. Officer Davis testified TWICE that it was he and he alone that fixed the laser beam on the front of my moving car. I won't go into all of the laser facts that would make this testimony fall apart; I was too shocked by this outrageous lie. I started to question him about the other officers knowing that hearsay would be inadmissable. He claims he was the ONLY officer there that day even though he lists another officer as a witness on the citation. I could not believe that a person sworn to uphold the law, not to mention sworn to truth in this case, would perjure himself like that. Nevertheless, the trial came to it's inevitable conclusion; I was found guilty. I was also found guilty on a second charge of not having a decal on my tinted window showing some kind of obscure information. I showed the judge and jury the law that says I don't need that sticker, but it too was ignored and I was assessed the fine for it as well.
I was, to say the least, extremely upset. I wanted to appeal the case but it way my (mis)understanding at the time that I would have to put up double the amount of the fines as a bond to have the case retried. I didn't have this kind of money so, despite my anger, I let it go and paid the fine. I justified it in my mind that I was probably going faster than the (illegally remember) posted limit and it wasn't the end of the world. Until 6 months later...
Cruising on the freeway through downtown at 60 mph (This time sure that I was within the posted limit) I noticed a police car merging into my lane from an entrance ramp (one with a yield sign he ignored). He was travelling about 40 mph and immediately moved into my lane. I let off the gas as he got in front of me and almost simultaneously flicked on his emergency lights. I thought maybe something was going on ahead and I slowed even further. Little did I know that they were meant for me. The cop car slowed even more, got alongside of me and pulled me over. The policeman ( I'll give you 3 guesses who it was, the first 2 don't count) came up to my window and started to say I was going too fast, that the SUGGESTED speed there is 35 mph. I told him, "No, the speed limit is 60." I suppose he didn't like me arguing so he added that I was tailgating him too.
I told him, "No way"... I was 30 ft behind him.
He told me that he couldn't see my headlights and that I should have been travelling the SUGGESTED speed of 35 mph. I again pointed out that the speed limit was in fact 60 mph.
Undeterred, he wrote me a ticket for following too closely.
I KNEW he had no case and decided to fight this one as well. At the time I didn't realize who this officer was; when it came to court I recognized him as the same one from 6 months ago. He has an annoying habit of wearing his sunglasses perched on top of his head even though this was 10PM.
I will shorten this part because I think you know where I'm headed. Officer M.L.Davis swore to tell the truth then proceeded to say that I was going 60 mph at a distance of 4' from his rear bumper in what he described as light traffic. Traffic was indeed light so I had to ask him if he thought I was drunk. He said no or he would have arrested me. Was I disoriented? Again no. Speaking in tongues? (Stretching it I know). Again he says no. So I had to ask, "Who in their right mind would tailgate a cop from 4' away?" I called him a liar in front of the judge. She was not pleased. Though not penalized for that, I was found guilty. I asked the judge about reasonable doubt. How can testimony alone be enough to find someone guilty; it's his word against mine, and they should hold equal weight in a court of law unless their is some evidence to the contrary.
I immediately filed an appeal. While waiting for a ruling on my case I noticed an article in the Houston Chronicle about police writing tickets. You only get one guess this time as to who is the "Most prolific ticket writer in the city." This man earned $162,000 dollars in the last 3 years JUST IN OVERTIME for showing up in court. Read that again...over $1,000 per week in JUST OVERTIME! This man is able to lie his way to riches without a second thought.
I went to the Municipal Courts administration office and asked to speak to a judge about this. I never got further than the office manager who provided only that, "That's the way the system works." She claims that once an officer says something in court, "It's up to me to DISPROVE it."
You've got to be kidding me!!!
I have since found out that one of the "WITNESSING OFFICERS" he listed on the citation WASN'T EVEN ON DUTY THAT DAY!(Digging through the public records at city hall can be interesting) I have been told that that officer is eligible for the overtime pay as well. This has got to be one of the biggest scam at taxpayers expense there ever was.
It also needs to be stopped. I am doing my best but if anyone can offer help I will be truly grateful. I was told by the Internal Affairs Division at HPD that it is "only a traffic ticket", they're not going to bother looking into it. Boy, they really protect their own. This is PERJURY and FALSIFYING A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT. Meanwhile, the officer laughs all the way to the bank.
WORLD - CITY LIVING
Copyright © 2010 Geddy
Our Justice System at Work-or how to make $162,000 with lies
Copyright © 2010 Geddy
About the WriterWant to write articles too? Sign up & become a writer!
9 comments on Our Justice System at Work-or how to make $162,000 with lies
Rate This Article
Your vote matters to us