Had a gentleman picked up last night for Fail To Appear on a traffic infraction issued by a DPS trooper for 112 in a 65 last January.
I go and fetch the gentleman from the jail and stand him in front of the bench, the judge tells him that this a formal hearing, he has the right to have an attorney to aid him in his defense, so on and so forth.
Then the judge produces the warrant with the citation stapled to it, hands it to me, I give it to the gentleman and the judge tells him that he can enter a plea of "Guilty", "Nolo Contendre", or "Not Guilty". He goes on to say that if the gentleman pleads "Guilty" or "Nolo Contendre" the judge will hit him with a fine that he can either sit-out in jail, pay or make other arrangements to deal with, and if he pleads "Not Guilty", the judge will set him a bond and a court date.
The gentleman contemplates for a bit, then nods in agreement.
The judge asks him which plea he would like to enter with the court.
The gentleman ponders.
The judge waits, then gently prompts him, "Sir, what plea do you wish to enter?"
The gentleman looks up with his brow all scrunched up, "I'm ... not sure."
The judge blinks at him, sighs, and says, "Sir, there is a copy of the citation in front of you. Do you own the car listed on the citation?"
"Yes," sayeth the defendant.
"Okay," responds the judge, "There is a signature on the citation. Does it resemble your signature?"
"Pretty much," is the response.
"Okay," continues the judge, "If there is a doubt that you received that citation, you should plea 'Not Guilty' and request a trial."
"It's not that, Your Honour, it's just that I was doing so much dope that month that everything after Christmas is pretty hazy."
"Okay, court will set a bond in the amount ...what?"
I feel my eyebrow slide up.
"I was smoking so much hash, that I honestly can't remember anything that happened that week."
"Sir, I can not advise you, but you should ruminate on the fact that it is never a bad idea to exercise your right to remain silent. That's a hint, by the way."
"Wait ... had I met Two-Step then? It might have been ecstacy."
"Sir, it is in your ..."
"No. No, I remember, now. I started doing the ecstacy in February, so it was hash. I think. Unless ..."
"Your Honour," I said, "A moment?"
Not waiting for a reply, I stepped in front of the defendant, smiled real big and said, "You need to think about shutting up."
The defendant gave me a puzzled look, "You want me to lie to the judge? I thought that was an offense?"
"I want you to shut up."
"Shush. Your honour, I believe that the defendant is ready to enter a plea. 'Guilty'. 'Not Guilty'. Or 'No Contest'. In the traffic case."
"All right. How do you plea? To the traffic case."
"Well, I guess ... he can't tell me to shush! I have rights!"
"Yes," said the judge, firmly,"And one of those rights is the right not to incriminate yourself."
The defendant nodded. The judge waited a bit.
"Now, to the reason why were are all gathered here: how do you plea to the speeding ticket?"
The defendant took a deep breath. The judge nodded encouragingly. I sighed in relief.
"I can waive any goddamned right I want to."
The judge gently, and with the greatest of precision and care, laid his gavel on the bench, placed his elbow on the bench and performed a classic Migraine Salute. I considered the tactical application of police brutality.
"Sir," grated the judge, firmly kneading the bridge of his nose, "The next words out of your mouth better either be: 'Guilty'; 'Not Guilty'; or 'No Contest'."
"I have my rights ..."
"You have the right to SHUT UP! No, you cannot waive any rights! I will not allow you to waive any rights! I require you to assert your rights! I order you to flaunt your rights with your head held high! Now plead and get out of my courtroom!"
"Any word coming out of your mouth that isn't 'Guilty' or 'No Contest' will be considered a plea of 'Not Guilty'."
"The court accepts your plea. Five days. Goodbye. Good luck. Don't ever darken my doorway again."
"Wait, can you actually ..."
"Deputy. Clear the court. Good day, sir."
I love Traffic Day at JP court.