I married an attorney because YOU NEVER KNOW.
Okay, I didn’t marry him because he was an attorney. I married him because he was charming, witty, and what else did he want me to say? Oh, yeah, handsome. Admission to the Maryland Bar was just a perk.
So when I got the ticket, to paraphrase the TV ad, I had a marriage certificate, so I had a lawyer.
I was almost home from Williamsburg. We had gone there with the kids in two cars, as my Dear Spouse (hereinafter referred to as “Mouthpiece”) had come a day late due to prior social commitments. We were tired, slightly sunburned, and full up on IHOP when I bade my children goodbye and put them into the car with Mouthpiece. I hopped into the wheezing Honda Accord and hit the highway. I figured I’d beat them home because between the three of them they have the cumulative bladder capacity of a field mouse, which means multiple rest stops for their car, whereas I am part camel and can travel as far as three states over without needing a break.
After a few hours of FM radio and road noise, I was in the home stretch. I merged safely onto the JFX just south of the jail and accelerated…apparently too much.
A traffic officer stepped into my lane and waved me over. When I produced my license and registration, he informed me that I had been going 56 MPH in a 40 MPH zone. My first reaction was shock that the Accord could get up to 56 MPH in less than four hours; only a moment later did dread drag its chilly fingers down my spine. Crap. A speeding ticket. A moving violation. My first ticket, and I got my license thirty years ago when I was sixteen. (You didn’t know this post would require math, did you? Go ahead, take a second and figure out how old I am. I’ll wait.)
When the officer returned to my vehicle after taking my ID and registration to his car, where he probably posted a photo of my license picture to Instagram for all his friends to laugh at, he asked me if I had a clean driving record. Fortunately, the reply that bubbled up from the sarcastic depths of my soul did not issue forth: “You’re the cop with the computer, don’t YOU know?” I said that I believed I did. He advised me to go to court rather than pay the ticket, as folks with clean records tend to “do well with the judge”. I took the ticket and, without using my second smart-mouth line (I was speeding because I was in a hurry; you made me wait ten minutes; now I need to speed MORE) I headed for home.
When I showed him the ticket, Mouthpiece, in typical mouthpiece fashion, insisted I go to court. I wanted to pay it and be finished with it, but Mouthpiece objected to $90 and two points on my record, so I sent the ticket back unpaid and asked for a court date.
So off we went to a courthouse in Baltimore. We were prepared. We had cash to pay any eventual fine, we had a briefcase (nobody looks official without a briefcase), and I had my toothbrush just in case things went against me.
We entered the courtroom and found seats. When my case was called, we approached the bench. The officer was present, so matters went forward. The judge ascertained that I was indeed Kristin Strong, and snickered audibly when he heard that Mouthpiece and I shared a last name. Clearly he didn’t appreciate my prudence in marrying my own defense. The officer told his side of the story, and then it was Mouthpiece’s turn to question him.
That’s when Mouthpiece earned all the meals I’ve cooked, all the rooms I’ve cleaned, all the groceries I’ve schlepped home from Giant and Trader Joe’s. Heck, he almost earned those two stints in labor and delivery. (I said ALMOST.) Because Mouthpiece had backup from the Annotated Code of Maryland. That’s right: Mouthpiece came armed with STATUTE.
We had done some research in preparation for the trial. We retraced my route up the JFX and discovered that, as I’d thought, there was no speed limit sign posted between my on-ramp and where the officer stopped me. And it turns out that, if you don’t signal traffic regulations, you can’t enforce them. Was I impressed or what?!? The judge had to refer to his law books. The officer could not swear there was a sign, so I WALKED. And not a perp walk, either. Free to go. No PBJ, no points, no fine!
I always wondered what defendants did when they left the courthouse free people, and now I know. They swagger off into the sunset, just a bit gleeful at having beaten the system.