Aug. 18th, 2009

niankhsekhmet: (Default)
Back in February, my partner and I decided to journey into Cedar Rapids for some wonderful burritos from our favourite burrito joint, Hot Harry's. We were on our way back, taking the Marion Bypass when I was pulled over for speeding. Now, this particular day, there was one hell of a crosswind and keeping my new Chevy Cobalt on the road was hard enough through the gusts. I had glanced down at my speedometer and it did say I was going 65. Yes, I know, the speed limit was 55. But we do have a "rigth to speed law" that allows us to go with the flow of traffic. Nevermind the fact that Marion, IA touts themselves as "America's Safest City". According to anyone in the tri-County area you ask, this is probably due to the incredibly young and allmost what I would call overzealous police department.

"Do you know how fast you were going," the officer asked.

"Why, yes," I said, rather matter-of-factly, "I was going 65."

"Well, you might have been going 65 when you hit your brakes, but I clocked you at 69."

At this point I was seeing scenes of "Thunderheart" in my head when the Tribal policeman, Walter Crow Horse, played by American Indian actor, Graham Greene, pulled over Val Kilmer's character for speeding in a 25 MPH zone. When asked to see the radar, Crow Horse replied, "I don't need any radar. The wind told me...69! Nail him!"

Anyway, that is how I felt about it.

The officer, after some period of time, came back with my ticket and said, "I kicked it back down to sixty five, otherwise you would have had a much bigger fine." Apparently the guy thought he was being magnanimous. I, on the other hand, was not amused.

"And if I intend to fight it?"

"There's the address and the date." he replied and went back to his vehicle.

I was angry not so much that I got a ticket, but because of the fact that either the speedometer on my brand new car was off (highly unlikely) or the fact that the Marion Police Department was doing what they have quite a reputation for.....profiling.

You see, in Marion, Iowa, if you're driving a new car, chances are you have more than enough money to pay for a ticket. If you are a person of colour and in one of the neighborhoods where the Police think you don't quite belongt, whether you do or not, you get stopped. I could on for days about the numbers of things I have heard from other residents of Linn, Jones and Johnson Counties about this particular PD, but I will save that for another time. Suffice it to say, what I am saying here is mild and their reputation for being a bit overzealous is completely justified.

I didn't make it to Court to fight it. In fact, my schedule for my job had just changed so my chances of being able to get pre-approved time off were slim to absolutely none. Nevermind what the law is. That is how the call centre where I worked operated. Those of you who have read my blog before know what a hell hole it was at times.

I realize I missed it so I read the ticket and pay the fine, including what I thought were the court costs. Two weeks later I get a letter in the mail, I owe another $ 14.95 in court costs. Ok, I pay that when I get paid again. I then get a letter from Des Moines that I owe $14.95 and if I do not pay it by X date, I risk my license being taken away. So I call the state Capital, on my dime, my cellphone daytime minutes and am on hold. I finally get a live body. I explain and he says, "Great! You still owe us $1.20. Would you like to put that on a credit or debit card?"

"Neither!" I said, "I am NOT going to put $1.20 on my credit card and I do not have a debit card. I will run to the county and pay it." The rep said fine.

I come back from Retreat to find a letter that says that they are going to suspend my license for failure to pay the full amount of my fines and fees and I will have to surrender my license IMMEDIATELY as of 9/03/09 if payment is not recieved by 8/24/09! Not only this, I have to send the attached appeal form AND proof of payment. Just paying it does not remove the order to revoke the license. I will not be safe until I get a letter from Des Moines (on the other side of the state, mind you) acknowledging that all fines are paid and I am now a driving citizen in good standing.

So, yesterday, I go in to Linn County District Court to pay my $1.20. On the wall was the sign:

"We are sorry: since we do not have a coin counting machine, we are unable to take coin payments for fines over the amount of $3.00"

I wondered to myself just how many people pay in their displeasure try to pay their fines in pennies. Believe me, I was damned tempted to do that when it was the original amount of the ticket! I fully confess that the idea of giving them $85. in pennies would have been strangely satisfying.

I explain the situation to the very nice clerk and she gets my file.

"So, isn't all of this alot to go through for $1.20?"

"Oh, well if the fine had been 85 cents, you wouldnt have gotten the notice and it would have just been let go."

That was very interesting to me. "Wait," I said, "so you're telling me that for 45 cents this County. and the State, and by the time I file this with my own County where I live, have spent far more than this in man hours, resources and such . Isn't that just a little excessive?"

She just laughed as she handed me my officially stamped receipt.

I drove home and filed all paperwork with my County at the Courthouse which is just up the street from me. This was very cheerily and efficiently faxxed to the State while I waited. But even during all of this, I am still left wondering what was the estimated amount of money spent that Linn County, Iowa went through to shake me up and get their bloody $1.20 - or if you really want to think about it...45 cents?!

I'm very sorely tempted to contact KWWL, CBS news in Cedar Rapids. They love stuff like this. Yes, I know I got stopped for speeding. Yes, I owed the money and I paid it IN FULL. But how many other people go through similar things? All I can say is, I am sure as hell glad i live in Jones County, Iowa and not in Linn County anymore. Not only are the taxes substantially higher in Linn County as they are in Jones County, but Linn County has just proven once again what horrible managers of their resources they truly are.

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February 2012

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