Thursday, February 26, 2009


As if to emphasize the broken and irrational nature of US life in 2009, note this month's exhibit, DD's $720.00 ticket for having an unbuckled seatbelt in Pasadena.

Punish the bad scofflaw!

Here's the story: Around Thanksgiving, your host was stopped at a stop sign. A police cruiser was turning into the street and the officer looked into my car as he went by. And my seat belt was not buckled. He turned the cruiser around, flagged me and wrote out a citation.

Now, there was no amount for the fine on the citation. And in the past, when I once received a speeding ticket, a citation was sent in the mail around a month later with an envelope and bill.

This time, no citation arrived until the yellow piece of paper with the $720.00 fine.

Surely that can't be right, said a couple of my friends. Just go down to the court house and someone will fix it.

Yeah, right. They haven't read the works of Franz Kafka, specifically, "Der Prozess," which is what life in the US resembles more often than not these days.

In "Der Prozess," or "The Trial," the protagonist, Josef K, is arrested and informed he has committed an unspecified crime against the state. The rest of it is a dreary slog through a bleak court system in which K futilely tries to find out what he has done. K eventually realizes his punishment is inevitable and the government executes him.

Well, anyway, you already know how this ends.

Your host goes to the Pasadena court house and gets in a long line of people lined up in a windowless hall, assembled to pay fines. One realizes it is a daily revenue stream and after about an hour, one comes to a window to have a talk through a plate of plexiglas. There is a gasp at the sum but nothing can be done.

The local government does not have to send out a bill informing the guilty of the amount of the fine and an envelope to pay it. That is merely a courtesy, one that is not always extended. If one does not get the bill, it is your duty to report to court by the date on the back of the original citation.

For an unbuckled seat belt infraction? Yes.

What is the original fine for an unbuckled seatbelt in Pasadena? A bit over ninety dollars, DD is informed.

Does no one think it is unreasonable to slap an extra six hundred dollars to this fine?

Silence. Then a brief pause, and DD is informed of a deal, which is also on the back of the original $720 ticket. If you pay right now (or seven days from the notice), California will take off three hundred dollars. If you don't, the Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke your license and it will go to collections.

Or, you can request a court date to see if a judge will knock down your fine. But the three hundred dollars off is a one time only deal.

And is there a guarantee that one won't have to pay even more if one requests a court date?


There is nothing reasonable about fining someone $720.00 -- or even the reduced one-time-only deal of $420.00 -- for an unbuckled seatbelt infraction. In fact, it's the very definition of unreasonable and irrational. It's the consequence of someone deciding to arbitrarily punish a stranger very harshly for a trivial "crime."

However, when reading the daily newspaper, one reads of these types of exceptional and ridiculously mean punishments happening with surprising regularity. They are part of "Der Prozess."


"Der Prozess" in the Bay area: More extortion of funding through ticketing.


Blogger A.G. Clifton said...

Thank you for reminding me not to get pulled over anywhere tasteful. Yeesh. I was once tagged for speeding on a county road by a CHP officer at a spot where the speed limit went from 35 to 50. I have never before or since seen any cops there, much less Ponch and John. That was a point on my license, too, on top of the fine.

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So in essence, you didn't do what YOU should done, and thus we invoke Kafka.

The fine is actualy $90 or whatever.

You are being surcharged for being
a lazyass and not handling it.

Kafka? no

Lazyass know-it-all? yes

12:54 PM  
Anonymous User_Hostile said...


My sincere hope is when you get a parking citation, someone swipes the ticket before you get back to your car and you discover to your horror several months later that you owe $720.


9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now we equate a moving violation
handed to you - with a parking
ticket left in your car?

Ahh - liberal stupidity - gotta love it.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous-here's the thing: I too would have thought that I'd receive a "summons" with the citation amount in the mail for a rolling stop, unbuckled belt-any minor moving violation. I've lived in L.A. all my life and that's how it always worked before. It's a reasonable expectation given past experience.

Secondly, no matter how "lazy" anyone is, this amount of a surcharge is still a totally ludicrous and unreasonable amount. If you think it's oh so richly deserved, then is $1000 extra? How about 3k?

There's definitely a putz here, but it's not the blogger who bothered to share an unhappy and cautionary story just so that jerks like you can sit there anonymously and snipe at him.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can bet that anonymous otherwise whines about big government taking all his money.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My recent experience is to be cited by a motorcycle cop in hiding for allegedly violating the walk-don't walk sign. The fine is $128.00. When I went to the arraignment at 1945 S. Hills Street, I pled not guilty. I had to pay the fine anyway as if I were guilty. Everyone in court was told that they would have to see the cashier before they left the building. How long has this shake down been going on?

3:52 AM  

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