Never Done: I got a parking ticket dismissed in Brooklyn Parking Violation Adjudication
One day last week I forgot to move my car for street cleaning. I realized it about 20 minutes too late, while I was on a phone meeting, and by the time I went outside, I had already gotten a $45 ticket. I brought it inside, and stuck it in my bill pile, and didn't haul it back out until I paid bills this week. But when I looked at it, I noticed something odd. It was written to my car's license plate, but in the state of Minnesota, not Maine (where my car is registered.) As in, the officer abbreviated Maine by writing MN, whereas it should be abbreviated ME.
Someone had just told me that all you have to do to get a ticket reduced in NYC is to show up at parking violation court, and that if you take the time to go before a judge, that you have the chance to get it dismissed. I decided to go down and try my luck. I'd never been to parking violation court before (nor have I been to traffic court) and was curious to see the process and culture. Also, I felt I had a legitimate reason to go before a judge -- to show them that the ticket was not written correctly. Now, I'm not saying that I was going to say the ticket wasn't deserved, or that the car isn't mine -- just that the ticket was written incorrectly. I had no idea what would come from this, but I hoped it would get dismissed.
So I went on down to the Brooklyn Municipal Building, and found the right room, which was, strangely, in the Business Center. I thought I was in the wrong place, because it looked sort of like the DMV -- you take a number, and then wait in plastic chairs til you get called up to one of many windows. After about 15 minutes, my number B333 got called to Window 19, and I handed a man my ticket and license, and he said, "$32 or judge?" I couldn't quite hear him, so I asked him to repeat himself. "$32 or judge?" So it was true! Just like that, I had the chance at a $13 ticket reduction. But I wanted the full experience, so I said, "Judge! I want to dispute it." He stapled some stuff together and handed it back to me, merely saying, "Window #17."
Off I went to the man at Window 17, who I then thought might be the judge, but he just glanced at my papers, and told me to come back behind the glass and around a corner, where I found some more plastic chairs, and a half dozen men sitting behind mahogany desks. I sat on a plastic chair and settled in for what I assumed would be quite a wait, but 30 seconds later, a man showed up from some other section and asked if I was next. As I followed him, he told me his name, (we'll call him Judge A) and took my ticket and ID, and asked me to sit.
So this wasn't an open court, like small claims court, where people watch each other's appeals. It was just me and Judge A with a desk between us. He asked me to raise my right hand and swear to tell the truth, and I made a conscious ethical decision to do so -- even if it meant I would lose my case. He looked at my ticket and said for the record, "This is a ticket for a car with Minnesota plate number XXXXX" and I said, "Actually, that's why I'm here. The car has Maine plates." He saw that I was holding my registration and asked if that was my evidence, and I said it was. He took it, and looked for where it said Maine, and then asked me to point it out for him, which I did. "Hmmm," he said. "OK. So you are claiming that the ticket is invalid because the officer wrote Minnesota instead of Maine?" "Correct," I said, as I suddenly became sad that the officer who wrote the ticket didn't know his state abbreviations, and I wondered if I was maybe taking advantage of a failing in the New York public school system. But before I had time to think about it too hard, Judge A got up and took my evidence to photocopy it, and when he returned he handed me my license and registration told me to go wait back at Window 17.
I thanked Judge A and he told me to take care, and I went back out to the main waiting room. I was pretty sure I had just won. At least I hadn't lied; I had barely spoken. When I got to the man at Window 17, he asked my name and number, "Jane Levison, B 333" -- and he officiously handed me a paper, indicating that I was free to go. But just as I was about to leave, he suddenly burst into a wide smile and sing-songed, "And Jane, his wife!" -- and made big jazz hands at the end. I had no idea what this reference was - the Jetsons? A mis-remembering of Gilligan's Island (The professor and his wife)? Something about Tarzan? I smiled back, laughed a little like I knew what was going on, took my paper, and got out of there. Case dismissed in under 30 minutes.
When I got out on the street, I looked at the paper, and I noticed two things. First, the decision:
Mis-description as to State. Dismissed, but not on the merits of the case. Summons Dismissed.
Second, right next to my address, which I corrected for them so I know it is current information, my car information:
Plate ID: XXXXX State: MN
I have a feeling this is the beginning of a long story.