Monday, September 24, 2007

A Moving Violation... or Four

I'm an upstanding citizen, I am. I pay my taxes (grr), I mind my own bizness ('cept when I'm telling off bad mothers), and I vote (O'Doyle rules! Oh wait, that's from Billy Madison). I'm really a very non-threatening person, and I shouldn't seem very suspect to, oh, say... a cop.

So it was with great surprise that I noticed the swirling red and blue lights in my rear view mirror on Saturday night as I rolled through a small town in WI... rolling so slowly I think I was riding with my foot on the brake pedal.

Normally my heart nearly pounds out of my chest when I get pulled over (yes'm, it's happened before). But this time I couldn't imagine what I'd done wrong. As I pulled to the shoulder I began the litany of "What?! I didn't do anything! What could he want with me?!" in utter astonishment.

I mean, consider this... it was Saturday night and I was driving home at 8:00pm, kids in tow. We had our road bikes strapped to the back because we'd completed a half-day ride. We had just left from a visit with the great-grandmas. And I don't drink much anymore so I'd consumed approximately one soda and eighteen glasses of ice water.

Not what you call your average Saturday night random stop, you know?

So imagine my surpise when the officer had not one concern (35mph in a 25), not two (headlight out), but three (bike rack covering the license plate) and then four (registration sticker expired on said covered license plate). Holy bat violations! I was suddenly a'fluster.

Ok, calm down, let's see. Speeding, ok, oops. I mean, 25 mph is, like, moving backwards, but ok, I guess I was wrong. The officer said, "You took off from Hwy 11..."

Took off? Took off?.. Hardly... "when I noticed your headlight was out."

Wow, so... so... criminal.

At least it wasn't like the time I was going 86 in a 55. (There was no getting out of that little jam. Cringe.) At least I wasn't getting hauled to the station. (My dad was, as you can imagine, slightly less than pleased that time. Double-Cringe.) At least I wouldn't have to go to traffic school for a burnt-out headlight. (Would I? My aunt designed our local traffic school program, so I just wanted to, like, you know - test the program's efficacy for her. Double-Double-Cringe.)

The cop asked my husband to step outside so he could show him something, and had his hand on his gun all the while. I was really starting to feel like a criminal. It seems Rob had placed a towel under the bike rack so it wouldn't scratch the van and the towel had slipped down. And seeing as the registration was expired, it looked like we were trying to cover something up. (Which, of course, logically, was why I was "taking off" so fast from Hwy 11... sigh)

He showed Rob how to move the towel. "Yes, sir."

He showed him the burnt-out headlight. "Yes sir, I'll change that first thing Monday morning, sir."

He showed him the registration sticker, and thankfully I'd kept all the paperwork to prove that we had indeed registered it, but apparently the sticker hadn't come.

In the end he let me off with a verbal warning, thank the lucky stars. I've never gotten a warning! Once, when ticketed for speeding (at the ripe old age of 16) the cop snorted, "And if you cry, I'll give you a seatbelt ticket too!" (Hey, it was 1988 - no one wore seatbelts back then!) This is the first time I've ever gotten away with just a warning, and I would've jumped out of my van and kissed the cop if I didn't think he'd pull his gun and go all excessive force on me or something.

The kids had a good time of smirking and scolding "Moooommmmm..... you were baaadddd....."

Huh. They don't know the half of it.


Stephanie said...

Wicked, WICKED cackle going on over here!
I tend to drive about 15 over the speed limit - except in residential - I do have my standards - and got pulled over once a few months back.

Pretty dang funny how it was all for innocent stuff....

Thanks for the hoot!

Linda said...

I had a very similar thing happen to me a couple of years ago. I was perplexed as to why I was being pulled over, but there ended up being *four* things he "could have" cited me for, and ticketed me for two. (Let's see, driving over the speed limit (which I was, but not even close to what he claimed,) "evading" an officer, lapsed license registration (oops! Oh yeah, I was supposed to send that in two weeks ago...), and "improper" use of car seat.) He was condescending and threatening, and to top it off he made me get out of my car (eight months pregnant with three kids and groceries) and walk home. I told it to the judge and the fines were reduced from $800 to about $200. The best part though was the officer standing next to me in court, and me saying everything that I couldn't say when he was ticketing me, boy did that feel good. The unfortunate part is that this is the kind of behavior that alienates the police force from the people they are supposed to be protecting. My kids aren't exactly viewing cops as the "good guys" now, you know?

Man, I'm so worked up about this now I might have to write a blog post about it.

K. said...

Ya'll are such criminals! This was hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Dear Blogger,

I am researching to find out how often people receive tickets from police officers for a burnt out head light.

I was recently pulled over by a police officer for a burnt out head light. I was calm and friendly to the officer, and of course I thought I had nothing to worry about because I am a law abiding citizen. I was wrong. The officer decided to give me a ticket. To my shock.

I then called city hall and found out that if I wanted to waive the court appointment and pay a fine it would be $175.00, or I could try and contest it in court, but their is no guarantee that the judge will dismiss the charge, even if I did change the bulb the next day "which I did". And if I am fined in court, I will have to also pay $120 in court costs.

I have anxiety and stress, and I feel like I have been treated unfairly. I am also loosing sleep over this. I don't really know what to do, but I am trying to find stories and information to support my self when I go to court. I can't just pay the fine because, due to my anxiety and stress I am jobless and in the process of applying for ssdi. Its hard, I'm trying my best to get better and it feels like life is just trying to beat me down further.

If you or anyone who reads this knows anything that could help me please e-mail me at

Henry J. D.