Posted 30 April 2012 - 05:08 PM
I gave an explanation one time, in court, that proved to be both amusing for the judge involved, embarrassing for the lawyer involved, and established my "credentials" as a 'character' in Highway Patrol.
It was from one of my first radar summonses. Now I had been well trained in the use of radar by the NYPD's Highway District, who oversees such matters. But I had other training in radar which I'll get to shortly.
Anyway there I am in court on this summons. And of course it's my first case of the day, and there's a lawyer. And I had been warned about this particular lawyer. While he is a little, rotund guy, he had a reputation as a shark in traffic court. Because it was the first case, there were other cops from my command just sort of watching, waiting to be called for their cases.
Anyway this lawyer, I'll call him Steve, since that's his real name, starts in on me immediately after I finish my testimony. Now I knew I had hit all the important points, my training, testing the radar set, speed limit signs, roadway layout, that sort of thing. Known as a "prima facie" case, it means on the face of it, the case is complete and fully presented. We had trained for this, and it was part of the job.
So Steve gets his turn. "Officer, isn't it true that this summons was written on the Nassau Expressway?"
I agreed, since I had already testified to that. It was part of that prima facie thing and required.
"And isn't it true that where you were was immediately adjacent to JFK airport?'
Again I agreed. Anyone with a map would know this.
"And isn't it true that you were within 1/2 mile of a radar tower at Kennedy Airport? And that the radar from that tower was in fact interfering with your low powered radar that you were using?"
Now I've been told that in lawyer school, one of the first things they teach budding attorneys is to never ask a question they don't already know the answer to. Steve must have missed that day.
At this point I informed the judge, who is now one of my closest friends, that aside from the training the NYPD provided for me in radar, I had been an air traffic controller while in the USAF. I still carried my qualification card for sentimental reasons, and there on the card, which I presented, it stated that I was fully trained in the use of air traffic control radar, radio, weather observation and so forth.
At this point Steve tried to withdraw the question. The judge rested her chin on her hands and said, "Oh no. The officer seems to want to answer this question, and I want to hear his answer."
At which time I went into a 10 to 15 minute explanation about radar, radio frequencies, interference detection, the fact that the "radar tower" in question was abandoned (they do have radar at JFK, but it's for ground movement and weather, not a factor), range gates, ground clutter and so on. During my response I looked over and saw (in NYC traffic courts the officer and motorist and/or lawyer stand next to each other, a quirk of the system I suppose) Steve take out his pen and write "guilty" on the paperwork for his client before I finished my dissertation.
After I finished the judge asked Steve if he had any further questions he'd like to ask me. Steve declined. Judge found his client guilty, but didn't slam the guy too hard.
After that I took a little break, my co-workers telling me that was one of the greatest performances they had ever seen, and then Steve came out. He told me that he would never, ever take another case against me again. Shook my hand and walked away. He did take other cases with me, but as he explained it, he always got paid "up front" by the motorists so when he lost, he wasn't out anything.
Steve is also now a good friend of mine.