Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's a Trap!

I got pulled over for speeding a few months ago (New Year's Eve...actually about 1am New Years Day to be exact). I was pulled over in Central City, AR for doing 63 in a 50 mph zone.

Central City is, almost literally, a wide spot in the road along AR 22 east of Barling, though part of it spills onto AR 255 near Lavaca. It has one gas station (out of business) and one restaurant (also out of business). The town is otherwise unremarkable, though 22 is in the process of being widened to 4-Lanes in the area.

I was headed home from a party and encountered a police car sitting at the west end of the Vache Grasse Creek bridge. No sooner did I cross the bridge when the car started following me. It took a while before they lit up and forced me to stop. But here is where it gets a little odd.

I had 3 (count 'em THREE) officers come up to me and ask if I had been drinking. I had been to a party at a friend's house near Paris, but I stuck to soft drinks (I DON'T drink and drive: I've seen too many friends and friends of friends hurt or killed by drunk drivers). Then they made me get out of the van and do the "walk the straight line" sobriety test and the "balance on one leg" test (I walk with a cane part-time: it's near impossible for me to balance on one leg). Then they gave me the breathalyzer test, which came up zero. Were they that dead set on trying to nail me for DWI?

Eventually, they let me go though I got a speeding ticket for the afore mentioned 63 mph in a 50 zone. Then they took off in pursuit of the next vehicle coming down the highway. I was a bit rattled from my experience so I didn't notice until I got home they kept my proof of insurance. Why? They couldn't arrest me for DWI so they kept my proof of insurance. WTF? It's also interesting to note that the location where I was supposedly caught speeding was west of where I was pulled over (and I was heading west). So was the ticket filled out ahead of time?

A couple days later, I retraced my route (making doubly sure to stay below the speed limit). The normal speed limit is 55 mph in that area, but due to the roadway being widened, it's a 50 mph zone, but it's poorly posted. I saw no Speed Limit 50 signs from AR 96 east of town to where I was stopped. Beyond that point, I think I saw one or two.

So my court date came and I was going to see if I could take a driver safety test in lieu of paying the fine (I've not had a ticket in at least 5 years). "City Hall" was a nondescript white block building with a small sign out front and a flag pole. The courtroom was locked so I went into the City Clerk's office to find out when court started. The clerk told me the wrong court date was put on my traffic citation. So when IS my court date? She didn't know...but she was more than happy to have me pay my fine. I suppose I should have put up more of a fuss or called a lawyer at that point, but I just wanted to get it over with, so I paid my fine and left.

I'm not a lawyer (and I don't play one on TV, though I have stayed at a Holiday Inn Express), but this whole thing sounds kind of odd to me: the ticket appears to be pre-filled out, there are few Speed Limit signs and court appears to never be in session. But what do I know? I'm just a guy who likes to photograph old bridges and odd road signs.

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