Very unjust, but is it legal? Avoid NE 36th and Coultrane area like the plague it is

June 28, 2011
My sons, Chris and Brian went to the lower reaches of OKC selling pest control. One evening, they had good success in Midwest city and were coming home in the twilight. The area of Forest Park OK was completely unfamiliar to them. What was worse, the headlight I had JUST repaired had blinked off again. They came to a place where the speed limit dropped from 50 to 35 on NE 36th. They didn’t notice the speed limit change. Parked right over a hill beside a stop sign (unlit and well hidden in trees) was a Forest Park Cop. She wrote him two tickets. One for speeding (47 in a 35) and one for having a headlight out. They each cost $149.
There were a number of reasons this seemed worth talking to a judge. Have you ever heard of a blinked out headlight garnering a ticket on the first instance (no warning), let along a ticket for $149? Is is legal to perch a speed trap with a non-illuminated cop car, or a hidden one? Was the speed change really posted between the place where he turned on to the road and the place of the ticket. (It is, but if you start slowing at the sign, you’re still going faster when you crest the hill and come into radar range.)
Chris and I went to the court. It was packed with obviously very poor people. There were not enough seats for everyone and it was quite warm in there. The clocked ticked, ticked, ticked and the room got more crowded. At last, half an hour past the time we were required to be there, we were told to rise for the judge.
He proceeded to give a half hour lecture on what he would and would not do, all the (lists) of excuses he would ignore, and a stern warning repeated several times of who you must call when and if you did not have the money to pay your fines. He spent at least 5 minutes on community service and how entirely UNFORGIVING he was if people were late. “Not 8:30, not 8:15, not 8:05. If the supervisor is displeased with your work, he doesn’t have to say why, he just lets me know and the next thing you know, you’re in handcuffs.” There were a number of significant head shakes and ironic smiles passed around between these people who had gathered to try to get more justice from him than they received from the police officers. Then the docket opened and my ebbing hope faded away completely.
One after another people went up to explain that they had insurance in the car but couldn’t find it in the glove box. If they could prove that it was in force, they were only required to pay ‘court fees’. $50! I noticed that the cops had written separate tickets for every tiny thing. One woman had fumbled getting her drivers license out and dropped it between the seat and the console where she couldn’t reach it. The cop wrote her a separate ticket for not being able to show the license. (When she proved that she had it, the KIND judge reduced the penalty for butterfingers to “court costs”.)
80% of the tickets were written in the exact same spot my son was stopped. It’s brilliant! They need only one cop on one corner and the minuscule town of Forest Park wins the lottery every last Monday of the month.
When Chris’s turn finally came, the court had issued about thirty bench warrants for no shows, ordered about 40 different parties to pay several hundred dollars apiece for missing taillights, missing registration stickers, (penalties always reduced to ‘court costs’ if it was current and had come off or not been applied.).
One man that had apparently done something really awful had chosen to serve 12 days in jail since he had no money for the cost of his tickets. The court promptly mailed him a bill for $500 for his room and board in jail. Does he go back to jail for 5 more days? Then they’ll send him a bill for THOSE days, which he’ll have to serve another two days for and eventually, the days in jail will bring down his “costs” to a day of community service.
All Chris told the judge was that the headlight was repaired, had gone out again and he replaced the bulb again the next day. “$149.for the headlight, $149. for the speeding. Give the clerk payment in full.”
The court was a money machine. The penalties were so out of whack with the offences that I could hardly believe that the judge could sit there without ducking in anticipation of the bolt of lightening that must surely come when he orders impoverished people to pay $149. for driving through their tiny patch of power with a broken light. Luckily, in our case, the cop didn’t notice that a scratch on the trunk was painted over with scratch cover that doesn’t match exactly. I think it was in violation of ordinance 1004950t50-6-49330550066–2 that states that “the owner of anything displeasing to the eye of the duly sworn officer of the court of Forest Park shall pay fine as deemed necessary by stone-hearted judge based on request for field trip funds for upcoming school year by local school-which-has-no-other-income-than-from-traffic-tickets-since-there’s-no-other-business-in-town.”
The judge signed the orders to pay without blinking, with no sign of mercy or interest in justice. He warned the court that it had been seven years since he had approved an application to make payments on the fines and fees. Note that if you proved yourself compliant of the law (for registration or valid license or registration) and just couldn’t produce immediate proof, you still paid an average-in-other-court (according to Internet search) ticket cost for speeding or making a wrong turn, they merely relabeled it “court fees”.
What authority controls infection of this sort? What representative has authority to curb this unfair, predatory policy and these exorbitant fees?
I want to put up a warning sign at every entrance to Forest Park. (just E. of I-35 at NE 36 and Coultrane-area) I want everyone from EVERYWHERE to AVOID that little burg. Avoid the corner of NE 36 and Coultrane like you would a spewing volcano’s mouth, or an infernal pit. Shut down their cash cow by making the only passers be residents who can pay for their own field trips.

1 Comment

  • Reply Rob and Marseille June 29, 2011 at 11:49 am

    crazy!

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