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Snyder 5: Fighting an unfair traffic ticket in Ramsey County? Good luck

If you are lucky enough to be stung with a moving violation in Ramsey County, your odds of getting a fair shake from the government are almost non-existent.

A month ago, I got a ticket for taking a right turn in a construction zone where the temporary no-turn sign was obstructed.  (Read the full back story if you like here). 

They gave me the option to contest it and being the girl I am, I said, of course, sign me up.

Yesterday was that day.

I woke up and worried about what to wear.  Cause again, when there are things I cannot control, I focus on what I can.  Like clothing.  I settled on a classic black summer vest suit with a dress t-shirt underneath and heels.  Professional.  Approachable.  Honorable.  All good.

Headed out over lunch hour to the Ramsey County Court House.

 As you walk in and through security you encounter this guy.

And yes he is about five stories tall.  Only just slightly intimidating.

Stay positive, Molly.  Stay positive.  Be that person that people want to work with and help because they are so pleasant and decent.

Walked in to a room of people including a man in a barely there tank top and a female teenager not wearing shoes.  Guess that whole worrying about what to wear thing wasn’t so important.

I brought the photos of the intersection, the Minnesota law stating that you have to signal 100 feet before an intersection (my point was, how could you signal if you can’t see the sign from that distance?  And if you can’t see the sign to be in compliance with the law, then there is a problem.)  And, thanks to Paula I also had the Minnesota Department of Transportation statues for signage clearly outlining how and where signage had to be utilized (and it had not been).

I was smiling.  I was pleasant.  I was ready.

And then it all went to hell.

I placed my things on the desk and leaned forward in my most open, engaging way, ready to talk through my case. I smiled.  I nodded appreciatively at her photos of her grandkids.

Looking at the computer she started in…

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Clerk: Okay, ah yes, Robert and 12th, I have seen tons of people from this intersection.  They had quite the ticketing operation going there for awhile didn’t they?

[I’m feeling good.  Thinking I have an understanding soul across the desk from me.]

Me: Yes, and that is part of why I am here, they were out there for six days with 3-4 officers at a time ticketing all day long before they fixed the signage problem.

Clerk: I know, I know. 

[I pull out my photos]

Clerk: Oh, I don’t need to see those, I know, I know.  Plenty of others have brought them in.  They don’t matter.  So here are your options, you have three and you’re not going to like any of them. 

Option 1, your ticket is originally $131.  You can pay $50 more, bringing the total to $181 and you won’t admit guilt and it won’t go on your record. 

Option 2, I can reduce your original ticket from $131 to $81 but you will be admitting guilt and it will go on your record for five years.  Your insurance will go up at least $10 a month for five years.

Option 3, you can go to court.  But if you lose, it will be at least $300 and I can tell you that you won’t win.
Me: But the signage didn’t follow Minnesota signage laws.

Clerk: Oh, those don’t apply in construction zones.

Me: Wait, so while my fines will double if I screw up in a construction zone, the laws to help prevent me from breaking those laws don’t apply?

Clerk: Right.

Me: Okay, what about the fact that a construction truck was blocking the sign?

Clerk: That was just circumstantial.  Fifteen minutes later that wouldn’t necessarily have been the case.  You know, it’s your obligation to know the rules of the road.  For instance, in Minnesota, if you are driving somewhere and there is no sign posted, you have to default to driving 30 miles per hour.

Me: But what if you do that and get pulled over because it’s actually a minimum speed there of 40?
Clerk: Well, it’s your responsibility to know.

Me: But this was a construction site and the temporary sign went up that day.  How was I supposed to know?

Clerk: I told you that you wouldn’t like them, I am just telling you the options.

And then I could tell I was getting hot.  This wasn’t her fault.  She didn’t have any authority.  She presents these options all day every day to people like me and the guy in the tank top and the shoeless girl.

So I took the deal.  I paid the $181 and walked out.  Near-saintly driving record intact.  Sense of justice marred.

This is a racket. 

Think about it this way.  Imagine if one of my kids got called to the principal’s office and they presented them with these options.

1. Give me your lunch money for the week and I won’t tell your parents.

2. Only give me half of your money and I will tell your parents.  But you will only get 4 lunches a week for the rest of the year.

3. Or go meet with the superintendent of schools and they aren’t going to believe you anyway and they will take your lunch money for the month.

Can you imagine the outcry?

Or let’s say you get in trouble at work.

1. I won’t fire you, I won’t tell anyone you did this, but you do have to pay me $50.

2. I will tell your boss, it will go on your record and it will mean that your monthly insurance will go up $10 a month for the next five years.  But you don’t have to pay me.

3. Or we can go down and talk to the President right now.  But she isn’t going to believe you and you’ll have to pay her $300.

Um, can we say lawsuit?

I’m sorry.  Anyone else seeing it?  Anywhere else wouldn’t this be called a bribe?

And be illegal?

So just to recap.  The state puts up poor, misleading signage that doesn’t follow their own signage laws.  If I do something wrong in that area, they aren’t held up to the laws, but I am, to the tune of double the existing fines.  I can contest it, but I really can’t.  I have one option that feels a lot like a bribe, one option that is set up to be a lose-lose, and one option that I am told I cannot win.

How is this okay?

This post was written byMolly Snyder and originally published onThe Snyder 5. Follower her on Twitter:@MollyinMinn