By Jordan W. Charness; photo courtesy

Sometimes life can be hard. Sometimes you’re met with challenges that overwhelm you, and then to top it all off, you get a traffic ticket! By now, everyone knows that ignorance of the law is no excuse and having a bad day will not be sufficient for you to get out of a justly-deserved traffic fine.

But the holiday season is upon us and I don’t want you to think that all is doom and gloom in the world. So here are a couple of stories that may lighten your spirits a little and show that even the court system has some compassion.

There is a fine young lady I know of who has run into some difficult times. She’s in that “sandwich” generation where she is taking care of elderly parents as well as younger children. Unfortunately, her mother took a turn for the worse and she had to spend extra time taking care of her mother and calming down her worried father.

At the same time she was caring for her special needs child, who was entering a stage of life that was more difficult than any previous year. To say that she was distracted would be putting it mildly. She got three tickets in three weeks for rolling through stop signs because her mind was occupied. It’s not that she didn’t see the stop sign nor that she didn’t slow down, but she really did not come to a complete stop. That is, at least on one of the occasions. The other two she’s pretty sure that she came to a full stop because she had already recently received a stop sign ticket and it was fresh in her mind.

What she did do was completely forget to pay the ticket or file a contestation or not-guilty plea. Judgment was rendered against her by default and she got three notifications that she had been found guilty and was condemned to pay three fines and several demerit points. These points would be enough for her to lose her driving privileges.

In her jurisdiction you can apply to the court to have your default judgments overturned if you have a valid reason for failing to send back a not-guilty plea. She appeared before a judge and asked to be relieved of the default because she had been going through a difficult and distracting period in her life. She provided the judge with a letter from both her mother’s and her child’s doctors explaining how difficult things were for her at that time. And she explained that this was the reason why she forgot to send her not-guilty pleas, which led to judgments being rendered against her by default.

The judge rendered a decision that took into account her real-life situation and overturned all of the default judgments and allowed her to file a not-guilty plea. She then set new dates for trial where she will explain what happened to a judge. At least for now she could continue driving.

In several other court cases that I saw last week, a judge allowed drivers to be allowed to drive even after they had lost their driving privileges due to an excess of points. There is in that jurisdiction a special law which allows judges discretion to allow people to drive for work or for other important reasons if the judge is convinced that they are telling the truth and would face undue hardship by losing their full driver’s privileges.

In all of these cases the judge listened carefully and rendered sensible judgments allowing the drivers to use their cars when absolutely necessary. It was not the equivalent of giving the back all their driving privileges but allowed them to use their cars for certain circumstances during certain hours of the day when they most needed it.

The judge did point out that this was a once-in-a-lifetime judgment and that the law would not allow them to receive this type of consideration twice in a driving career.

In all the cases above the driver was clearly in the wrong but the system and the judge did allow for a certain bit of leeway to help out those whose life had thrown them a curveball.

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