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  • By Jordan W. Charness

    The telephone was ringing, so I picked it up.

    “Mr. Eco Harness is that you?”

    “Sort of. My name is Charness”.

    “Whatever. You the guy who writes for the newspaper?”

    “That’s me,” I replied.

    “Well have I got a story for you. Not only that, I’m sure you’re going to want to write it up. And while I have you, let me ask you for some advice.”

    This was not an auspicious start to the call but since I have the patience of Job and the modesty of Moses I let him continue. As it turned out, the gentleman’s story was interesting and did contain enough twists and turns to make it into this Steering You Right column.

    According to him, a few months ago he was speeding. Or rather he did not want to admit to having been speeding but did admit that it was a distinct possibility. He did say that he was not going that fast but maybe he was going a little too fast. Or in other words, I believe he was trying to say that he was speeding.

    Anyway, his speeding did not go unnoticed by the local constabulary. The flashing lights of the police car in his rear view window and the police officer pointing to the curb made it kind of plain that the police wanted my caller to pull over. He did just that and asked what the problem was.

    Once again the question of his rate of travel came up. It was the police officer’s opinion that he was speeding and he claimed that it was backed up by a reading on the radar. The caller decided to neither confirm nor deny the charge. A few minutes later he was handed a ticket. The ticket clearly read that he been travelling at 50 kilometres per hour in a 50 km/h zone.

    “There must be some mistake,” he said to the police officer. The policeman answered that if he didn’t like the ticket he should take it to court. Since the proper forum for any debate of this type is indeed in front of the courts our caller was wise enough to fill in the “Not Guilty” plea on the back of the ticket and send it in.

    A couple of days later he received a phone call from the police officer who said that he’d made a mistake on his ticket and that he was changing the original to show the speed that the caller was travelling was 70 kilometres per hour. The caller told him that he had already filed his “Not Guilty” plea.

    He asked me if I thought he had a chance of winning. I pointed out that the Notice of Infraction, more commonly called a ticket, is a statement of the charges against him that will be brought before the courts. The only way that he can prepare his defense is to defend himself based on the detailed information contained in the ticket. His ticket said that he was going 50 in a 50 km/h zone. That may be erroneous but is not an offence.

    Another part of the ticket states that a copy of the ticket was handed to the accused. This is so that he could prepare his defense. Once again the copy of the ticket that our caller had did not really show an offence had been committed. If the police change the ticket to reflect the truth and their error, it will no longer be reflected in the copy that was given to our caller. I thought that would probably invalidate the whole ticket. While the police could theoretically issue a new one with the correct speed stated, I felt that he would probably win in any contestation of the old ticket.

    He thanked me and I did not hear from him again for several months.

    Then, a few days ago the telephone rang once again. I picked it up.

    “Mr. Eco Harness?”

    “Close enough.” I replied.

    “You’ll never guess what happened to me in court yesterday. You remember me?”

    “Sure. You’re the only one who insists on calling me Mr. Eco Harness.”

    “Whatever. Anyway I didn’t win and I didn’t lose but it’s all over.”

    What did happen is that my caller had presented himself at court at seven p.m. along with about 50 others who were called for that same date and time. The whole show got off to little bit of a late start and didn’t really get going until 7:30.

    Before the first case was heard the prosecutor called out his name and asked if he was in the room. He walked to the front of the court and identified himself. At that point the prosecutor announced to the court that he had no proof to offer. Since there was no proof offered of the commission of any offence the charges were dropped and he was told that he was free to go.

    Although he was not convicted and in fact didn’t have to say a word except his name, the court experience still irks him. If the prosecutor did not intend to offer any proof why didn’t he call and tell him to stay home? Why did he have to waste his time going to court? After all they did know where to reach him since the police officer had called him at home!

    These were all good questions and for once I didn’t have any good answers. Maybe Eco Harness does!

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