Friday, December 26, 2008

Electric Car Speeding Ticket and Public Shame..

A couple of days ago, I was trying to find my speeding ticket. I couldn't find it anywhere, but did remember the court date was the day after Christmas.

I talked to a clerk at the police station about when court was held, exactly. I knew the date but not the time! She wasn't able to dig up any more info for me. (So many municipal offices are closed X-mas week.) We did decide that as long as I showed up by 8:00 AM, I should be fine.


This morning I woke up and drive the Electro-Metro down to the city hall where the Municipal Court is held.

I talked to the balliff, and then had a seat, along with 30 to 40 other people.

The judge got there a little after the official 8:15 am start time, as the roads were icy.

He explained how his court worked, what the pleas were, and all the other basic information needed for any first timer in the court.

The judge was well dressed, well-spoken, and friendly. Later today, I found out that he has an outstanding reputation as a judge, but we'll get to more of that later.

When everyone was called forward to drop off their tickets with the clerk, I had to simply sign in with her instead, since I didn't have my ticket with. This would later play to either my advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it....

Once court was actually in session, it flew by pretty quick. People were called forward alphabetically by last name. (Mines in the middle) Mostly it was speeding tickets, there was also an underage drinking fine, and a few other non-traffic related citations. Right off the bat, the judge said that typically for traffic violations, he won't reduce the fine, but would reduce the points, or change the charge to something more basic. In one case, he reduced the points for a teenager, specifically so he wouldn't loose his driver license and could keep working for his dad. But would this judge be an enviromentalist as well? Is my story too unusual for this court room?

The last names were starting to get closer to the middle of the alphabet. I would be up soon. The clerk called: Benjamin........Some Other Last Name That's Not Mine! I don't remember the last name, but I think it started with a P. They skipped right past me, to somebody else with the same first name!

Since I didn't have the ticket with me, I got put at the END OF THE LIST! I had to wait until everyone else was done! That wasn't too bad, because it was going pretty fast.

Finally, it was my turn.

The judge read the charges, and then looked at the clerk, who usually quickly commented on if the person had a prior record or not. This is the "one person every 20 seconds" approach that got many of the people through the court quicky.

I butted in (stomach lurching) about how I lived just down the street, knew the area, and in fact, committed the crime in a home-built electric car.

The judge's eye-brow lifted with curiousity. "What makes your car go?"

Me: "Six batteries, about this big" (gestures size of batteries)

Judge: "You built this thing?"

Me: "I have pictures." (holding up the print-outs of work on the car, I originally sent to the DMV, which were later returned to me.)

Now the Judge is interested. He comes over, and I hand him the photos. He starts paging through them and leans over to the clerk, showing them to him as well.

Judge: "So how does the motor connect to the car?"

Me: "In this photo, you can see the aluminum plate with holes in it to bolt the motor to the transmission."

The judge and clerk both comment to each other that they have never heard of anyone speeding in an electric car before. He changes the charge from speeding to "Defective Equipment: Speedometer". The fine is still the same, but there are no demerit points involved.

I thank the judge for changing the charge.

He then asks if there is anyone else in the court-room for the morning session, first time appearances. Nope, I was the last one, everyone else there is for call-backs and other things that don't take place in court for another 15 or 20 minutes.

Judge: "In that case, Mr Nelson, why don't I take you across the street to the Newspaper. People need to know about this."

Me: "Um..(gulp)...OK."

What!? Would you say No to a judge?

I pay the fine to the court and the judge puts on his golashes.(Rubber overshoes to you if you aren't from slushy, snowy country.)

We go downstairs and walk across the street to the newspaper office. We see the receptionist.

Judge: "Is there a Reporter in?"

Receptionist: "Nope, sorry."

Me - thinking to myself: "Thank goodness, dodged that one!"

Judge: "How about the Editor, is he in?"

Receptionist: "Oh sure, he'd be happy to see you!"

Me: Gulp....

We head into the Newspaper Editor's office and the Judge introduces himself, and says how I was in his court for getting pulled over in my electric car.

Editor: "Driving an electric car is illegal!?!?!?"

Me: "No, I was going 25."

Judge: "In a 15 zone"

Editor: Hey, this will make a great story! Judge, I have been meaning to call you, we wanted to do a story about the strangest cases you have heard in court. This will make a great lead-in to it. We can do a two-part article!"

Me - thinking - "Why won't this end!!?"

Editor: "Do you have any photos, a web page, or anything?"

I sheepishly admit that not only do I have lots of photos, but also the entire story out on the internet, etc. etc.

Now I am rethinking that incriminating YouTube "Traction Test" video....

Editor: "We'll have a reporter call you on Monday...."

In the movie of this in my mind, the Editor drones on as quirky background music fades up, and the Judge and I walk back to City Hall.

By now, I am wondering if this is some sort of unusual public humiliation..

It gets worse.

When I get home and explain the situation to my ever-faithful wife, she just bursts out laughing.

I call a friend who is in marketing, and a big-time promoter of renewability, and eco-firendly everything, and SHE laughs maniacally. She also asks which judge it was. When I tell her, she says, "Yeah, I know him, I served with him on the School Board. Oh, and did you know he's from your hometown? He probably knows your parents."

My shame continues...

A few minutes later, I get a phone call from my sister. I tell her of my further adventures in court.

My Sister: "Yeah, I used to baby-sit for that Judge!"

It doesn't stop!....

So, finally now, I reveal my story to you, the unwavering Internet Audience and Support Group to my public shame.

Who says electric cars are slow?......

If anyone wants to help support my goal of promoting Electric and Eco-Friendly Transportation, the court fine was $83.8o, but the story is priceless. PayPal is accepted.

[EDIT] The story doesn't end here. If you came here through another web page linking to this, please see the blog listing to the right and select stories newer than this one. Since this story first came out, the newspaper article has now appeared in TWO newspapers, and people have continued their financial support to help pay for the ticket.


  1. Fantastic! Sounds like a really cool judge :) Well done with your car too

  2. I enjoyed your story: I have had the dubious privilege of being ticketed, years ago in the 90s, in both my EV1, and in a borrowed electric Ford Ranger truck. The former (Phoenix)case involved a resolute motorcycle officer who was unbending on the ticket but fascinated enough by the EV1 to ask for a roadside tour. In the latter (Scottsdale), the cop didn't even notice the exotic propoulsion system.

  3. What's the rationale for the ridiculously low speed limit?

  4. Serves you right for being such an overachiever!

  5. I'm not from snowy, slushy country, but I do know what the word for rubber overshoes is. It's "galoshes".

  6. I went through a light a little late in my EV and got pulled over. I explained that I thought I would make is through the intersection and that I did not want to stop because stopping and starting used a lot of juice. The Sheriff looked down and saw the ELECTRIC tag and started asking me several questions about my truck, then just let me go with a warning and this funny line "vehicles like this are too rare, you don't want to be running lights and get into an accident that could damage it."

  7. I like to drives a car-bmw verymuch BECAUSE it's Good !!!!