Thursday, December 16, 2004

Was I asked for a bribe today?

I was stopped by a policeman some weeks ago. He asked to see my proof of insurance, and I gave him the card for the wrong car. Today I went to court, accused of having no auto insurance, but I had been told that I would be allowed to plead to a lesser, cheaper charge: failure to present an insurance card. Of course we have ALWAYS had auto insurance! The prosecutor called several of us in turn into his private office. He told me that the lesser charge used to have a $40 dollar fine, but now it had a $180 fine. “I’m sure you have better things to do with your money,” he said. “Perhaps I can do something.” There was a pause.
He picked up an enormous book and started to look through it. “I’m looking to see if I have the authority to drop the charge,” he explained. (How could he not know this? The issue must come up every week, and the size of the fine was changed over a year ago. There was another pause.
This is where I felt that I was being given a very special opportunity. How to decline it? I finally said. “I greatly appreciate your looking this up for me.”
After a few more moments he closed the book and said, “I do have the authority; I’m dropping the charge.”
Maybe New Jersey’s prosecutors just hate to use this charge, now that the fine has gone way up. Or maybe…

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