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Wild Ride at the Dekalb County Courthouse

It was an honest mistake. I nearly always stay within five miles of the speed limit, but I came around a wide curve off a 45 mph road onto a 25mph one, the officer was sitting right by the sign in a nondescript white pickup truck, and I wasn't paying too much attention and just hadn’t slowed down fast enough.

So at 9 o’clock this morning, I was in court for a traffic ticket.

The lady was up there reading out everyone’s names and acting like she simply could not figure out how to pronounce “Gonzalez,” “Valdez,” and, “Gutierrez” and just making a whole, big deal out of it.

The judge said “If you have only one ticket and it is a speeding ticket, come up.” I came up. He typed in my name and then he told me, “I said only if you ONLY have a speeding ticket,” to which I responded well sir I only have a speeding ticket. He then told me I also have a citation for “marijuana possession 2nd degree.”

Now, I have absolutely never had any such contact with law enforcement, ever. And on top of that, the only products I ever go anywhere with are 100% legal - even in Alabama - and can be purchased in stores.

So I told this guy that was impossible because this here speeding ticket represented the only contact with law enforcement that I have ever had in Alabama. He said I would need to sit down and wait and get it figured out.

So I went back to my seat and waited to find out what kind of fuckery was afoot.

In the meantime, they asked us to get up out of the first two rows of benches and they marched in a dozen or maybe 14 prisoners, all dressed in worn-looking, black-and-white striped outfits like it’s the 1920s or something. They all had on flip-flops, and metal handcuffs around their bare ankles.

The judge called up a bunch of people who were there to get their driver’s licenses back, and he told them to do a happy dance on the way up to the bench.

I was shaking pretty hard and generally feeling like I was going to vomit and/or soil myself, but not entirely because I was in court.

Finally a man came in and tried a few times to pronounce my last name before he got close enough that I realized he was calling me. “This will take a bit more than a 2-minute conversation, so if you'll follow me.” he said, and as it turned out, he was almost entirely wrong. I followed him upstairs to the DA’s office, where another very nice gentleman offered me a soda or a bottle of water. The first man told the second man that I was surprised to find I have not only a traffic ticket but a felony “Marijuana” charge. Again I said, “This speeding ticket here represents the only contact I have ever had with Alabama law enforcement." They asked me if anyone might have used my name and suggested to one another that there might need to be a forgery investigation.

But they asked me a couple of more questions, and then they looked in “the system” and I heard them becoming more and more baffled. I heard them say things like, “There’s a DC number attached as well as a T-something number, but there isn’t a warrant. There would be a warrant!” and, “The two charges stemmed from the same something-or-another but when I looked in the file all there was was the speeding ticket.” along with a lot of other indecipherable law enforcement lingo. Not only was it a mistake, it was such an obvious and baffling mistake that the first man took me out to see the clerk lady behind the sliding glass window and said to her, “Well, we have shocked this young lady about half to death this morning, so let’s just scrub anything she has in DeKalb county and let her go on her way.”

I said "Well hold on a minute, then let me go commit some crimes right before you do that!"

They about laughed their butts off and the man looked sideways at me over his glasses, pointed his finger and said, “anything you did… UNTIL now.”

Imagine it being a felony for a person to want to get a good night’s sleep without being totally messed up the next day.


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