The Ins and Outs of Municipal Court

These people are nuts. Yes, blanket statement, but true.

Brief recap:

In March, my dog slipped out, rounded up the neighbor’s dogs, and nipped one on the butt. No blood, about the size of a pencil eraser, tops. I found the phone number for their vet, held the dog and helped clean the wound, paid for the vet visit – which even the vet had said was unnecessary.

Two months later, Animal Control wrote me three tickets: loose dog, dangerous dog, and overdue shots. The cost was $25 each, or $75. I mailed the tickets to the court, you know, just like a traffic ticket.

The court mailed them back; apparently, they should have gone directly to Animal Control. A court date was set.

I spent two-and-a-half hours in a courtroom packed with over 100 people who’d been ticketed for speeding, lack of insurance, red-light violations, stealing, leaving the scene, etc. I received a fine of $800, including court costs; it was one of the top ten fines of the evening.

The judge didn’t care at all that it took two months to issue the tickets, that I’d paid and had my tickets and check returned to me, that I’d helped the neighbor or paid the vet bill. All he cared about was 1) my dog nipped another, and 2) I didn’t rush out the next day and have his shots taken care of.

So I called, a week later, to find out how to appeal. I called the West Division, and no one knew anything; in fact, they didn’t even know how to transfer a phone properly, I got disconnected THREE times – in a row. I was transferred three more times. Finally reached a guy who told me he thought it was $85 to appeal, but that was when he used to work there – who was this, the maintenance man?

So I called the Central Division, downtown. Reached a very nice woman who, while she didn’t know the answers to my questions, offered to call her boss and find out. Thank goodness!

Turns out, I had until Tuesday to file, and the cost would be $170. Wow. A lot more than $85, but still less than $800.

So I find the courthouse, find a parking spot, and go inside. Again, not too many people know how to answer my questions and the lady I spoke to previously had “stepped out”. Finally, I got some answers.

I did not like those answers.

Total cost, because it was three tickets – although treated as one case – was $510. To file an appeal. And, I was supposed to write separate checks for every charge, and for each ticket. Nine checks altogether.

I only had seven in the checkbook.

Seriously? That would have been $300 for transcripts for this “hearing” – I was in front of the judge for maybe five minutes! What was there to record (and I certainly wasn’t aware of any recording going on)?

Furthermore, there was no prosecutor, no witnesses.

Only a judge who, by the way, was presiding that day in mental health court. Although, smart alecky me, I did ask if perhaps he shouldn’t be the defendant….


One comment on “The Ins and Outs of Municipal Court

  1. Toril says:

    Makes you feel like Alice in Wonderland, doesn’t it?

    I would probably do everything I could to appeal – because it would bug me forever to pay an unfair fine. But that’s just me, I’m not good at letting things go.


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