Jail For Life

, , , | | Legal | June 15, 2018

(Years ago, a young friend gets her first moving violation. She is nervous so I agree to go with her for moral support. It is my first time live court-watching in years, so I look forward to it. Most of the cases that day are all young drivers. One case is a young guy, maybe 18. He is dressed casually, but clearly isn’t poor. His answers to the judge seem like he is avoiding answering and is trying to go off-topic. I think to myself, “This young man is an idiot.” No sooner do those words go through my head than I hear the judge say, “Young man, you are an idiot!” Go, Judge! He throws the book at the idiot. My friend, also roughly the same age, is a good kid, behaves properly with the judge, and leaves the court with just a fine. After the cases are cleared, I am still there. I go up to the bench.)

Me: “Judge, I have to say that I’ve done some court watching over the years; some are good, some are bad, but I must say you did a good job handling those kids today.”

Judge: “Thank you very much.”

(We talk for a little while about this and past cases.)

Me: “Is there ever anything you regret dealing with here?”

(The judge looks at me for a moment, but it isn’t to collect his thoughts. He actually has an answer ready for me.)

Judge: “Yes. There was one girl, just 16. She had already been my courtroom several times for speeding, reckless driving, and so on. Each time she said she had learned her lesson, but I had to escalate fines and give her community service, and I finally had to threaten her with jail time. When she did it again I was ready to put her in jail. She pleaded with me not to and since there had been no injury, I gave in. I gave her another fine and community service. She thanked me, and then left, and on her way home decided it was a good idea to race a train to the crossing. If I had given her the jail time, she’d be alive today.”

(Heartbreaking. And this is just one reason I didn’t want to pursue a career in law.)

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