The difference between right and stupid

Peter Cheney’s article in yesterday’s Globe and Mail pretty much sums it up for me too. On Tuesday, I fought the law, and we both lost.

I won’t bore readers with the lurid details, but suffice it to say I was accused of a traffic infraction I did not commit (my ethical husband, who doesn’t shy away from telling me when I’ve done something wrong or stupid, was a witness and attests to my innocence) and had evidence to prove it. This week, I contested the ticket. The court system tried to shut me up with a lesser charge, the promise of no points lost, and a smaller fine. But here’s the rub: I didn’t do anything wrong, so why would I say I was guilty of anything and why would I pay a fine? I’ll tell you why: it’s the difference between being right and being stupid.

There is a certain level of collusion that exists in our traffic court system and it’s dismaying. The system is designed to plead people down, guilty or innocent, take our money with as little fuss as possible, and move on to the next cash grab. It’s a nice little racket they’ve got going on. The police officers are very friendly with the court staff, and they do this little dance to convince the rest of us that whatever we say or do, we’ll be found guilty.

Initially, I fought the pull of a plead. I was going to have my day in court. The prosecutor asked both the officer and I to share our versions of the truth, he with his little flip book, me with my pictures and conviction. Then, the prosecutor informed me: “this is a case of his word against yours; you know how this is going to end, don’t you?” Indeed, I did. Regardless of my innocence, I’d be found guilty, lose points for something I didn’t do and pay an even bigger fine. So I held my nose and plead guilty to a lower charge. Then I came home and took a shower.

I know there are hills to die on, and though it pained me to no end, this wasn’t one of them. There is a problem here, though. The system is designed to reward the real perpetrators of traffic crimes with a break, while it punishes the innocent, all the while the city and the province cash in. So do the insurance companies who troll for convictions and jack up our annual rates.

Sometimes in life, we have to make hard choices, and sometimes all the options suck. Regardless, we still have to make them. It is the difference between right and stupid, but it still isn’t right.