Abusing The System, or Due Process?

I’ve gotten into a friendly exchange with DMN metro columnist Steve Blow over whether demanding a court date for a speeding ticket is an abuse of the system.

Blow’s take:

I criticized Dallas City Council candidate Brint Ryan here yesterday for trying to beat his many speeding tickets by using the old request-a-trial-and-hope-the-cop-doesn’t-show-up technique.

I said that has the effect of pulling much-needed officers off our streets or forcing the city to pay them overtime for testifying while off duty.

And his initial expansion on his remarks in regards to my request that he “Explain how demanding your day in court is ‘abusing the system’ and not, in fact, ‘due process,’ Mr. Blow. And then explain how you would remedy this.”

Mr. Garrison, I would compare this tactic to the giant corporations that use lawsuits to intimidate and coerce smaller adversaries. They don’t need the law on their side. They merely have to to file lawsuits that would be financially ruinous for an individual to defend. That’s “abusing the system.”

I’m fine with anyone who wants to mount a legitimate defense against a traffic citation. But it’s abusing the system to demand a traffic-court trial that you have absolutely no intention of conducting. If the officer shows, you switch to a no contest plea, pay your fine and curse your luck.

My take:

I disagree, Mr. Blow.

Civil and criminal cases are entirely different animals. And yes, there is abuse in the civil system.

But a defendant in a criminal case, faced with charges from the state, should be free to use every avenue to defend himself. And we should never forget — innocent until PROVEN guilty.

An example: We hear people gripe that some criminals abuse the exclusionary rule to get off, but that exclusionary rule protects every last one of us from a far worse abuse — abuse of our 4th Amendment rights by the state against illegal searches and seizures.

In this kind of case, the state established its system for prosecution and defendants should be free to use the rules they established, even if it inconveniences the state and its agents.

Recent revelations in the Powell history regarding his lying in a DWI traffic stop — that he smelled alcohol when in fact he said on the dash cam he did not smell alcohol — prove that some officers will lie, exaggerate or mislead. Powell was a stellar example of this kind of abuse, and it shows that defendants deserve every avenue to protect themselves from wrongful prosecution. Powell’s reveal — speaking on tape in contradiction to his later sworn testimony — was fortunate, and rare, since most officer who do lie (and I’m not saying most do, I’m saying most who DO lie) are not as stupid as he was.

No, I don’t think following the very rules the state establishes constitutes abuse. If there must be a fix, fix the problem of officers being so overextended they can’t make court dates. Don’t fix it by limiting the rights of citizens, or by labeling people who follow the rules established as “abusers.”



  1. Bethany says:

    As usual, Blow shows that he doesn’t really ever check anything out, or even flesh it out before writing. It’s like whatever he mused about on his drive from Sunnyvale gets regurgitated into a column.

  2. Ed Cognoski says:

    “Innocent until proven guilty” is how the state views a defendant. The defendant himself knows whether or not he’s guilty of, say, speeding. If he’s guilty, he ought to own up and pay his fine. Exploiting the system to escape the consequences is not justice.

  3. The traffic ticket system isn’t about justice. It’s about revenue. The guy is just fighting to minimize his taxes. More people should. Then the system would crash, they’d have to raise revenue in more honest ways, and guys like me would be out of business. I’m okay with that.

  4. Tiki says:

    You have an interesting style. I submitted posts to TransparentVoices.com
    I hope they posts for others to follow

  5. To Ed Cognoski:

    But what about the right to not incriminate yourself? Be it coercion by force or coercion from “social obligation” no one should be compelled to plead guilty. If you know the state cannot, or through its own broken mechanism, will not prove its case against you, you have no obligation to make the case for the state against yourself, IMHGDO.

  6. Bear says:

    But Trey, if you don’t do so, you’re not contributing your fair share.

  7. Danielle Foster says:

    Trey, are you the same Trey Garrison who wrote the book about beating your speeding ticket? If so I would appreciate if you would contact me as I am having difficulty with your site. Thanks.