Friday, November 20, 2009

Traffic Offense Here and There

I live in the US since 2005, but I had another FIRST last Wednesday. A court appearance due to my expired registration. The ticket was worth USD 113.- but the officer told me that if I appear at court at the given date and present a current registration, this ticket will most likely be waived. USD 113.- I thought was worth taking off half a day from work and so I showed up there, plead guilty (I am not kidding!), presented my new registration and was dismissed without paying a cent. As a US citizen, you might shrug your shoulders at this point and wonder, why I even mention this and as German citizen you may wonder how a registration can expire... In the name of intercultural understanding, let me highlight some differences in the constitution and handling of a traffic offense in Germany compared to South Carolina (I am sure there a are differences from state to state and so I can only refer to SC).

The thing with the expired registration. In SC your registration is valid for one year. Each year, after you paid your property taxes for you vehicle, you receive a new registration along with a sticker to put on your licence plate. Whereas, in Germany, you just pay your taxes and that's it. I know about how it works around here, but I guess it's not completely engrained into my brain, so that I completely forgot about it and didn't even notice that the new registration never reached me.

In Germany, there is a catalogue which refers every common traffic expense along with the fee. You get a ticket and most of the time you pay and then you are done. Around here, you can show up at court, tell your side of the story and have pretty good chances of lowering your fee. Fascinating. For example, a woman turned into a one-way road the wrong way round. She stated that she hasn't been in the area for a while and was a little confused by all the changes that have been made since she has last been there and just didn't realize that she wasn't supposed to turn. The judge cut her ticket in half. Fascinating, once again.

Being it my first traffic offense here (or any offense for that matter), I really didn't know what to expect in the court room. I kinda of thought that there will be only traffic offenses handled and everything will be pretty much straight forward and we'll going to be in and out of the court room in no time. Well, not so much. Most of the cases where right along with mine... Normal stuff... Nothing exciting, tickets got waived, fees got cut in half, nothing special. But every couple of times there was tough stuff, stuff that I never expected to witness this afternoon. Disorderly conducts, open containers, littering, domestic violence, underage drinking, threatening a teacher... It was a mix of all kinds of stuff. Who needs Judge Judy, if you can get this kind of entertainment live and in color at your local municipal court. Don't get me wrong, most of the things were just sad, but a couple of these cases were hilarious... The whole court room chuckled at times...

Anyways, I am glad that whole thing is off the table and I don't have to think about it anymore. I am sure next year, I will notice, if my new registration is once again lost in the mail.

That's all for now. HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND!

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