By SYLVIA ADCOCK, Staff Writer
That’s Latin for I screwed up big-time.
I was so sure I was on solid ground back in July when I wrote a column taking on those guys who solicit business from people who’ve gotten traffic tickets. You know, the traffic-ticket firms who get lists of folks who have committed some minor infraction and then send them letters that seemed designed to scare the bejeezus out of them. Hire us, they say, or you’ll be in worse trouble than you imagined.
Our mailbox was filled to the brim with letters from lawyers offering to take our case after my husband was pulled over by a Raleigh police officer who informed him that our license tag had expired.
In my column, I was brutal. What kind of special magic did these guys think they had? What kind of fancy-pants legal knowledge can it take to get my car inspected and then take the evidence to the courthouse to get the charge dismissed? How hard could it be? Why should I spend $75 to hire one of these guys to do what I could do myself?
Well, here’s one reason.
Rather than hire a lawyer for $75, I delegated the task to my husband. After all, he usually takes care of the car stuff (oil changes, etc.) while I do everything else. (He might take issue with that but since he doesn’t write this column he’s out of luck.) So the ticket sat on top of stack of unpaid bills for a few weeks. I had a vague recollection that the court date was sometime in October.
One day last week I was going through bills and there was the ticket. The court date – in tiny letters at the top of the citation – was Oct. 4. For some reason, I had it in my head that the date was Oct. 24. I was wrong.
Perhaps a law office with a good paralegal would have docketed my case, put it in a tickler file and made sure that action was taken in time. But my home office with its stack of unpaid bills is anything but a well-run law office. And now I could be facing failure to appear in court.
I checked the website of one of the traffic-ticket specialists to see what I might be up against.
“There can be many reasons that might cause someone to fail to appear in court for a speeding ticket or some other moving or traffic violations,” the website said, seeking to calm a potentially anxious client. “In many situations, it may not be your entire fault that you failed to appear. For example, there might have been a scheduling error or possibly a natural and understandable anxiety about appearing in the North Carolina court made it difficult for you to deal with your traffic offense and traffic charges.”
Hmm. Well, there was no scheduling error. No anxiety. Just stupidity.
I’m not going to dis those guys who hawk their services anymore, since I’ve obviously proved that I can’t do any better. In fact, because I missed the court date, I will likely be spending more money and time than I would have if I had just forked over $75 to one of them in the first place.
To find out exactly how much trouble I might be in, I called a lawyer. Turns out I have 20 days from the court date to take care of this and I’m no worse off. After that I’ll owe a whopping $200 to take care of the “failure to appear” problem.
I’m not going to tell you how many days we are into that 20-day period; suffice to say the first repair place we went to couldn’t repair our brake lights, which threw our schedule out the window. Today, the brake lights are repaired, but the inspection is not complete, the deadline is looming, and my husband and I both have demanding work schedules.
Maybe I’ll hire an attorney. Now, where did I put those flyers?