Avoid Court Fines – Come Prepared

Posted by idawrites on August 7, 2009 in attitude, Planning |

Yesterday, I had to go to Magistrate Court. Evidently, the first Thursday of the month is when they see everyone related to animal control and/or county code violations. In April, I received citations for: Rabies not current (I couldn’t find the paperwork), vicious animal, and failure to contain my animal (my neighbor’s dog was attacked and he believes it was my dog that did it).

After waiting for over an hour, still no judge, the prosecuting attorney came have a little chat with me. It went like this:

Him: Mrs. Davidson, the animal control officer for your case has a dentist appointment and since the judge is presiding over 2 court sessions this afternoon, it may be 3 or 4 PM before he can get to your case. They want to continue your case to the 1st of September. Is this ok for you?

Me: Uh… No. This is the 2nd day I’ve taken off work to be here for this.

Him: I understand.  I’m just trying to make sure that we can schedule it for a day that is good for everyone.  What’s a good day for you?

Me: Today is a good day. I’m here. My neighbor, who has a subpoena, is here. The judge is here. I say we do it.

Him: Yeah, but…

Me: No… your scheduling conflicts and the animal control’s dentist appointment are not my responsibility. My paperwork said be here.  I’m here. I’m not willing to have it continued.

Him: I didn’t mean to imply that it was… Just trying to make sure everything is handled in a time that works for everyone. (*thinking* didn’t you say that already??)

Me: Great! Right now works for me.

Him: [Walks away]

Prosecutor talks to the court clerk in hushed tones. Glares at me. (Obviously I have a sucky attitude and refuse to cooperate.) Amazingly enough, the court clerk leaves through the side door and comes back 2 or 3 minutes later. Not 5 minutes pass and the judge enters. All rise, blah blah blah.

They motion me, an animal control officer I’ve never seen before, and a nicely dressed lady who I have also never seen before, to the front of the court room in front of the judge.

The animal control officer gives her report ….. about Mrs. Davidson this and Mrs. Davidson that… and the plaintiff lady also tells her story … none of the details match anything. I glanced over at the prosecuting attorney, very confused, and saw the file in his hand was labeled with a different first name than mine. After hearing testimony from the prosecution’s side, the judge looked at me and said “Mrs. Davidson, do you have anything to say?” … to which I responded “Yes. My first name is Ida.” At this point, a woman in the back of the court room stands and says “I am [the other] Davidson. I knew you had the wrong Mrs. Davidson, but I didn’t know when/if I should speak up.”

She came up.  The judge shook his head, looking mildy amused.  And I got to sit down and wait some more.

This shit only happens to me, folks. I can’t even make it up. Of course, the best part about it is that MY animal control officer didn’t have a dentist appointment. The prosecuting attorney just asked the wrong Mrs. Davidson to continue.  LOL.  That’ll teach him to get the name right, won’t it?

After the 1st Mrs. Davidson got her issues squared away, they called me to the front again. This time the animal control officer was mine and the prosecution’s witness was my next door neighbor. I was sworn in again. Awesomeness!

The animal control officer talked. Gave all the details. My neighbor talked.  He said he SAW my brown dog (NOT the one he claimed back in April) attacked his dog, in his back yard, on April 13th at about 8 PM.

Now folks, I’m sort of a documentation Nazi. So, I took:

  • Pictures of my dogs
  • Pictures that Mark was fabulous enough to take of two similarly colored dogs that roam the woods behind our (and our neighbor’s) home
  • Calendar w/ sunset times for the month of April
  • News clippings from reports on the massive storm that occurred that evening
  • Pictures of our fences
  • Details about fence repairs
  • Receipt for the rabies vaccine

I was SO Matlock, I’m telling you. I made my case:

  • Our dogs wear shock collars that won’t allow them within 3 feet of our electric fence without being shocked (and the fence is turned to high).
  • April 13th was the day/night that the massive spring storms and tornados hit Georgia, and it rained the entire evening.
  • April 13th sunset was at 8:06 PM, which means that with the storms, it was already dark outside
  • There are a LOT of stray dogs in our neighborhood, and two in particular that roam the woods behind our two houses are colored almost exactly like my dogs… and look just alike from a distance, except the other dogs are bigger around.  – Showed the pictures
  • I showed them the reports, from Animal Control’s records, of other strays getting into my yard and playing happily with my dogs, until animal control showed up to remove the strays.
  • I pointed out that, in the reports from Animal Control, each and every time an officer was dispatched to my home, my dogs were properly contained in the back yard or in the house, and had their shock collars on.
  • I pointed out that I even demonstrated the electric fence system was turned on and in working order for the Animal Control officer when he came to cite me.

So I asked… how did the neighbor see my dog, in the dark, in the pouring rain, escape our electric fence, come through his fence (under brambles that we can’t even see into), and into his wooded back yard, and attack his dog.

In the end, the judge dismissed the rabies charge.  Found me Not Guilty for the vicious animal charge (which is all I cared about, really). Found me guilty for the control charge and fined me $108.  Then suspended the fine on the condition that there be no more reported incidents of my dogs getting out for 6 months.

It’s the best I could have hoped for, given that our dogs have most definitely been escape artists in the past and have probably slid under the fence into the neighbor’s yard hundreds of times over the last five years (that’s why we have the electric fence, after all). YAY for being prepared…  and knowing my first name.

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