Yesterday I had my day in court for the misdemeanor charge of excessive speeding on Ainaloa Boulevard. I told you, I would be contesting the charge for the fact that I disagree with the police officer stationed in an unmarked vehicle in this area with an insensible posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour.
I gave myself ample time to get from Puna to Hilo, so much time I thought I could stop by Hilo Coffee Mill and grab myself my favorite breakfast (Mill Works) to go. Â Once I got to the Mill, I ended up talking story with the staff, even engaging in a serious discussion with one of the owners about the front-page story regarding the Mossman plea deal for the 2005 Tim Sing hit-and-run fatality. Â As we talked, I suddenly realized I didn’t have time to be talking, I needed to be on the road to get to court for my excessive speeding ticket! Â “How ironic,” the owner was saying as I raced out the door. That’s what I was said after I got my ticket! And that’s what I keep saying. Â It just never ceases to be ironic, really.
Is it just me or do you find that, inevitably, when you are running late, every stop light you encounter turns red just before you are set to pass through it?
By the time I fed the meter and went through security at the Hilo Judiciary, I was 15 minutes late. I reached the District Courtroom on the second floor, only to discover that my name had been called and Judge Harry Freitas had defaulted my case (meaning I was to pay the $142 fine). Â I learned through whispers that I could stay until the end of the hearing, in hopes that the judge would decide to recall my case. So I did.
By the hearing’s end, I was wiping away tears â€” some of the people were so pathetic, with devastating stories to justify not having a driver’s license or car insurance. Â My breaking point was listening to the story of the woman who had wheeled in a stroller with two babies, who appeared to be twins just a few months old, to plead guilty to driving with a revoked license. Â Despite being on public assistance and seemingly without the means, the woman with the babies opted to pay a several-hundred-dollar fine in lieu of seeking out a public defender to contest the charge. Â As she entered her guilty plea, she cried, and the deputy prosecutor assigned to District Court held the kleenex box out to her. Â I lost it at that point, thinking, how lame is this!, she doesn’t even want to try to get a public defender because of a poor experience with one in the past. What’s wrong with the Public Defender’s Office?
I know what it is like to be a mother with at least one baby that young, I can imagine it must be all the more overwhelming with two. Â I understood what she was trying to tell the judge that she couldn’t really take the time to try to track down a public defender to represent her, at the same time she is trying to feed and diaper those babies. Â It sounded to me like a single mom, because she was telling the judge that she has to drive with a revoked license, that she has no one to drive for her. The judge encouraged her to get her revoked license situation sorted out. I just felt so sorry for her, and the pickle that she is in. But I sure wished I could have jumped up and whispered in her ear, “Girlfriend, fill out the form for the public defender!”
That was just one story. Â By the hearing’s end, I had gotten so wrapped up in everyone’s stories. I was analyzing all their problems, trying to figure out the story behind the story on why they couldn’t get their shit together. Â When the judge finally called me up, I told him honestly, “After hearing everyone else, I kinda feel foolish for being here.” Seriously, after a morning in District Court, I am reminded that I don’t really have any problems. Â But at the same time I felt foolish for coming to contest my case, I believe the court system is such that I have a right to state my case, and I reminded myself, if nothing else, I was there on principle alone. Â “Why were you late?” Freitas asked. Â “I made the mistake of doing an errand before court, and I got caught up talking story at the Hilo Coffee Mill,” I said. Â He chuckled and thanked me for my honesty. Â Then he allowed me to state my position. Â We philosophized for a time about the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit on Ainaloa Boulevard and through Eight Road in Hawaiian Acres, versus the 35 mile-per-hour Kahakai Boulevard. Â He was clearly humored, but he noted that it was his job to enforce the County Code as it is written. He wished me luck in urging the County Traffic Division and the Hawaii County Council to change the posted speed limit in these areas.
He gave me the option of pleading guilty, no contest, or pleading not guilty and continuing on with this with him setting a trial date for me. Â “Clearly, I was driving over the speed limit, I stated my case, and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.”
“You’re not going to be wasting my time, I’m here everyday,” Freitas said. Â I opted not to drag the case out any further. Â But I did ask for some mercy on the fine and expressed a willingness to do community service. And so I got what I asked for â€” I was ordered to pay $57 and was referred to Hawaii Intake Service Center to sign up for community service. The judge set another court date for me to return and verify I had followed through on my community service pledge. Â Initially, it was to be in late March, but I noted I would be giving birth around that time, and would like a little more time. Â We decided on the end of April. I left the Judiciary building after paying the ordered $57, and went straight over to the Intake Service Center.
The woman who manning the receiving desk at the Intake Service Center said she didn’t have anyone available to meet with me and set up the community service arrangement until March 29. I tried to explain that I would be giving birth around that time, but she was really stern, warden-like for sure, and she was not having any explanation, March 29 was to be my appointment. She was trying to tell me that State furloughs have set the office behind, and she did not have any appointment for me, not just before March 29, after March 29 as well. Â March 29 had to be my appointment, she insisted. Â Then she told me, “You’re going to have to go to court and ask for a continuance.” Â Huh?! I was bewildered. Â My court date to verify I followed through on my community service pledge is set for nearly a month after that March 29 appointment. Â There is no way it is going to take me nearly a month to complete 12 hours of community service. Â But she just kept telling me that that was what I had to do â€” go to court at the end of April and ask for a continuance.
So, yeah, I have already lined up where I want to do my community service, I’m ready and willing to get started on it as soon as tomorrow, but I have to wait until I meet with someone at the Intake Service Center to start. Â And then, once March 29 rolls around, I don’t know what that someone at the Intake Service Center is going to be requiring of me to start on the community service. Â I can just picture how this is really going to drag out and drive me bat shit crazy. Â I’ll be juggling my newborn baby, going to the Intake Service Center, going to court, and then trying to do 12 hours of community service Â â€” all for this utterly-stupid speeding ticket.
To think, I could have started on my community service as soon as this afternoon and been done with it by the end of the week, without all this bureaucracy in my way.Â Instead, I am feeling regretful that I didn’t just pay the remaining $85 of the fine to be done with it once and for all. Â I see the writing on the wall â€” the timing with that Intake Service Center appointment and then community service right after I give birth is going to be so bad that, I guarantee you, I’m going to be saying that the community service pledge was not worth it. And that’s really unfortunate, considering I really enjoy volunteering and giving back to my community on my own, without a judge ordering me to do so.
So, I was mulling all this over, and thinking back to that woman with her babies, crying as he entered her guilty plea and opting to pay a several-hundred-dollar fine for a revoked license, when I was making my way from Pahoa on Highway 130 and went to turn left onto Ainaloa Boulevard. Â A truck turning right onto Ainaloa snaked me, failing to yield as I was trying to make my turn. Â I was going slow enough for us not to collide, so I didn’t get too riled up about it. Â I continued to reflect on that woman and her babies. Â No wonder why she opted to pay the fine. Â She has these brand-new babies, with all this legal drama swirling around her. Â She barely has time to take a shower and brush her hair, and she is supposed to chase down a public defender to try and mitigate her revoked driver’s license case?
I traveled behind the truck up Ainaloa Boulevard, more conscious than ever that the speed limit is a stupid 25 miles per hour. Â I was trying to estimate how fast the truck the front of me was going â€” probably about 35 miles per hour â€” as I Â trailed behind, traveling as close to the speed limit as possible, without having the car behind tailgating me.
Poor woman, I thought. Â No wonder why she just paid the fine. I wonder why she has the revoked license to begin with?
Just past King Kamehameha Boulevard, in the area of Tiki Gardens, Officer Kim, the officer who busted me and sent me on this journey through the court system that I’m on, traveled down Ainaloa in his unmarked silver car, and caught the driver of the truck in front of me for speeding. I could not believe it, right before my very eyes, there he was, there it was, yet another excessive speeding bust on Ainaloa. Â Yet another person’s life being impacted by this dumb 25 miles per hour posted speed limit. To think, if only the driver of that truck would have yielded to me. Â I could have been the one busted â€” again.
Seriously, I don’t think it is serving any good for Ainaloa Boulevard or Road Eight in Hawaiian Acres to have posted speed limits of 25 miles per hour. Â I think 35 miles per hour is more realistic. Â I think the Traffic Division and the Hawaii County Council have a responsibility to the public to look at these areas and see that 25 miles per hour may work for, say, Post Office Road in Pahoa, for Road One in Hawaiian Acres, but it doesn’t work for thoroughfares like Ainaloa or Road Eight. Â It’s a problem, believe me. Â Ask the deputy prosecutor assigned to District Court. Â He will tell you I am not alone. There is enough of us, we could start a support group â€” or a lobbying effort.