Updated on July 14, 2011
Chris Grisham vs. The State of California
[UPDATE: The California Supreme Court dismissed my case today, 14 August.]
Interesting title, I know. It catches people’s attention. Here’s the deal:
Back in June, a month after I got here, I got a speeding ticket for ALLEGEDLY going 81 in a 55 mph zone. I was on the only road into and out of Fort Irwin with morning traffic when I was pulled over. I’m not one that likes to pay for tickets, so the obvious choice is to fight it. Normally, I’d just submit documents to have the ticket dismissed but since I hadn’t received all my household goods yet, I didn’t have all my ammunition to do it that way. I chose another method: technicality.
I was pulled over using radar, something that is actually very easy to beat. Let me assure my readers that I’m not anti-police in any manner. When I’m pulled over, I am VERY respectful to the officer. He’s just doing his job. Granted, I think he could do his job better chasing down rapists and gang members than chasing revenue by pulling people over, but who am I? I look at a speeding violation a little differently than most people.
You see, there are laws that govern how a police officer is supposed to run his radar and pull people over (I’m writing this from the perspective that the court has jurisdiction over, something I normally fight right off the bat). When someone is pulled over for speeding it is presumed the alleged violator has broken a law, the same set of laws that govern their behavior as well. For example, a police officer is required to check his radar daily, be licensed on his equipment, keep a record of radar usage, and keep his equipment maintained and in good working order. This is not a suggestion, it’s both department policy and law. So, for me just to accept the ticket and pay it without inquiring whether or not the officer followed the law himself would do everyone an injustice.
I went to court and fought the ticket in Barstow, California, the equivalent of a backwoods, middle of nowhere southern town where the judge, gas station attendant, and local drunk are all related. When I got there, I immediately noticed that the trial was a sham as the only people involved in the case were the officer, the judge and me. There was no prosecutor to question me or the officer. I asked the judge who was representing the state in this case (after all, the case was titled People of the State of California vs. Christopher Grisham). The judge told me that there was no prosecutor. I objected to the judge acting as judge, jury and prosecutor in this trial and motioned that the trial be moved to a circuit court. Denied! I explained to the judge that his objective status is jeapardized by crafting the questions for the officer (by the way, he didn’t question me at all, I was all alone) and again stated my objection and motioned for the trial to be dismissed or moved to circuit court. DENIED! I demanded a jury trial, which is my constitutional right. DENIED!! I explained that I will only continue to avoid a contempt of court charge and again made my position clear for the record (little did I know that there wasn’t even a court reporter to record my motions or objections).
When the judge and officer were finished collaborating against me for the sum of $341, it was my turn. I asked the officer for a copy of his calibration record. He provided me with a photo copy of a sheet that only showed the dates and times he calibrated it, not the results. I objected to the evidence citing the Best Evidence rule which states that is there is an original, it MUST be used in court…not a photocopy. I was overruled (another violation of my rights). I asked the officer how he calibrated his radar to which he responded he used a tuning fork. A tuning fork is a very sensitive instrument that must be taken good care of. It must be calibrated regularly just as the radar is to ensure it’s still using the proper frequency. The slightest dent, knick, or crack can give a false reading. I asked him to explain to the court exactly how he calibrated the radar. he said that he struck the fork on his vehicle and held in front of the radar to obtain a reading. I then presented the California Highway Patrol’s own manual for how to use radar which specifically stated that the tuning fork must be struck on an object of lesser dense material than the fork itself, like a steering wheel. The officer violated this SOP – standard operating procedure(for lack of a better term). I asked for the calibration records to show that the tuning fork was indeed calibrated before he used it to subsequently calibrate his radar. Obviously, he didn’t bring it. I motioned the court for dismissal based on lack of foundational evidence. DENIED!
There were other violations and I don’t want to bore anyone any more than I already have. The end result is that I was obviously found guilty, but miraculously my ticket was lowered to $168 or something close to that. Obviously, the judge just wanted to make it more worth my while to pay the ticket than to continue fighting it. I filed my appeal and will be in court this Friday, March 25th, to fight the same ticket I got last June. The only difference is that I’m suing the State of California while I’m there. You see, the state passed a law that says anyone charged with an infraction (basically a traffic violation) is NOT entitled to their constitutional right to a lawyer or jury trial. This right is found in both the US Constitution (Article III, Section 2, Clause 3) and the California Constitution (Article I, Section 16). It specifically says “all crimes.” I would have to say that the state has already expended more than the $168 they say I owe them for allegedly violating speed laws. Yes, I was on my motorcycle. I know some of you are chuckling over that. The officer actually brought up the fact that I have a sticker on the back of my bike that says “WARNING: This bike is capable of evading high speed pursuit!” I asked the officer if I had indeed attempted to evade him in pursuit of me. He said no. I objected and had the comment stricken.
So, there you have it. I’ll let you know how the trial goes. If you’re from California or live here, I’m doing this for YOU. YOUR rights are being violated in the vile state. They are subverting your will and freedom. With Allah on my side, I will be victorious!! We’ll see. Allah has nothing to do with this.