My question involves a speeding ticket from the State of: Texas
Well, today I had the most bizarre speeding ticket scenario I could possibly imagine. If my wife's little sister wasn't in the car no one would believe this. Oddly enough, here is what happened.
My wife is a teacher and requested I bring her sister up to school to help her with and end of the day "field day" at her school. Because of this field day the police were heavily patrolling the area (4 police cars all within a block). Anyway, I am very familiar with where the school is because my wife teaches there. I decided to take a different route to the school than usual. 9 blocks before the school was a 30 mph speed limit sign. 10 feet after was a school zone sign (which I didn't notice at the time). This was 3:10 and school gets out at 4:15 so, had I seen it, I may have continued at 30mph paying it no attention. Apparently the school zone speed starts at 2:30 though. When I went around a minor bend in the road I saw the second school zone sign and 4 police cars. Knowing this meant trouble I slowed to under 20 as I approached the sign. Keep in mind we are still 8 1/2 blocks from the school. I asked my wife's sister, "where on earth is the school?" not thinking the zone for my wife's school started 9 block before it. She didn't know but when the police car started moving she got excited and laughed saying "You're getting a ticket." I assured her I wasn't because I was not speeding. Then the lights came on. I had in fact missed the first sign so I was in a posted school zone regardless of if there was only an empty field on one side and the Seabrook Sports Complex little league field and batting cages on the other side. For kicks, if anyone wants to see the area enter 1600 N Meyer Ave, Seabrook, Harris, TX 77586 into google maps and click on the location and then street view for a 360 view. If you have time you can go up the road 6/10 the of a mile and finally see the school for this school zone 8 1/2 blocks away.
I pulled of to a side street parked and turned the car of waiting for the officer. My phone rang. I hesitated to answer but knowing it was my wife calling for instruction on where her sister had to meet her (and knowing her time during school hours on the phone had to be short) I decided to answer. When it rang I told my wife's sister "great, now I'll probably get a ticket for being on the cell phone in a school zone, even though we are parked." As I answered the phone my wife's sister asked if she had to be my witness in court. I said no, knowing I was no longer in a school zone. I had just been kidding about that. When I answered the phone I said to my wife, "I can't talk now, I just get pulled over by a cop." I followed that up with, "Oh, never mind, go ahead. I'm not even driving or in a school zone so I can't get a ticket for being on the phone. After a very brief discussion about getting pulled over, my wife told me her involvement with the field day at school had been canceled and no one was at the park across from the school so her sister should now meet her at the school. This call took 2 minutes and 12 seconds. Unfortunately for the last 30 to 45 seconds the police officer was waiting at my window, and seemed pissed that I was on the phone. I got a ticket for 31 in a 20 (I was going 27-28 as I looked at the speedometer when I saw the police), expired registration (had traded cars with my wife and didn't know about it), failure to provide insurance documentation because I didn't know where my wife stored it (later found it in the car), and A CELL PHONE in a SCHOOL ZONE ticket!! I told her I had just answered a call after pulling over and a was just on the phone sitting there (which by the way is not illegal, even if I was still in the school zone). She said, "No you were on the phone way back in the school zone."
Alright, I'm not worried about the registration ticket that I deserve. The insurance ticket will be dropped because I had it. Can Texas have a school zone 9 blocks from a school though? I asked the police officer where there was a school and she pointed to the Seabrook Sports Complex and said there was one that direction (on the other side of a fully fenced facility that was not a school). It turns out it was within 800 feet as the crow flies but not on the same street and 6/10ths of a mile if you drive/walk around the fences in sports complex. The other school 8 1/2 blocks away was also about 6/10ths of a mile away. Anyway, I was just curious if a school zone can be this far away. I've never seen one more than a block away from the school.
The real problem is the fact that I was not on the cell phone. This is a $200 ticket for something I am not the least bit guilty of. I do have my wife's sister as a witness. She is high school aged if that makes a difference about the judges belief in her to tell the truth. I also have my wife whou I was on the phone with and had told her I had just got pulled over. I can also get cell phone records. If the police officer remembers I was on the phone and she was waiting for me to finish my call, and will admit to it, then she is my third witness. It was a 2 minute and 12 second call and my first call of the day. Obviously I didn't talk on the phone coming down the road, stay on it as I exited to another street, stay on it as I parked the car, stay on it as she waited outside my window; all that in 2 minutes and 12 seconds would be easy to see as impossible. I could also get records of my wifes cell phone and her sister's (who was grounded and didn't have her phone in the car because of that). Should I get a lawyer for this or would this be an easy one for the judge to see without doubting? I assume I need to bring my wife and her sisters as witnesses. Should I ask for a jury trial, or let the judge do it?
After the police officer told me of the cell phone ticket, and remembering that I was joking about getting a ticket for that and my wifes sister asked if she got to be my witness, I turned to my sister in law and said "Well, It looks like you got your wish (meaning she gets to be my witness)". The officer yelled, "What did you say?" I explained what I had told my sister in law and why. My sister in law said, "What, she's giving you a cell phone ticket?" Then she asked the officer if we were still in a school zone. She didn't realize at the time the officer said I was on the phone back what I was on the road driving in the school zone.
For anyone reading this: Don't, under any circumstances, be on the phone when the officer arrives at your window. It is not against the law but it sure seems to make at least this one angry enough to make up a false ticket.
What a day!