I fought the law and the law didn’t show up

January 16, 2015 § 48 Comments

Team Wanker showed up at the Santa Monica Courthouse garbed in its finest clothing and ready to do battle with the machinations of  THE SYSTEM, or, alternatively, to hang out at the Sckubrats across the street and quaff a cup of coffee. This was our third sally into the bowels of bicycle-citation-defense law, and I was gradually coming to the realization that working for free was just as unprofitable as going for a bike ride, only less fun.

For this final inning against the minions of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, we had assembled, if not the Dream Team, then at least the Catnap Team. We had:

Defendant Scotty G.: The victim of a terrible conspiracy to pervert our civil rights, Scotty G. had chosen to take a morning off work and fight the citation for violating CVC 21202(a) even though it would have been easier and cheaper to pay the fine. Scotty had been ticketed for riding in the middle of the lane on PCH with the Big Orange noodlers. Everyone agreed that the reason he’d been served with the ticket is because he was wearing the dark blue Ironfly kit, and stood out like a sore tongue in a French kissing contest when surrounded by all the Orangemen.

Expert Witness Gary Cziko (pronounced “psycho, but not to his face): Gary now holds the record in successful expert witness bicycle defenses, having won every single case in which he was hired to testify — proving that he is well worth the cup of coffee and candy bar that it took to entice him to take a bath and pedal over to court. Hired Gun Psycho had come prepared to testify to the width of the lane and the fact that it could not be safely shared by a bike and vehicle, thereby calling into effect one of the exceptions to California’s “farthest to the right” rule for bikes. This time, sensing an all-out war, he had brushed away all the breadcrumbs, combed most of his hair, and brushed several of his teeth. It was battle time.

Expert Witness Eric Bruins: Strangely an alum of USC, Eric is also batting a thousand in his testimony regarding highway standards, although somewhat less successful in explaining why with the last name of “Bruins” he didn’t go to UCLA. Eric was prepared to testify regarding the applicable width of lanes under accepted lane-width standards, and why those standards were crucial for understanding the inherent unsafety of the lanes on PCH as concerns “FTR” travel by bicycles.

Gritty Lawyer “Wankmeister,” Senior Partner and Chief Janitor at Wanky Law, LLP: I knew this was going to be the toughest trial of my career, and not just because I’d had beans and chili the night before at the all-you-can-eat taco bar and beanerie with Bull. As I sat stewing in the endless traffic on the 405, I thought grimly about the take-no-prisoners, scorched earth tactics I would have to employ in this pitiless cage fight between titans of the law.

Deppity Doofus: Doofus was my adversary, as wily and clever as he was rotund and fond of donuts. With a mind and body honed on three decades of law enforcement along PCH, and almost as many decades spent belly-up to the counter at DK Donuts in Santa Monica, Deppity Doofus would be cagy and hard to trap. He had mostly spelled his own name correctly at the bottom of the citation, which let me know that I was dealing with the best that the sheriff’s department had to offer.

The battle plan

In our two previous court battles, Team Wanky had employed one of the most complex legal strategies ever devised. Known by its code name, JSU, the “Just Show Up” stratagem involved all four of us appearing at the courthouse at the correct time, 8:45 AM.

But that wasn’t all. After appearing, we planned to carefully find our way to Department A, where we would implement Phase II of JSU, in some ways the trickiest part of our defense. One by one we would enter the courtroom. Scotty, Gary, and Eric would all sit down. I, on the other hand, was planning to walk up to the clerk’s desk and check in. This was the linchpin of our strategy — we would then be officially checked in.

After overcoming these incredible hurdles, Phase III would kick in: We would wait for our case to be called. Then, we would wait for the judge to say, “No appearance by Deppity Doofus due to a sale at the Olde Donut Shoppe. Case dismissed.” At that point I was planning to carefully stand up and deliver the most devastating part of my legal defense — I would say, “Thank you, Your Honor,” and we would all stand up and leave.

That, anyway, was the plan.

No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy

Unfortunately, our devastating JSU strategy got derailed early. Although I had allotted thirty minutes for the one-hour drive to Santa Monica, I wound up arriving late. Then, facing complete defeat, I was forced to call Scotty G. and have him implement Phase II using our backup plan. Instead of me going to the desk and checking in, I told him, “Scotty, you go check in.” He was able to walk all the way to the clerk’s desk, give his name, and save the day.

I dashed into the courtroom a few minutes late, still in time to make my closing argument. Quickly, I huddled with Team Wanker and we practiced.

“Okay, Scotty. Get ready to sit down.”

“I’m already sitting,” he said.”

“Good job. Keep it up. Gary, what’s the square root of 5.9?” I asked.

“I have no idea. What difference does it make?”

“Just checking. Good job. Eric, how much spunk water should you drink to make a wart go away when Venus is retrograde to Uranus?”

“What?” he asked.

“Exactly,” I confirmed.

Then I sat down beside my team and waited to attack. Judge Hahn came in and surveyed us, sensing the dismissal battle that was about to take place. “Okay,” he said, “if I call your name it means that the officer who wrote the citation isn’t here, so your case will be dismissed and you can go home.”

He read off a few names, but not a single defendant had a professional team of hired guns like Scotty G. The way that Gary and Eric sat in their chairs and gaped like toads was terrible to behold.

“Scotty G.?” said the judge. “Your case is dismissed.”

I stood, and all eyes in the courtroom turned on my. It was to be my finest hour as I summoned all of my wits to persuade these twelve jurors of the justice of our cause. I paused. You could have sliced the tension with an eructation. “Your honor,” I said.

“Yes?” he answered.

I drew it out, the crowning moment of my legal career, champion of the downtrodden, hero of the oppressed, knowing neither fear nor favor in my prosecution of the things we as Americans cherish most deeply. Then I said it. “Thank you.”

“Samuel Poopinbeck,” said the Judge. “Case dismissed.”

Mr. Poopinbeck made complete mess out of his dismissal and stumbled to the door, only managing to mumble, “Thanks.”

Afterwards we high-fived in the hall, slapped backs and butts, and jogged over to the Sckubrats where I treated everyone to a cup of water. The euphoria was incredible. Scotty G. thanked me for my efforts, and we parted company. We fought the law, and we won.



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§ 48 Responses to I fought the law and the law didn’t show up

  • gcziko says:

    Great description of the drama. If I hadn’t been there, I would have believed every word.

    Basically, it boils down to we show up better than they show up. So knowing that as a weakness of the enemy, we show up and the rest is history!

  • DangerStu says:

    Congrats, Craft water all around!
    I think you are on to something here, you should get an agent and the script outline written!

  • Crashgybe says:

    Ok. Really? I don’t even know Gary, but that’s a visual I could have done without?

    Btw, would you be willing to represent me in a case of speeding down San V on a powered eski cooler at 3 am on boxing day wearing full SKY garb claiming to be Wiggo on a bender? My lawyer strangely turned it down!

  • Michelle Landes says:

    I’m at the coffee bean laughing so hard people are staring at me! Nice job boys congrats!

  • Tom Paterson says:

    Dang, I was really hoping for a Meeting in Chambers episode, like on TV, where “Law” really happens. Hey, I saw one of those where the *judge* lost! Wow, I didn’t think that happened unless your name had three letters and started with an “I”! Anyhow, they bounced that judge right out of the trade and the last anyone heard of him, he was saying something about how at long last he would be able to take that nice, peaceful canoe trip where he could relax, and get back to Nature he’d been dreaming about all these years.

  • dan martin says:

    Cops giving up craft donuts must be way harder than cyclists giving up craft beers.

  • “Just checking. Good job. Eric, how much spunk water should you drink to make a wart go away when Venus is retrograde to Uranus?”

    hahahaha…classic question!!! GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!!!

    Donuts for all!!!

  • Les.B. says:

    This is suspiciously similar to a Perry Mason episode.

  • PB says:

    Grisham better watch his back.

  • “Afterwards we high-fived in the hall, slapped backs and butts, and jogged over to the Sckubrats where I treated everyone to a cup of water.”

    I would have paid big money for a video on this!…… or at least a subscription.

    Much better to fight these dumb tickets if you can make the time. One thing I always wondered about regarding what is “sub-standard” width lanes. It would seem to me that you could use the width of a H1 Hummer for the calculations on this. Given that there is a minimum 3 foot passing clearance that is in affect now, there should be very few tickets where this would fly for the ticketer.


  • So…. what’s to stop Deputy Friendly from continuing his harassment of cyclists? Wasting half a day to get the ticket dismissed is still a hassle.

  • marc caruso says:

    I know a dismissal is good but all these dismissals cut into free time, work, or training/ recovery time. Wouldnt it be wiser to ask the venue be changed to doofus donut shop. To guarantee a trial and seek a permanent cease and desist order against doofus.

    • fsethd says:

      Motion to Change Venue to Donut Shop.

      Sheer brilliance.

      • marc caruso says:

        you know when you see his name on the ticket that he will be a no show. So why not just have the defendant go in alone with a monitor size skype device. If He does show up Then you can present your case via skype or are you required to be physically present to represent the client.

        • fsethd says:

          The Skype appearance! Bonus for lazy lawyers everywhere!

          Nope. You gotta show up.

          Bottom line: It’s my job to go to court and represent people. Is it a pain in the ass and does it cost them time and money? Yes. Welcome to justice. You gotta pay to play.

  • Winemaker says:

    Is it going to take a lawsuit to get Deputy Doofus & Co. to stop writing the tickets?

  • pvannuys says:

    14′ wide– if the lane is less than that it’s not “sharable.” Car width nominally, 8′; door width suddenly opened toward your mug, min. 3″; 3′ of Oh-shit space (know by the traffic engineers as “shy space”) and required– not really, but in the first clause of the law CBC lobbied for– 3′. 3+3+8= 14. Anything narrower than that and the cagers haft’a change lanes to pass. Unless they’re ahole Sheriffs. Then they can pull along side and slide the cite out the window.
    Chickenshit cops won’t show, so equally chicken traffic commissioners– that’s make believe judgie-poos– won’t convict you, so when you take their bogus understanding of CVC to the appellate court you can’t get a precedent preventing further harassment.
    We call this justice ’cause it “just is.”
    Thanks Seth for exposing, once again, what a sham CA traffic law is.

    • fsethd says:

      Welcome, Pete! At least for now it appears that LASD agrees — at least measured by the absence of tickets.

  • Tom says:

    Attributed to film maker Woody Allen:
    “80% of success, is showing up”

  • marc caruso says:

    I never knew your job was to go court. I thought that was your hobby. I thought your job was to pull for Team spy. Until you had nothing left in your legs. Though seriously keep up the good fight. You are a legend and the best bicycle lawyer.

  • Stacy Kline says:

    You guys are my heroes. Keep up the good fight…you’re making it easier for all of us who “occupy” our rightful place in the lane!

  • […] Let’s start with the wit and wisdom of Cycling in the South Bay’s Seth Davidson, who figuratively dances on the grave of a retiring bike-hating sheriff’s deputy, and celebrates a successful bike ticket legal strategy that resulted victory over the absent officer who wrote it. […]

  • calwatch says:

    You should try Trial by Declaration before showing up. Many times deputies are less likely to fill out TBD forms than show up to court. You can go to court if you lose TBD through filing for a trial de novo.

    • fsethd says:

      … and then they know exactly what your argument is and make up facts to squash it. Do TBD if you don’t really care whether you win and are willing to gamble. I do really care, and am not.

      • calwatch says:

        No, much of the time (more for local cops and those not regularly assigned to traffic, less for CHP and those on a traffic detail), NOBODY RESPONDS TO THE TBD NOTICE. All you have to put down is “I’m not guilty” and if they don’t send a reply back, you automatically win. Speeders have been using this trick for quite a while, and bicyclists should do so as well.

        • fsethd says:

          The best thing about a successful outcome is all the people who, with their superior knowledge, expertise, and law license, could have made it even more so!

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