As octogenarian Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story:
If you read my last blog lamenting my citation for a backseat seat belt infraction while in California on business, you, no doubt, sensed my frustration at being an out-of-towner getting a ticket for violation of a new law of which I, nor anyone else in the car, had any knowledge.
A quick recap: I hop in the back seat of a rental car driven by a business colleague from Rhode Island, accompanied by a front seat passenger from Colorado for a lift to the airport. Add my Illinois roots and we have eastern, central and mountain time zones in a rental car on Pacific time.
It’s a five minute ride to the airport, top speed maybe 17 m.p.h. in Orange County traffic, when we are pulled over at the entrance to John Wayne Airport. The backseat passenger, that’s me, is in violation of California’s new law, requiring backseat passengers to buckle up. There’s no notice in the rental car or on the rental agreement apprising us of the new law, no signs on the streets, and there was no sign in the backseat of the cab I took to the hotel.
My complaint to the officer of the lack of notification or postings to educate tourists fell on deaf ears. Well, not really. The officer said he understood that there was probably no way for us to know about the new law, but it was just like traveling to a foreign country – it is your responsibility to learn the local ordinances. Besides, he was on a seat belt enforcement task force paid by the federal government and he had to give me a citation.
I asked the amount of the fine. The officer said he didn’t know, it would be decided by the court, and I would received a notification in the mail. On Friday, I got my notice, exactly three weeks after the violation. The fine? $132.00 (minimum)!
I say minimum, because I do have options. I can attend “traffic school” for which the fee jumps to $181.00, plus I have to make arrangements to attend traffic school for three Monday evenings in Orange County court. Or I can choose to pay nothing and choose to appear before a judge at the Orange County Superior Court Harbor Justice Center, “no later than 8:00 a.m. on or before the due” being fully prepared to “deposit the bail amount (surprise, $132.00) at the time of request for a trial.”
So, having nothing better to do with $132.00, I am sending some cash to Orange County, California. I have no doubt my money will help lessen the burden of a $44 billion California state deficit, and keep the clerks of the court from enduring a state-mandated, unpaid, furlough or layoff.
So, if you’ve ever wondered the price of being ignorant, in Orange County, California it’s $132.00.