Law Enforcement

I have not had a good day. Well, that’s not quite true. It started out perfectly well, but once I got my mail today, it became a not-good day. It’s a bit of a story, and it all starts back at Fall Break, in mid October…

I’d gone away for the beginning of Fall Break to visit some friends in Albany/Schenectady, about a four hour drive East of Ithaca. I was returning to Ithaca along route 206, which is shorter than taking the linking interstate highways, as it’s more direct. It’s also a more scenic route, and a bit windier – I find it easier to maintain concentration while driving when I need to concentrate; driving on interstates while sleepy I find to be a bad idea. It also has very little traffic, at least, at night. Anyway, it meanders its way through a bunch of small towns, which are pretty much silent at midnight. I was driving along route 206, singing along to the music that I had playing, just looking forward to getting home and sleeping in my bed again after a hectic weekend. It was about midnight. The speed limit on route 206 is 50 mph, but it slows down to 30 to go through the little towns. However, given that I hadn’t seen another car for about half an hour, there were no lights around at all (other than my own), no people around, and it was so late, I just continued cruising through at about 50 mph. Granted, I was rather tired at the time, and was just looking forward to getting home, and didn’t particularly want to slow down to 30 mph, but hey. Anyway, there was a cop sitting in a sidestreet with a radar who found me going a little bit over the speed limit (19 mph, to be precise), and so I was issued a ticket. I’m still wondering what that cop was doing there at midnight, given that in the fifteen minutes I was stopped, _one_ other car passed by. But hey, I was caught speeding, oh well…

In New York (I’m not sure about the greater US), instead of issuing you a fine on the spot, you’re issued with a court date. I couldn’t make the given court date, and besides, the court was in the town I was caught speeding in, 1 1/2 hours away, and I really didn’t have much to say other than plead first offence, so I sent in a guilty plea by mail. I got back a letter a few days after the court date, saying that they accepted my plea, and here’s a fine for $210. Ouch, but ok, I was caught speeding, oh well…

Until I got my mail this morning. Apparently, I was still on a probationary period for my New York license, it being only 5 months and 20 days since I sat my road test when I was convicted. If the court date had been two weeks later, it would have been past the six month mark, and I would have been out of my probation. Anyway, what does this probation mean? Well, given that it’s a speeding violation, it means that my license has been suspended for 60 days and must be forfeited, after which period I must pay a termination fee to reacquire my license.

Ouch. That includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. I personally find this a bit rough, given that I’ve been driving in America for over a year now, and furthermore, have license history from Australia for a good number of years prior to that too. On top of that, it goes on the conviction date, not the offence date, so if I had written to the court asking them to postpone it by a fortnight, I wouldn’t have this problem. Apparently, I’m eligible for a restricted license (no idea what that means; the NYSDMV website doesn’t detail it), but that requires shelling out a further $75.

Edit: After digging through the state law, I found out what a restricted license is. It lets me drive to school and the hospital. Not useful for me.

Edit: I’ve looked into appealing against the suspension; that’s not going to happen. The relevant sections of NY law basically say if you’re convicted of speeding within your probationary period, you get suspended for 60 days, period. A probationary period is enforced for _all_ new licenses, so I can’t argue that I shouldn’t be on probation to begin with. The only course of appeal is against the conviction itself, which is, as far as I can tell, a legal conviction. The long and short of this? Basically, instead of costing me $210 for the speeding ticket, it’s going to cost me $310. Just when I thought I was getting on top of my finances, too.

The lesson from all this: Learn the rules well, so you know how to break them well. I apparently did not know the rules well enough to break them properly.

To make matters worse, while riding my bike home from the physics department tonight, I had forgotten to take my lights to school with me, as I wasn’t expecting the sudden darkness that coming off daylight saving inevitably produces. Regardless, I rode my bike through a section of campus which I had ridden through countless times previously, and was stopped by a Cornell policeman on a bike. This is the first Cornell police officer I have ever seen on a bike. Apparently, it was a no-riding zone, and I was not allowed to ride my bike there, I have to walk it. Furthermore, I should be using lights. “Can I please see your Cornell ID?” Gawds…  but thankfully no, he wasn’t giving me a ticket, just recording my details. Apparently I am currently experiencing trouble with law enforcement in this country… *sigh* I hope this all gets fixed up sooner or later :S

On a completely unrelated note, I noticed today that my little background thinggy for the eggs works in firefox, but not in internet explorer. Apparently IE doesn’t like me setting a height in pixels for a table so that everything links together nicely. I’ll see what I can do to fix that when I get around to it.


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