Something is screwy with punishments


By Jeff Linville - jlinville@mtairynews.com



“I got thrown out of a bar in New York City.”

No, that never happened to me. But it is an excellent start to an anecdote by Ron “Tater Salad” White.

Mine is far less impressive.

I got arrested by the sheriff’s office a few years ago.

I don’t mean that I was armed with dual pistols, yelling out, “You’ll never take me alive, coppers!” Nor was there a car chase nor a taser/pepper spray to subdue me. There was no mug shot nor a lineup in front of two-way mirrored glass.

I didn’t make my one phone call, nor roust my parents from bed to post bail.

There was a paperwork error.

Huh?

I changed my car insurance company because I realized I was paying more through Nationwide than my best friend (with a spouse and three vehicles between them).

A couple of months later, my payment to my new company bounced. What happened?

I went to my bank to find out why I didn’t have any money (aside from being poor in general). We found that Nationwide had continued drawing money out of my account every month, and I was missing hundreds of dollars.

I didn’t have anything left in my account to make another payment to my new insurance company, so the policy lapsed. Which shouldn’t have mattered because Nationwide said I still had uninterrupted coverage with them.

As soon as I could, I made my payment to my new company and called Nationwide again wanting to make certain the policy was cancelled that time.

Then I received a letter in the mail from the state saying that because I had a lapse in insurance, I would have to fork over my license plate for 30 days. Then in order to get it back, I would have to pay a $150 fine, plus the license fee again.

I intended to hire a lawyer and fight this garbage. I had a bunch of printouts from my bank, showing the payments every month for Nationwide. Plus, the six-month summary of benefits package.

On the way home from work late one night, I was pulled over by a cop at Dollar Tree on U.S. 601.

The cop said that my plate had been revoked and that I had no right to drive it. I pulled out my paperwork and showed him I never had a lapse of coverage. He didn’t care. He took my license plate and left me stranded five miles from home at midnight.

I told him I lived close by. If he were going to take my ability to drive, he could at least let me park the car at my house. He said no. And off he went.

Eventually I made it home and asked around about getting a lawyer for traffic court.

I got a lawyer. We were intending to show up for my court date. But when the lawyer contacted the courthouse, a clerk said my date already had come and gone. Already? I missed my date, and the judge put out an order for my arrest for failure to appear in court.

I still wanted to prove that I didn’t deserve a ticket. Didn’t matter. When I wasn’t in court on the right date, the judge found me guilty in my absence.

I had to pay court costs, lawyer bill, plus the $150 fee and the license plate fee.

And, I lost the tag for my scooter, too. I wasn’t driving it when I was stopped, but the state took my plate for that one as well. I was told that the fee to get my plate back for the bike was $300, doubled because I was a “repeat” offender as this was my second vehicle to lose a plate. What?

I was informed by my lawyer that if I didn’t want to pay that $300 fine to get a plate, then I could sell the bike. Loved my scooter, but sold it because it would cost me $320 for the fee and plate.

Now why am I airing my dirty laundry about something that happened almost four years ago?

Because I’m mystified by how lenient the court system is for people who commit real crimes compared to how much went wrong for me because of a clerical error and a wrong date for my court appearance.

There are people selling drugs or breaking into cars or shoplifting at Walmart who get probation and some fees — probably no more than what I would’ve shelled out for court costs, lawyer fees and the almost $500 for my car and bike.

Something is very wrong when a guy with duplicate car insurance is treated like a criminal, and a person who really is a criminal gets off with no time served.

Just this week we have a story about a man selling meth to an undercover cop on two occasions. A search warrant reveals more meth and assorted drug trafficking equipment, like scales and baggies, at the man’s house. He is arrested, gets out on bond and then commits some more crimes like driving with no insurance (my supposed crime), driving with no registration, and holding a fake registration. He also had prescription drugs that weren’t in his name.

What does he get? Three different sentences that were suspended for two years. In other words, he gets off without any more time served as long as he can go two years without another crime.

How is this justice? You caught the man red-handed selling to a cop twice! He showed no remorse by being arrested again after his drug bust.

In Surry County, maybe I should have sold some crack to pay for my car insurance. If I were caught, I could just plead it down to driving with no insurance and come out no worse than I did. Something’s wrong here, folks.

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By Jeff Linville

jlinville@mtairynews.com

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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