Saturday, August 22, 2009

I Fought The Law And The Law..... Part 2

Recap. You read Part 1, didn't you? Come on now, it took some effort, so go ahead and read it.

In the last episode, our hero was in Court defending himself against all odds. The Prosecutor, his arch nemesis, was Mr Booker. Our hero was accused of speeding in excess of 20 mph over the speed limit allowed by law. GASP! How could this be? Our hero breaking the law? Say it isn't so!

In this Court trial, the Prosecutor presents his case. He calls a witness and questions him. Then the Defendant, that's me, can cross examine his witness. Then the Defendant presents their case, and calls their own witnesses, if there are any. The Prosecutor can cross examine the Defendant's witness(es). Both the Prosecutor and Defendant give final statements, and the Judge issues a verdict. I'm guessing that the usual verdict is GUILTY! LIFE IN PRISON! DUN DUN DUN!

Continued from Part 1..............

The Officer gave his account of what happened that day. "I was traveling South (in the opposite direction as I was) on Highway 93, when my Radar device sounded at the intersection of Highway 93 and (Street name). I made a U-turn, and made a traffic stop, and then issued a citation for violating the "Basic Speed Law" of the State of Nevada."

The Prosecutor questioned the Officer. How was he qualified to judge speed? Does he calibrate his Radar device? What was the speed limit in the area? All questions designed to make me appear GUILTY!

During this questioning, I jotted down notes to ask, so that some of the things the Officer or Prosecutor stated, could be clarified. I only wrote down one note. "Cited 65 mph - 50 mph?"

In my notes were key questions for the Officer, and key points to make while showing the video. It was now up to me to make my case and preserve my clean driving record and to walk out of Court a free man. *Cue Mel Gibson from the movie "Braveheart"* FREEDOM!!!!

Here's how it went.

Me: Officer, Do you have a copy of the ticket?
Officer: Yes, I have it right here.

Me: The City Attorney has said that I was going 20 mph over the speed limit at 65 mph. Didn't you cite me for 50 mph?
Officer: Checks ticket. Yes, I cited you for 50 mph.

Me: So I wasn't going 20 mph over the speed limit, only 5 mph?
Officer: Well actually at 50 mph, you were going 15 mph over the posted speed limit because it was a construction zone, and the speed limit in construction zones is 10 mph below the posted speed limit.

Me: But the construction was being done between 9 pm and 5 am in the morning, there was no construction while I was driving at 11:40 am.

Me: When there is a sign that reads "Slower Traffic Keep Right," what does that usually imply?
Officer: That if you are going slower, you should keep right.

Me: Is there a maximum speed for vehicles towing trailers in the State of Nevada?
Officer: No, we have no such law in Nevada, as they do in California.

Me: *Kinda disappointed* So you know that in California, vehicles towing trailers have a maximum speed limit of 55 mph, even if the speed limit is more for others. So then, a person from California, like me, would believe that that sign was for vehicles towing trailers, and that vehicles that were not towing a trailer could go faster in the other lanes.
Officer: I guess so.

Me: Okay, do you remember the traffic conditions that day? Was it light/heavy? Weather conditions?
Officer: Traffic is light to moderate during that time of day, and the weather was clear.

Me: Is it safe to drive at 65 mph then suddenly slow down to 45 mph? Wouldn't that be dangerous? Maybe cause someone to rear-end me?
Officer: Maybe, if someone was driving behind you.

Me: Officer, are you aware of the case in the Midwest where teenagers removed a "Stop" sign as a prank, and a fatality accident occurred?
Officer: No, I am not.

Me: Well, there was a fatality accident when some teenagers removed a "Stop" sign and two vehicles collided in an intersection. If that happened here, would you cite the driver for running a "Stop" sign?
Officer: No, because there wasn't a "Stop" sign.

Me: Okay. Well I have a video showing that there were no speed limit signs where I was driving until I was well in to the Boulder City City limits. I took this video right after I was given the ticket. I called the Court house and they told me that you were able to play a DVD here, so I recorded it for you on this disc.

Also, I'd like to show you this picture of the "Boulder City City Limit" sign with 2 signs, one before, and one after, that were NOT there at the time I was cited, as you will see in the video. The one before reads "45 MPH Speed Zone Ahead," and the other is a "45 mph Speed Limit" sign.

The Bailiff takes my picture and shows it to the City attorney, and then gives it to the Judge. He then takes my disc and plays it.

I explain that the video starts where I was driving from Lake Mead, and making a right turn onto the Highway, and continues to where I was eventually pulled over. As the video plays, I make comments. There's one of the "Slower Traffic Keep Right" signs. There's the "Construction 9 pm to 5 am" sign. No speed limit signs yet......... There's the "Boulder City City Limit" sign, without the 2 new signs. We come to the first intersection.

Judge: *To the Officer* That's (Street name) where you say you caught him speeding?
Officer: Yes.

Incidentally, there were concrete barriers that prevented anyone from driving on the shoulder of the Highway. I believe this was there to protect the construction crews when they were working on the Highway during the night. The only openings where one could pull over, were by the intersections.

Another intersection passes during the video, still with no speed limit signs. As we come towards the end of the video, I say, "The next intersection is where I was pulled over. I could not do it before, because of the barriers. And as you can see, there at the last intersection is where the speed limit sign is, well after I entered the City limits. This last part just shows me stopped with the Police car behind me."

For final statements the Prosecutor stated that the reason I was cited at 50 mph instead of 65 mph, was that the fines would be less, and that the City of Boulder was a City that was generous to people. I have to agree with some of that. My dealings with the Officer was fair, the Judge seemed fair. Only the City Attorney, Mr Booker seemed unfair, as I wrote about in my original Blog about this.

I gave my statement. "I am XX years old. I am a Firefighter and Paramedic for the City of Los Angeles. We are the 3rd busiest Fire Dept in the Nation. I drive an ambulance, normally and during emergencies thousands of times. I have no tickets or accidents for over 20 years. I am a safe driver. There was a Jeep Cherokee in front of me while I was driving. I was driving with the flow of traffic when I was stopped. I may have been speeding, I don't look at my speedometer all the time, mostly I drive with the flow of traffic. I was driving safely. I don't think it is fair to cite someone for speeding when there were no speed limit signs. I don't blame the Officer for citing me, someone dropped the ball and did not place speed limit signs. There should be speed limit signs in the area before the City limits. Whoever is responsible for that area should place signs. I don't know what I deserve, I just want it to be fair, that's all."

Judge: Well, you were cited for violating the "Basic Speed Law," which is going at least 1 mph over the posted speed limit. But the speed limit was not posted. Can I keep this video?
Me: Sure.

Judge: Can I keep this picture?
Me: Sure.

Me: You know Judge, there are a lot of signs stating "Reduced Speed Ahead" coming from Las Vegas to Boulder City. There should be some from the direction I was going too.

Judge: Okay. I'll look over the video more closely and issue a verdict by mail.
Me: So, what do I do now?

Judge: Just wait, and you'll receive something in the mail.
Me: Okay, so we're done? I can leave?

Judge: Yes, you may go.

I leave the Court room, and I'm out the door. I'm about 25 yards away when the Bailiff calls for me.

Bailiff: HEY!
Me: YES?

Bailiff: The Judge wants you back.
Me: *Walking briskly back* What does he want?

Bailiff: The Judge wants to see you. Good job.
Me: Um, Thank you?

Back in Court again.

Judge: The City Attorney has decided to make my job easier and dismiss the case against you. You are dismissed.
Me: Thank you!

Now here's the kicker. I quickly thought about what to do next. I turned to the City Attorney and offered my hand and I said, "Thank you."

The City Attorney, reluctantly shook my hand. He looked defeated.

So, I fought the Law, and the Law...... Won. Why? The law is that I must be going faster than the POSTED speed limit. The law was right, I wasn't doing that.

The final tally. If the City Attorney was not being pig-headed back when we had a settlement talk, he could have dismissed the case right then. But his Ego was bruised. I was not going to submit to his pressure, or be a "good boy."

Yes, I probably spent more money fighting this ticket than the original fine. Hotels, food, gas, gambling money, Strip clubs, Lap dances, Hookers....... Um, er, disregard the last three.....

But that does not include how much my insurance rates would have gone up for 3-7 years until the points against me was erased. And what if I receive another legitimate ticket after that? Everyone bends or breaks traffic laws, on purpose or by accident. Cars are very smooth now, and anyone can easily drive too fast without realizing it.

I also had 3 trips to Las Vegas that were not planned. Extra forced mini-vacations. I really needed that. Thank you City of Boulder. The only thing that would have made this real life story better, is if I won a huge Jackpot at a Slot machine with the last dollar in my pocket.

Oh well, who cares about any of that. I won. Did you hear me Mr Booker? I WON!

I forgot. My apologies to Mr Anonymous. You could be Ms Anonymous. I didn't mean to offend you if you are a woman. And I didn't discount your good advice. I really felt that my video was the key and all I would need to win. Thank you too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Fought The Law And The Law...... Part 1

My faithful readers, and Mr Anonymous, know that back on February 11, 2009, I received a speeding ticket in Boulder City, Nevada. Without going into details, here is the Blog post from May 12, 2009:

Since that Pretrial conference with the Boulder City City Attorney, I had not done much research into anything related to Nevada State law regarding their traffic laws. Mr Anonymous gave me several things to research and made many very good suggestions. But that would have required reading and researching. And if you know me, you know I can't read, and I'm too lazy to do any research.

But I did have a plan. There were two key points I had to make at my trial to try and win my case. One was to prove that there were no Speed Limit signs, and the other was to convince them that I was not driving in an unsafe manner. The former was easy. I had a video of the Highway showing that there were no Speed Limit signs until well after I was caught speeding. The latter not so difficult, but I had to ask the right questions.

Today was my Court trial. DUN DUN DUN! As in anything in life, you must be prepared for anything. The first thing I did was call the Courthouse 3 days prior, to see what type of Audio Visual equipment was available in the Courtroom. It would be dumb to show up with say, a USB thumb drive with the video recorded on MPEG-4, when all they may have is a VHS tape player. I was told that they had a DVD player hooked up to the Courtroom TVs.

I spent a good hour trying to figure out, and eventually recording the video from my computer to a DVD-R disc. I used the S-Video output from my Laptop, connected it to a DVD recorder outputting to my TV, and set the Laptop to "Graphics Output - Television." After 3 separate recordings, I finally had a full sized image of the video on the DVD-R disc.

On Wednesday, I drove to Las Vegas, taking a detour to Boulder City first. I wanted to see if my foresight would be correct and that what I thought might happen, would happen. This was something I didn't want to talk about in comments about my case. What if someone from Boulder City found this Blog and was monitoring it? Would my "Secret Weapon" of justice be neutralized, if they had prior knowledge about it?

You see, 6 months ago, they were finishing up the roadwork on the Highway where I was caught speeding. It was this roadwork that I believe was the reason there were no Speed Limit signs. And guess what? Two new signs were put up, one right before the "Boulder City City Limit" sign, and one after. The one before read, "45 MPH Speed Zone Ahead," and the other was a "45 MPH Speed Limit" sign. I took a picture of the sign, and several other signs leading to and from Boulder City from the South and North.

Then I went to Walgreens and had 3 of the pictures printed. I magnified and cropped the pictures to make sure that the signs were legible, and I had them printed on 8 X 10 photo paper for $9.00. I eventually used only the picture of the two signs near the "Boulder City City Limit" sign at my trial.

I spent the night at Bally's for $40. It was a special Expedia rate, and the room was very nice. The person giving me the room was talking to her Manager, who just happened to have the same last name as mine. My family name is not too common, so we talked a little, and found out our Fathers were from Hawaii, but from different Islands. I know we must be related somewhere down the line, but who knows how. It didn't matter, I didn't get the Super Luxury Suite upgrade. But the Standard room was really nice and roomy. I had a great night's sleep.

I woke up early, and went next door to the Paris Hotel. Bally's and Paris are connected by a hallway. Paris Hotel is my favorite Breakfast Buffet in Las Vegas. I stuffed myself with Eggs Benedict, Ham, Apple Crepes, Belgium waffles, Smoked Salmon, Corned Beef Hash, Strawberries, Coffee, and Orange Juice for $15, $10 after I used a $5 off coupon. Score! I went back to my room, cleaned up, changed into Courtroom appropriate attire, checked out of the Hotel, and headed to Boulder City. I had to be there by 9:30 am.

I got to Court 25 minutes early, and while waiting for my trial to begin, I finally wrote down on paper, some key questions that I would ask the Police Officer during the trial. You really can't rely on your memory, or "my" memory since I'm getting senile. Plus, it helps you keep your questions relevant and in order.

There were many other Court cases to be heard, people who were jailed for one reason or another came first. Most plead "Guilty" to their crimes, some plead "Not Guilty." They were all released on their own recognizance and given a trial date or instructions to follow for pleading "Guilty."

Finally, it was time for those who had a Court case. There were two of us. Even the Bailiff was surprised. I overheard him say, "We're going to have a trial" almost incredulously.

The other person was also caught speeding, on a different Highway, by the same officer that caught me speeding. His defense was the unreliablity of Radar guns. He even brought copies of Judgments from other Court cases and gave copies to the Judge and City Attorney. They didn't care. During the cross examination of the Officer by the Defendant, the Officer stated that they do not physically keep a log of when they calibrate their Radar gun. I thought, "This guy won. The Officer didn't even document his calibrations." But the Judge said, the Officer's word was good enough for him, and if he said he did the calibrations at the beginning and end of every shift, and after every traffic stop, then that's what he did. The Defendant was at a loss for words. He wasn't a Lawyer. In his final words he repeated what he said about Radar guns, and thought that the Officer should have kept a written record of his calibrating the Radar gun and by not doing so, his case should be dismissed. The Judge found him guilty of speeding, and he was fined 127 dollars.

Now it was my turn. The City Attorney went first, stated the facts of the case, went over and repeated the Officer's qualifications to judge speed, and use of a radar gun. The City Attorney even stopped at one point and asked the Judge, "I have to go over this again, don't I? I can't skip it?" Of course the answer was "No." He did try to make my Speeding ticket worse than it was, saying I was cited at 20 mph over the speed limit by going 65 mph. You see, the Officer had wrote on the ticket that the Radar caught me driving at 65 mph. But the Officer only wrote me up for going 50 mph. I was guessing that by the time he caught up to me, I was going 50 mph.

Now it was my turn to question the Officer.

Aw, this is getting too long, and I have to go to bed. Good Night. I'll finish this on my next day off.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pookie & Puka

Like the movie Julie & Julia, Julie wrote a Blog and wondered if anyone read it. One can only tell by the comments left, if someone actually reads a Blog, and for a while there, only Julie's mother would comment on it. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads this. Maybe if I had a single theme, instead of writing whatever comes to mind, it would be more readable. Maybe I can start another one with just my Firefighting stories in it.

But there are many who may read a Blog and not leave a comment. I am guilty of the that, though I try to leave a comment if I can make it naughty. If you see your Blog listed on the right side of this page, then you know for sure that I read your Blog, even if I don't leave a comment.

In the movie, Julie stated receiving more and more comments, mostly from strangers, and that made her feel validated. She even high-fived a co-worker when she had 53 comments to her Blog. Some of her readers even sent her gifts in the mail. I don't know how this would happen in real life. Who would post their real address on their Blog? Well, since it was a movie, anything goes......

Sometimes things change. I know that Frank used to read my Blog, but now he has a girlfriend, and he's become MIA, even on Facebook. Sometimes I'm not even sure there was a Frank. Maybe he was a figment of my imagination?

Then there's Puka. Recently she has made some major changes in her life, and now, she too is MIA. Last I heard from her, she wondered if she made the right decisions, and what she might do from then on.

Well, maybe one day I'll hear from her. Maybe this Blog will cause her to come out of hiding. Maybe Frank will risk coming out of the witness protection program to say hello. Maybe I'll win the lottery. Wait a minute, does this mean Frank is "Pookie?"

Wherever you are, whatever you're doing, I hope that at least, you're having a Happy Birthday today. So Happy Birthday Rochelle.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Fire Dept Staffing

This is in response to a retired Pasadena Police Chief who has Political aspirations in Glendale, where he now lives. He wrote this letter to the Daily News concerning Fire Dept Budgets.

In it he believes that most Fire Depts over-staff their Fire Engines. He should stick with staffing on Police Depts. Police and Fire Depts are very specialized services, and you really have to be one to know how things should be done.

To keep this short and simple, I will explain how a Fire Engine is staffed and rebut some of the points he made in his letter.

A Fire Engine is normally staffed with 4 Firefighters.

One is a Captain, who supervises all of the members on the Fire Engine. Second is the Engineer who drives the Fire Engine and operates the pump that supplies water to the various hoses. Third is the Hydrant Firefighter who hooks up the hose that supplies water from the Fire Hydrant to the Fire Engine. Fourth is the Nozzle Firefighter who lays out the hose and puts water where it is needed.

When there is a house fire, the Fire Engine drives down the street, stops at a fire hydrant and the Hydrant FF gets off the Engine and takes the hydrant hose and tools needed to attach it to the fire hydrant. The Fire Engine then drives up to the house on fire. The Nozzle FF gets out and starts laying out the hose that's needed to fight the fire. The Captain makes an assessment and determines if more resources are needed and what strategy to use to fight the fire. The Engineer takes the other end of the hydrant hose and connects it to the Fire Engine. In the meantime, the Hydrant FF has hooked up his end of the hydrant hose, and is waiting for the Engineer to attach his end before turning on the fire hydrant. After he turns on the fire hydrant, he runs up the street to join the rest of his crew who are now ready to fight the fire. This all happens within 2 minutes, depending on how far it is between the house and the hydrant.

As stated in the Letter to the Editor, there is a "2 in, 2 out rule." This satisfies that rule, with a catch. Remember, this is just a simple version of what happens at a fire. There are many scenarios, and other tangents we can go off on. But I have to keep this short and sweet. The catch is the Engineer doesn't count, because he is supposed to stay with the Fire Engine. This means that a 4-person Fire Engine is actually 1 person short.

Now, let's remove that one FF and make it a 3 person Fire Engine. Same scenario, BUT, there is no Nozzle FF, so when the Hydrant FF gets back to the Fire Engine to rejoin the rest of the crew, he lays out the fire hose that is needed and then nothing happens. Why? There is no "2 in, 2 out." They have to wait until another Fire Engine shows up BEFORE they can do any interior Firefighting. And the second Engine can't do anything, because they are the "2 out" part of the "2 in, 2 out" rule. There has to be 2 MORE 3-person Fire Engines to show up before the second Engine can help out the first 2 FFs that are already inside and needing help 20 mins ago.

So, in order to have proper personnel ratios, there would have to be more Fire Engines dispatched to a fire with a 3-person Engine, than with a 4-person Fire Engine. A lot more. What if there was another fire somewhere else? Everyone's at this fire, who will be sent to the other one? Multiple fires in a big City like Los Angeles? Yes there are. What if there is a Brush fire, and 20 Fire Engines are committed to fight that one? Not enough left over to cover LA City, that's for sure.

So with a 3-person Fire Engine, and not wanting to send so many resources to one fire, Fire Departments would have to switch Firefighting strategies from an Offensive attack, to a Defensive attack.

An Offensive attack is what the LAFD uses. We go inside a house, find the fire, and put water on it. The fire goes out with the least amount of damage as possible.

A Defensive attack would be to break a window from the outside of a house, and start shooting water into it, without ever going inside. This way usually causes the fire to burn more, and cause more damage. Mainly because you can not put water directly onto the fire, so it doesn't go out.

In one, you could lose one room of your house. In the other, your whole house could be damaged or a total loss. Which one would you choose?

Fires don't wait for anyone. There are no "time-outs." The longer a fire burns, the larger it gets. The larger it gets, the more damage is done. The more damage done, the more dangerous it is. Have you ever seen a roof collapse on anyone? Have you ever seen a FF go through a roof? All these things happen because a fire has burned long enough to weaken structural material in a building.

Fires need to be fought with as many people possible in the beginning to keep it in check, and then less and less as time goes on and a fire is put out. Start with the least amount, and the Fire will get bigger and bigger, and you start needing more and more people to help put it out or it gets out of control.

Believe me when I say, if your local Fire Station has a 3-person Fire Engine, you are being short-changed. It may save some money, but it's not worth it.