When we last visited my $175 MRCA photo enforced ticket for running a stop sign, I declared Temescal Canyon, You Are Dead To Me. Now I've been through my administrative hearing. No suspense here, I am still ordered to pay.
I went on my lunch break to Franklin Canyon Park. I don't have air conditioning in my car, and we were still in that horrible heat wave, so that was awesome. I was also irrationally TERRIFIED that I would somehow run another stop sign on park property. I hated that I had to go there for the hearing.
I was so afraid of being late that I was quite early. When I checked in, everyone was polite, but they all sit in their offices, so after you ring a bell and sign in, you sit there alone and just listen to them on the phone or talking amongst themselves.
After a while a park ranger showed up and disappeared into the back.
My appointment was at 12:45pm, and at 12:50pm I heard a woman from the office where the park ranger was declare with a mean laugh, "I watched that video, she didn't even slow down!"
It was a mistake to be early. I was so nervous, and then I had to sit there alone, and then when I heard that woman say that I just felt awful. I was thinking, is $175 a joke to her? Like maybe that's not as much money to her as it is to me?
Or I guess she just thinks people who run stop signs deserve to be severly punished, without warning weeks after the fact, and deserve to be laughed at? And how about the revelation that they all sit around and watch the videos? Shitty.
The MRCA ticket said I had a right to a hearing, but I guess respect, not so much.
Right after that, the ranger came out and asked when my appointment was. When I told her 12:45pm, she took me right away. Into a GYNORMOUS room, where a couple tables and chairs were set up with a projector in a back corner.
And I have to tell you, at this point I was freaked out. I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't know there would be a ranger there in addition to the hearing officer. I didn't know the atmosphere would be *so* awful.
And I didn't know it would be like a trial with opening statements, cross examination, testimony, and closing statements. My only previous experience with a hearing was an unemployment hearing, which was totally different. And in a much more reasonably sized room.
But, I was prepared, and I think I did OK. We watched the video of me running the stop sign (with a slight slow down) projected onto the wall, big, like six times. That part is kind of painfully hilarious in retrospect, but was actually pretty crappy while I was there.
During my cross-examination, I asked the ranger:
- Her name
- If she herself or any other park employee was there when I ran the stop sign (no)
- The amount of the ticket ($175)
Then, during my testimony, I used these arguments, clarification of which I got from The Freedom Minute:
2. The MRCA may not use automated enforcement for violations of its ordinances because Public Resources Code 5786.17 which gives parks districts authority to issue citations (and which the MRCA uses to claim its authority to do so) specifies that those citations may only be issued when the violation is committed in the presence of a uniformed employee issuing the citation.
3. The MRCA may not issue administrative citations in excess of $100.00 because Government Code 53069.4 which authorizes local agencies to issue administrative citations (and which the MRCA uses to claim its authority to do so) specifically limits these citations to $100.00.
I looked the codes up myself before I went to the hearing as well, so I could be confident that they were correct and I could quote them verbatim.
I didn't use his #1 argument (The MRCA ordinance is pre-empted by state law, specifically the California Vehicle Code, which does not permit the use of automated enforcement at stop signs) because at this point they're making really sure they are clear that you are being charged for breaking park rules, not a traffic violation which would come under California Vehicle Laws. And this is precisely why #2 and #3 are relevant. Although I agree with the spirit of #1. Photo enforcement is ethically problematic and not in good faith.
It was very interesting that during the ranger's testimony she hit all the arguments that the MRCA *can* defend against. But no mention was made of any arguments that would have defended against my points.
I was losing it from the nervousness after I gave my testimony, mostly because I'd started thinking about how much money $175 dollars is, which makes me sick to my stomach, so I declined to give a closing statement. I drove away wishing I had, and thinking about what I could say, but I'm confident it wouldn't have made any difference.
Today, I received the decision that I am still ordered to pay. It didn't include anything I said during the hearing or any rebuttal of anything I said during the hearing.
And I thought it would include instructions on how to appeal, but it just tells me which court. The Freedom Minute says I have 20 days from the date of the decision, (dated 9/13 and mailed 9/16), but what the MRCA sent doesn't specify that, so I'm not completely sure if that's the case. Further, The Freedom Minute suggests hiring an attorney, but clearly, if I can't afford $175 for the ticket, I can't afford an attorney.
So, next steps, I will look at the Van Nuys Superior Court website and see if there is any guidance about filing appeals, and then maybe Legal Zoom, which I've heard commercials for on the radio. And Google. If you have any links for me, that would be awesome. I'm going to try to get it done tomorrow so that it goes out on Monday.
If you want to read more about the MRCA's Photo Enforcement of Stop Signs:
- LA Times: Parks agency's traffic cameras anger motorists.
- Streetsblog Los Angeles: Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority Responds to LAT Article on Stop Sign Cameras.
- LA Daily News: Kerry Cavanaugh: Stop-sign program has teeth.
As for me? Next stop, Van Nuys Superior Court. At least I know where it is - I went there while I was working on my salvage registration. Bureaucracy? Well, I got the patience to do what's right.
Not really the most enjoyable way to spend a lunch break, though.
UPDATE: Well, clearly not getting this out on Monday. Still hoping I can figure it out, though, since the thought that they can just disregard the law and take my money is rather soul-crushing.