By Phyllis J. Lubin

I’m sitting in traffic court again. The thing about traffic court is that you can never predict how long things will take. It’s all based on where you are in the pile of cases and how many defendants are in the courtroom. I was hoping that it would be a light crowd–but no such luck.

While sitting and waiting to meet with the prosecutor, we all have the opportunity to watch the big screen. No, not the usual talk shows or medical commercials that you get to watch while waiting in a doctor’s office–here we get to watch accidents as they occur because a driver doesn’t stop at a red light! Sometimes the accident is barely avoided, while other times we get to watch the unfortunate moments when the accident does occur.

“Accident” implies that this was an unfortunate happenstance that couldn’t be avoided. Actually, when someone runs a red light they are purposely putting themselves at risk for a terrible “accident.” The true accident–unpredictable occurrence–happens to the diligent driver who follows all the traffic control devices, and sadly cannot avoid a collision because of the negligence of another driver. I always try to remind my kids that they have to be on alert at every moment for these nonobservant drivers and criminals who do not follow the rules of the road. Your eyes have to be open and your reflexes must be ready to “stop on a dime” if need be.

Whenever I am there, I remind myself how entertaining traffic court can be. Sitting in the front row designated for attorneys, I get to hear every sob story imaginable. Each time the prosecutor has to remind the defendant that he can’t listen to possible defenses, since this is a pretrial conference; he can merely offer a possible plea bargain based on the defendant’s driving record coupled with the court’s guidelines.

Although every story is different, most of my clients seek one thing: no or minimal points. In our insurance-based lives, points affect people more than actual fines. The request is usually the same–a willingness to pay higher fines for lower points. I wish I could say that my clients are all innocent. Sadly, I’m sure that is not always the case and, even if it were, it will usually be cheaper for them to come to a plea agreement than to face the cost and risk of going to trial.

Once in a while I meet clients who are frustrated at the injustice of the situation, but I usually encourage them to take the deal. If an officer clocks you at 20 above the speed limit, chances are you were probably speeding–it’s hard for an officer to be off by that much!

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I’ve been in the courtroom now for about an hour. I have already met with the prosecutor and I am waiting to officially resolve the matter before the judge. I just looked up to see–on the big screen–a car run a light, crash, and actually land under a huge FedEx truck! Obviously, the same video has repeated several times before, and it’s sort of like that movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray–life keeps repeating, and you pray that the result will be different this time. In the movie, Bill is ultimately able to change his destiny, but on this big screen, no matter how much I pray the outcome will change, the result is the same.

I am happy to announce that since I started in this business, I have become a much more careful driver. And much to my relatives’ and friends’ dismay, I have become an even worse backseat driver (who happens to sit in the front).

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Oh my! My name has just been called. I must sign off for now so I can greet the judge. Drive safely, and keep warm! v

Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children–Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea–and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at

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