PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, MARYLAND
“THE LEGAL SIDE”
You would think that if you are coming to an event, such as a wedding, formal dinner rehearsal or some kind of very important activity that you would put on the proper attire? Right? You would also think that coming to a courthouse would require the same amount of energy? Especially, when you are coming to the legal house to fight a traffic ticket, criminal case and/or to deal with attorneys to plead with them to handle your case. Well, I sometimes wonder what is going through people’s mind when there is potential that you will be standing in front of a judge to defend yourself? The judge is pretty much going to judge you by your representation.
Now, I understand when you are coming to the courthouse to fight or challenge your traffic ticket that you are not dressed in a suit, which I don’t expect, but I do have the expectation that you would wear something ‘appropriate’. I don’t think showing up to the courthouse in your club attire you had on last night is very appropriate and going to play hard in your favor; especially if you are dealing with a judge who has been on the bench for a thousand years, and still stuck with the old ways of thinking. Showing up in your clothes that looked like you went rolling around in the flower bed before entering the courthouse is not going to help you either.
However, I completely understand that some that are less fortunate or homeless will show up in whatever they own just so their ass is covered. I am certainly in no way talking about those that are truly less fortunate, but I am speaking on those that know better and certainly have the wherewithal to at least understand what it is they are showing up for. I don’t think the judge appreciated the miniskirt that is so short with only a couple of centimeters before your ‘female essence’ is shown if you step or bend wrong. These are just some of the examples of what the DMV (D.C., Maryland and Virginia) area had to offer.
With that being said, and knowing I can go on for days with how people came to court, another important thing about coming to court is to make sure you pay attention. This is the same rule that applies to all courts across this country, but somehow you always have a handful of those that just don’t want to or struggle to understand. When the judge says to you “When you hear your name called please answer ‘here’ before or as you approach the defendant table so I know that you are here”, you would think people would follow instructions and do just that. Well…sad to say that didn’t always happen…shocking I know, but it was honestly comical to see how the judges would react. It wasn’t too funny to the defendant when an arrest warrant or FTA (Failure to Appear) was the verdict because you failed to listen; even if you were present in the courtroom. That’s how serious this was to most of them.
I remember being in court one day, as I wait for my traffic case to be called on the docket and my wife sitting in the back to witness the foolishness that she so much enjoyed watching, Judge Love called up a defendant and in talking to him he got really agitated. For one, Judge Love didn’t appreciate being interrupted as he was giving instructions or explaining something to you and certainly didn’t appreciate stupid and idiotic people. On this particular case the defendant told the judge ‘Hold on! Hold on!’ as he was being explained something. OOOO! Judge Love got real upset, and I believed cocked his head kind of sideways, and responded in kind, ‘Did you just tell me to hold on?!’ Ohh! Snickering followed, including me as well with the ‘Oh what the !@#$ face!’
Needless to say the gentleman (being politically correct) quickly recognized his mistake and backtracked with the quickness. That sudden change in his verbal direction saved him from not only being scolded and possibly being held in contempt. I can almost guarantee you if that was a visiting judge, a judge from another county within Maryland, he probably would’ve found himself wearing silver bracelets and escorted to his temporary hotel for a few hours at least. One woman found out by wearing these silver bracelets and being held in contempt of court was not worth the gum she was chewing, which said gum got her in trouble. How? For not following instructions! This female judge, who I can only remember her name as Patricia, did not play around and got real offended if you did not say ‘Thank you, judge!’ after your case was dismissed or heard. She was also very strict on her instructions and made an example when she held that woman in contempt for chewing gum.
Another judge I remember a few times was Judge O’Brien. I think his pet-peeve, or at least one of his pet-peeves, was people running red lights. I say that because one day I was again in traffic court waiting for my case to be called, and each defendant that he called up to the table and found guilty, he would double the fine! Now, I believe a red light ticket was about $150 and carried two points. So if you were found guilty in your case to fight the ticket, you ran the risk of having your pockets a little light in the green. That is exactly what happened when a security guard showed up for court to fight her ticket and I was the officer that issued it. Somehow she figured that even though she ran a red light and nearly t-boned me as I was making my U-turn, she was able to fight it and have the charge/fine reduced or even dropped. Little did she learn from others in prior cases when they were called. To make the story shorter, when Judge O’Brien heard both our testimonies, she left with an expression of defeat and despair when the verdict came of her new fine! $300 Fine! Three points!
A couple of county judges were, in my opinion, to soft and to light, but some were just down right mean and less sympathetic. Now, all of this I just explained took place at the District Court in Hyattsville, and some of the other ratchetness took place at the Circuit Court in Upper Marlboro. Majority of our criminal cases and some traffic cases were held at the Upper Marlboro courthouse, which was a much nicer and bigger courthouse and operated by the sheriff’s department. The courthouse in Hyattsville is operated by the bailiff’s. I may have to save those stories for the Upper Marlboro courthouse for another day, but sometimes transporting our prisoners thirty minutes south to the circuit court was a blessing and a curse. It was merely an unwritten rule that if the prisoner was cooperative and at least respectful, we would take them to Hyattsville; only a ten-minute drive. If the prisoner was an ass and wanted to make things difficult, we drove them to corrections at the circuit court. They were much more ‘meaner and stricter’ than those located in Hyattsville.
Many of the college students we dealt with thought we would just hold them in our small cell at the station then release them later. Some got their world rocked when they found out we would transport and leave them with the real criminals (murders, robbers, real thugs, gang members and others that were held on misdemeanors and felonious crimes). Some could be heard crying their eyes out and make pleads to be set free or moved to another cell. No matter which DOC you were in neither staff wanted to hear people crying as they considered them ‘bitches’. Very often was the DOC in Hyattsville closed due to full capacity of prisoners, which forced everyone in the county to go to Upper Marlboro. When both DOC’s were closed? Well…you really couldn’t do anything or arrest anyone unless it was for crimes you could issue criminal or civil citations let them go. Needless to say whenever the DOC in Hyattsville was closed, it made every officer go into the mode of ‘I’m only going to arrest if I have to because I don’t want to go to Upper Marlboro.’
Either DOC closing made things difficult at times and definitely made an impact on what you would do on the streets. Then the smartest thing became if you could write and release? Then you write and release. This made things kind of easier, but almost counter-productive as you had to gather more information. Not only were the closings a pain, but the constant change in how you would process your own prisoner, which agency would receive better treatment and how your report packet should be put together got frustrating and annoying. Although we hardly ever had to present our own prisoners, if your arrest packet or folder was not properly put together they would either call you back to fix it or just not present the prisoner to the commissioner. Some commissioners were just as bad, if not worse, than the judges who would view the cases. If your application for an arrest warrant, search warrant or even a summons was missing a word, phrase or a line, even if you had great probable cause, would deny or make you rewrite it. A few would assist you and help you in the corrections needed, but others were just not helpful.
To Be Continued…