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Remember the movie My Cousin Vinny? Joe Pesci is a scrappy new lawyer defending his nephew in a capital murder case deep in the heart of Alabama. The pennultimate scene features him presenting a series of photographs to Marisa Tomei on the witness stand while asking "does the prosecution's case hold water?"
The answer is "no", and the nephew goes free.
Unfortunately that's not how municipal court works in Edison, New Jersey. Even if you prove your innocence, the judge says "guilty!" Justice? That's a myth. It's all about the money.
In March 2010, Lauren Morosoff packed her stuff into her 2008 Scion TC and moved from Kendall Park to Colorado for a job opportunity.
Unsure of how long she'd stay in Colorado, the 27-year-old kept her New Jersey driver's license and license plates.
So when she received a red-light ticket from Edison dated August 2011, she knew there must be a mistake. Her car hadn't been in New Jersey for 18 months.
Ah yes, the red light camera scam. Just another way to fatten municipal coffers at our expense.
Morosoff called Edison Township.
"I dealt with one of the most rude individuals ever," she said. "She laughed at me and said that I need to pay and it's not that much money and to stop lying to her. It ended in her actually yelling at me and hanging up on me."
Unionized public employees in action. They don't have to care, because nobody can fire them!
Undeterred she tried again, and eventually received paperwork to dispute the ticket. Which she sent back.
Can you guess that the unionistas in Edison "lost" her paperwork? Of course you can! If they "lose" your paperwork your fine gets bigger!
Fast forward to a year later. Lauren received a notice from the Motor Vehicle Commission that her driving privileges were revoked because she failed to appear in court.
To get her license back, she would have to pay a restoration fee of $100.
And thanks to something called the Driver's License Compact her suspension is nationwide. (Aside: why can't gun licenses, a Constitutional Right!, be valid nationwide too?) So Ms. Morosoff was screwed.
The MVC clown show wouldn't help either. Edison wrote the ticket. Edison initiated the license suspension. It's up to Edison to fix the mess.
Good luck with that.
So Terri Morosoff called Edison, which said its records showed Lauren's license was suspended for "failure to appear."
Morosoff explained that Lauren pleaded not guilty by mail a year ago, but Edison said it didn't have it in its records. It said it would look further.
"They called back and said that there was an error and they had received my daughter's not guilty plea, but that the papers had been misplaced and were never submitted to the judge," Terri Morosoff said. "The rep said the prosecutor would be given all the info and things should be cleared up."
Lies! All lies! Edison never presented anything to a judge. Meanwhile the fines kept adding up. So the Morosoffs did some investigating on their own.
We reviewed the ticket, and the numbers on the photographed license plate are quite blurry.
We also compared the ticket photos to online photos of the 2008 Scion, and based on the shape of the tail lights and the rear of the car, they look like different vehicles.
We took it to several automotive experts. They said the car photographed for the ticket has tail lights that are made of two parts — one that's built into the trunk, and the other, the rear quarter panel. The 2008 Scion, though, doesn't have a trunk, but a lift-gate, and it has a one-piece tail light that's built into the quarter panel.
They said the photo could be of an Avalon or a Lexus, which both have two-piece tail lights, but not a Scion.
Photographic proof! Open and shut case. Justice demands that Morosoff's ticket be dismissed.
Did I say "justice"? Not in municipal court.
After months of delay the automatons in Edison finally presented the ironclad photographic evidence to a judge. He found Ms. Morosoff guilty anyway.
If she wants her license back, she has to pay the fines. Which she reluctantly did.
Face it, traffic laws aren't about safety. And municipal courts don't dispense justice. They're profit centers. Very lucrative profit centers. Judges who find people "not guilty" don't make money for the town. And since the judge is paid by the municipality, it's in his best interest to keep those fines rolling in.
Or they'll get somebody else to play judge.
So you're guilty even if proven innocent.
And people wonder why I have no respect for the law.
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