Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Breakin' the law, breakin' the law.

I really have to start from 3 years ago to give the full effect of the bizarre details of this story.

In 2007-2008 I was really not in a very good place. Along with a numerous other issues, the company I planned on retiring from, announced it was moving to Tifton Georgia.
They had offered me a position at the new site, and I was struggling with being a single mom trying to decide if I wanted to relocate myself and my children to a very small town in a very dry county, 14 hours from our friends and family..
Andrew was battling his own demons, and Ryleigh was a very difficult age for teenage girls. Uprooting them didn't seem fair.

I'm already an insomniac. And the added weight of this kind of decision just overwhelmed me and I let things go.. Yeah yeah.. we've all been there at some point.
Anyway.. One of the things I ignored were the reminders that my car insurance was in renewal. They kept sending me notices, I kept setting them in the "deal with it later" pile. Low and behold, my insurance lapsed.
Oh don't look at me like that.. I already got "the look" from my dad over it.
For my entire driving life, my parents have preached the importance of keeping car insurance up to date.

So, not even two weeks after it lapsed, I was pulled over and you guessed it, I was ticketed for no insurance. I was also ticketed for no registration. It was current, I just didn't have the actual registration in the car (again, stop looking at me like that. It was in the pile with the insurance renewal).

I was given a court date and sent on my way.
I showed up at traffic court as directed. The States Attorney representative dropped the no registration ticket (because I proved it really was valid at the time of the ticket), and offered my a plea agreement for the no insurance ticket.
A $450.00 fine, 12 months court supervision and a 3 year SR22 order.
For those of you that don't know (I hope most of you) SR22 is extra insurance usually applied to DUI convictions. However, they also use it as a punishment for people who do stupid shit like let their car insurance lapse..

Traffic court was on a Friday morning and by Friday night, I was at Fatman's Warehouse pissing and moaning about carrying friggin' SR22 insurance, and how I was about to be a displaced employee and couldn't afford to pay for my own stupid mistake. The day I was pulled over, I immediately called Justin Case at that company with the annoying commercials (not the one with the lizard), and bought insurance. I knew if I added SR22 to that policy, it was going to cost me and arm and a leg.
One of the guys that occasionally hung out at Fatman's happened to be a Progressive insurance agent. He piped up and said "come see me".
The following week I was in his office writing a check for my insurance premium, including the stupid SR22 additional coverage. I asked what I needed to do to let the state know that I was indeed carrying it and he informed me that Progressive took care of all of that, and sent me on my merry way.

Fast forward to January 10th 2011.
I have now become the most legal driver you will ever meet. There is always an insurance card and registration in my glove box. My seat belt is always on. I do not text and drive, and rarely will I even answer the phone while I'm driving.
I'm headed from my new job (Presta) to pick up the Queen at school. I spot a Danville Police Cruiser in the right hand lane of Main Street and I think "Go ahead and look over here, I'm perfectly legal and not speeding". I put my left turn signal on to turn on to Park Street and wait for the light to change so I can turn.
As I make the turn I see the lights. Officer Snider was pulling my ass over. And still I'm thinking "whatever, I'm legal" I pull out my conveniently placed Progressive insurance card and my registration.

Officer Snider collects my documents (including my current drivers licence) and walks back to his car.
5 minutes later he approaches my drivers side window and asks me to exit the car.
He informs me that my drivers license is suspended.. Excuse me? Ima need you to rerun that because I haven't done anything wrong in years and I'm just picking my kid up from school. He ran it again.
"Yes Ms. Rollins it is showing that you are suspended and have been suspended since 2008". I asked why and he said "I'm really not sure. It says for financial reasons". Wait a minute buddy. You're pulling me over because I paid a power bill late???? I don't understand...
He proceeds to inform me that he should technically arrest me and take me to the PSB for booking. But he must have been feeling generous because he looked at me in my Presta blues, in front of Holy Family School and says "I don't think that's necessary". Gee thanks.
But he says he has no choice but to impound my car. And I swear before he got the sentence out, the tow truck was pulling up.
He writes me a ticket for driving on a suspended licence and hands me another piece of paper. This piece of paper has PUBLIC NUISANCE TOWING (PNT) across the top of it.
"you will need to take this to the PSB before you can recover your car from the impound lot". In case you were wondering, the fine for a public nuisance towing is $300.00. And at this point, it is illegal for me to drive because technically, I am suspended.
Scott and I go to the PSB and pay the $300.00. It was too late to go to the tow yard and pick up my car. So it had to spend the night out in the cold. In addition, when I did pick it up, there would be a $100.00 tow fee. We're now up to $400.00 right off the bat.
The next day mom picked me up (in a snow storm) at took me to the DMV to find out why I was suspended - Failure to carry SR22 insurance - ever. My record showed I had NEVER had SR22 insurance in the last three years.
Don't think I didn't sit my ass down right there at the DMV and call Progressive.

After 3 phone calls to the local office I finally heard "It looks like the SR22 certificate is in your file. We just overlooked sending it in to the state THREE YEARS AGO". oh but they would send it in right now. It would take up to a week for the state to acknowledge it and btw "you can't drive until they state accepts it".
So for the remainder of the week, Mom had to take me to work and pick me up..
Think this is crazy.. Keep reading.

Progessive proceeds to send me a copy of the SR22 certificate and a letter that says "due to a Progressive error.................." And explain the situation.

Keep in mind I still had to go to traffic court for the driving on a suspended.
In the mean time I've called Diana at Progessive's corporate office (she should be on my customer service blog as my favorite customer service provider).
Diana arranges a refund for the towing fee. I was working to appeal the public nuisance fine with the city attorney. She told me if the City Attorney didn't refund the $300, to call her back.

So I went beebopping into traffic court (in March) with my certificate and letter from Progressive thinking "I'll just hand this to the States Attorney lady and be done".. not quite.
The bailiff calls off a list of names (that I'm on) and says "these people have jailable offenses and need to fill out this financial form". HUH??? WHAT DID HE JUST SAY??
Finally my name is called to go before the judge. I tried to hand my papers to the States Attorney lady. She reads them and says "I can't do anything about this". HUH?? WHAT DID SHE JUST SAY???
The judge informs me that my offense carries a $2500.00 fine and up to a year in jail. HUH? WHAT DID HE JUST SAY??? He asked if I wanted a public defender. I guess??? He looked at my financial form and says "Oh wait, you make too much money for a public defender. you will need to hire your own counsel".
I am given a pre-trial date and sent on my merry way before I could even ask a question.

Whew long story isn't it..

Pre-trial date is set for April 12th, 2011 (today). In the mean time I call the states attorneys office and explain to the lady on the phone what happened and could I make an appointment to talk to one of the lawyers in the office.
She puts me on hold and comes back with "Adam says he won't schedule you an appointment. But he will speak to you on your court date as long as you don't hire a lawyer".. I asked "that poses the question. Do I need a lawyer?" I really didn't want to go to court lawyerless and end up in jail. She says "I can't answer that"..
So basically a crap shoot. I figured surely these documents from Progressive along with the stub from the towing fee refund and now a stub from the PNT refund (proving Progressive screwed up) I was good to go. So I opted to go to traffic court today with no lawyer.
This is how it went (I'll try to be brief).

If you show up at pre-trial traffic court without a lawyer, you go to the end of the line. I handed my papers to the bailiff and asked him to give them to the State's Attorney guy who hands it back and says "I'll speak to her on the break". Break??? How long is this shit?
So I sat for an hour and half as the court goes through Danville's cream of the crop. I honestly didn't know there could be that many types of body odor all entwined with various different knock off perfumes and colognes and I'm pretty sure the guy sitting next to me had gotten high on his way to court. And all the stinky people were complaining that it was taking too long. And might I ask WHO BRINGS THEIR SMALL CHILDREN TO FRIGGIN TRAFFIC COURT.
sorry.. rambling..
After the court goes through everyone that brought a lawyer or public defender they announce a break. And the State's Attorney guy starts calling the rest of us to his table in alphabetical order. He finally gets to me and I set my Progressive papers in front of him thinking read it and I'm outta here. Wrong.
He says without even reading the papers "this is between you and your insurance company. The fact is you were suspended when you were pulled over".
He then offers me a plea agreement. a $400.00 fine and 12 months probation (not court supervision, criminal probation).
I say "I'm not comfortable pleading guilty to this" he tried to talk me into it by saying "It won't affect your driving. you can still drive" NOT THE POINT BUDDY.
I turn it down. He tells me to have a seat I will have to go in front of the judge and be assigned a trial date.
Panic. did I do the right thing? If I go to trial and am found guilty, I get the max sentence. 1 year in jail and a $2500.00 fine. shit. now what?
My wheels are spinning. I need to call Diana at progressive, or should I just call a lawyer? which lawyer? When the judge asks, do I want a jury trial or a bench trial?
SHIT. I might have just screwed up.

So the states attorney guy finish his alphabet and he calls my name again.
I stand up. He says "I already talked to you" I sit down. He says "is your driver's license valid right now?" yes.. He motions me back over to his table and asks what the documents are. The ones I've been trying to give you for a month? OH yeah, those.
He reads them FINALLY. and says "so your insurance company didn't notify the state?". I say "correct". He stares at me for a minute and finally with a flick of his hand for me to shoo shoo he says, "go ahead and leave. I'll tell the judge we are dismissing your case".

Sooo. I have been refunded the entire $400.00 in fines.
The State accepted the SR22 certificate dated March 18, 2008. Which means I have fulfilled my obligation and no longer need to carry the SR22 (which was strange. I got the letter saying they had my SR22 order on file and a letter that I no longer needed to carry SR22, in the same week). I'm not in jail, not on probation and don't have a $2500.00 fine. Because of Diana, I have not filed a complaint against Progressive and I continue to carry their insurance. They did after all admit their mistake, and correct it.

Whew.. and that's the rest of the story. I missed a ton of details.. But I figure I lost most of my readers 45 minutes ago.


Lucia said...

you didn't lose me...LOL I have perseverance!!! I would file a complaint against the states attorney guy for being inefficient and dismissive saying it was between you and your insurance when if he had only looked at the papers who would have saved everyone a bunch of time and you a bunch of stress. Praise the Lord for Diana at Progressive for taking care of you!!!!

Stryder64 said...

And people wonder why I don't live in Illinois anymore, let alone Danville.
Glad to hear you're okay Kerri.

Anonymous said...

Great story Kerri it sometimes amazes me how lack of communication of can cause so many problems and I can only pray that my upcoming court dates go so well. I enjoyed your story. thanks for sharing

Shannon Smith said...

Holy crap. How many places in this system did you slip through the cracks?! What a mess. Glad it ultimately turned out the way it should. Breathe easy now, girl.