Tuesday, February 14, 2006

People v. Dragomir (Cal. App. Div. - Feb. 14, 2006)

Slim. Slim. Pickings. Two cases so far on this lovely Valentine's Day: one from the Ninth Circuit (a somewhat boring case about the propriety of a particular asset forfeiture) and then this one from the Appellate Division. That's right. You heard me: the Appellate Division. You don't see that many of those types of cases published -- the last one, for example, was over two months ago. (Plus, this one was actually issued back in November, but the reporter has only now actually issued the opinion.) So when one comes out, why not chat about it for a bit?

Especially when, as here, it concerns a violation that's near and dear to pretty much everyone's heart. A speeding ticket. Oh yeah. Which is precisely what Alin Dragomir received for going 90 miles per hour on Highway 17 in Santa Clara County. So he fights the ticket. But he fought the law and -- as is often the case -- the law won.

Except that they cheated. Dragomir is representing himself (of course), so he cross-examines the police officer when she testifies. But then, when Dragomir testifies, the police officer cross-examines him. Now, Dragomir is no lawyer, but is nonetheless smart enough to say: "Hey, the state didn't bother to send a prosecutor down here; it's not cool to allow a witness to cross-examine me." The learned judge, however, responds: "Overruled".

So Dragomir bothers to appeal. Which is pretty shocking, when you consider that the total penalty for his speeding ticket is a whopping $193.50. But the Appellate Division actually agrees with him, and says (rightly) that allowing the officer to cross-examine him was a no-no. However, sadly, at least for Dragomir, there's this whole "harmless error" thing. Since the stuff elicited on cross-examination wasn't actually prejudicial, the fine is nonetheless affirmed. Sorry, Alin. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

Anyway, the next time you fight a speeding ticket, don't let the police officer cross-examine you. Scream "I invoke the sacred name of Alin Dragomir and refuse to respond." See how that comes out, and give me a call. Maybe I'll bail you out of jail when you're thrown in the pokey for contempt.

Still, cool name -- Alin Dragomir -- eh?