Fighting a ticket pays off
When 72-year-old Doug Gray rode a scooter near his Grass Valley home last month, he never imagined the outing would cost him a trip to the courthouse.
At Nevada County Superior Court on Wednesday, Gray pleaded guilty to driving his Derbi scooter without a helmet, a moving violation under California vehicle code 27803.
Standing in front of the bench, Gray, who is largely paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair, two canes or a scooter to get around, depending on the distance, explained his case to the judge.
“I really didn’t think I’d get a ticket going three miles an hour,” he said.
According to Gray, on Sept. 19, just before 3 p.m., he leashed his Yorkshire Terrier dog Riley and headed to his garage in Morgan Ranch, where he keeps both an electric-powered wheelchair and a gas-powered Derbi scooter. The battery on his motorized wheelchair was low, so he took the scooter.
Gray usually wears a helmet when he travels on the scooter. But that day he chose not to wear a helmet because he only was traveling two blocks. Once he got to the park, he planned to unfold his collapsible crutches and walk Riley on foot.
With his dog beside him, Gray rode half a block to a communal mailbox and checked his mail. He then drove another block toward the park. At the intersection, he was stopped by a Grass Valley police officer, who was patrolling on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
“Do you know why I stopped you?” asked the officer.
“The only thing I can think of is that I don’t have a helmet today,” Gray responded.
Gray asked the policeman to let him off with a warning, since he was going so slow. But the officer explained that even at a slow speeds, he could hurt himself if he fell.
Gray signed the ticket, thinking it would cost him a fine of $25 to $50. But when a letter came from the courthouse asking for a payment of $115.25, he balked.
“I was shocked,” he said, adding that he lives on a fixed income and couldn’t afford the hefty fine.
After hearing Gray’s explanation, Judge Bryan quickly offered him the lowest possible fine and waived the $20 court security fee. Gray walked out of the courtroom with a fine of $27.75, which covers court administration costs.
“I’m elated,” said Gray, standing on the steps of the courthouse after the hearing. “I think the judge was very fair and sympathetic.”
Even though the case was closed, Gray left the courthouse with a lingering question. Before the hearing, he had been thinking about asking Judge Bryan to clarify a vehicle code technicality.
“I was going to ask him whether, when the dog is a passenger in the basket behind the scooter, if he needed a helmet, but I thought that was pushing it,” he said.
To contact Staff Writer Jill Bauerle, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4219.
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