Temporary No Parking Signs
Charles Lamont, who sent the Hoboken Reporter a letter about the Temporary No Parking Signs (which they published as a “feature” article this week), notified Hoboken411 about his gripes with the running of his letter.
He was unhappy that the editors of the paper removed some of his references, and wants 411 readers to see what he actually wrote. I personally don’t think they “butchered” it as badly as he said, but they certainly removed some references that may have been insulting to some City officials.
I sent this article to the Hoboken Reporter who ran with it this week. Unfortunately, the editor butchered the piece. I wrote the piece specifically to reflect my emotions during my time in court. I wrote the article with a specific “tone” in mind. I wanted an article that was both humorous and sarcastic. I specifically used the religious metaphors and compared Judge Glatt with Judge Judy the television judge. I used bibles, pews and congregants to create the effect. Will you run this article? (the original letter)”
Here it is, completely unedited (read the rest of it after the break):
A LESSON LEARNED THE HARD WAY
by Charles Lamont
It was 9.50 am on June 28, a hot and sticky Tuesday when I turned up at courtroom 001 in the Hoboken Municipal Court building, to contest a parking ticket for parking in a temporary emergency parking zone (ordnance 190-26). I had taken time off work to be in the courtroom for my 10.00 am court appearance.
Background: I parked my car legally, on Fifth Street and Hudson Street, on Saturday, April 14 at 6.00 pm; I intended to move it before Wednesday, April 18 when the street cleaners came around. Sometime between April 14 and April 17at 11.30 am, Hoboken Parking Authority hung a temporary emergency parking sign on fifth and Hudson Street, opposite my car. Consequently, when I came home from work on Tuesday evening, my car was gone. After making some enquiries, I found out that my car was towed and ticketed for parking in a temporary emergency parking zone; designated by a red sign with a date penned in with a Sharpie. This sign was not in place when I parked my car on Saturday night. I subsequently had to pay 80 dollars to retrieve my car from the pound and I had a parking ticket.
Practically anybody from Hoboken officialdom can designate a street ‘an emergency parking zone’, without notifying legally parked car owners on that particular street. The city has to post the signs 48 hours in advance of the emergency date (more about that later).
Defendants packed the courtroom clutching summonses with the same June 28 deadline. The defendants were made up of the young and not so young, fits and misfits, all sitting quietly in benches laid out horizontally, row after row. It was so quite in the courtroom that the benches reminded me of church pews. Judge Kimberely K. Glatt presided over the congregants that Tuesday.
Glatt had shoulder length blond hair framed with black eyeglasses that reminded me of the television character Murphy Brown. I later found out she had more in common with Judge Judy, than Murphy Brown, with her patronizing adjudications. A pile of manila folders about two bibles high, sat in front of her. She was engrossed in conversation with some of her court officials.
I approached a court officer Murphy, who lounged behind the railings that separated the defendants from the judge’s sacristy, in order to ‘check-in’ with the court, but he waved me off before I could get close.
I stood by the mahogany stained courtroom wall as Judge Glatt opened the first of the manila folders. At 10.10 am Judge Glatt called a “Miss. R,” to the bench. A handcuffed teenage defendant wearing green-scrubs entered the courtroom, escorted by a police officer. On her back was stenciled, Hudson County Jail. The defendant charged with shoplifting and threatening a police officer stood with her head down in front of Judge Glatt.
Glatt: “Do you plead guilty or not guilty”
, “I didn’t do it,” R said in a cavalier manner.
A woman who appeared to be the defendant’s mother approached the bench and asked the judge for a drug test for her daughter. Glatt held the defendant over until July 10, and in a Judge Judy moment suggested, “The defendant should take a leaf from Paris Hiltons book and change the friends she hangs out with.” The defendant was escorted out of the courtroom but not before she blew a kiss to her mother.
I waited by the wall and watched as one defendant after another stood before the bench like a congregant lining up for communion.
At 10.20 am a man in his mid-twenties stood before Glatt charged with ‘driving without a license.”
Glatt asked, “Guilty or not guilty?”
The defendant pleaded “Guilty, “almost immediately.
Glatt: “You know by pleading guilty you give up your right to a trial?”
“Yes,” came the reply?
Glatt: “There is a $500 dollar fine and 4 points on your license.”
I shifted from foot to foot, nervously. Criminals, more than ready to confess their guilt, surrounded me. I was not guilty, wasn’t I? I felt exalted and exhilarated in the same moment, standing by that wall.
The courtroom emptied out as moving violators, unlicensed drivers and people charged with public intoxication pled guilty and left the courtroom. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty, rang the thunderous refrain. One after the other they confessed to their heinous crimes.
At 10.25 a hack, received an $850 fine for picking up a fare without a Hoboken taxi license.
At 10.36, a rotund Hoboken resident in his mid forties stood before Glatt charged with a ‘moving violation’. He pled ‘guilty’ and received an $89 dollar fine and court costs.
I thought my case would be called at 10.00 am, now it was 10.36 am, and there were plenty of defendants before me.
At 11.10am, a young blonde-haired woman, a Nicole Richie look-alike, in black Capri pants and Manolo Blaknik shoes, stood before Judge Glatt. Her young lawyer stood beside her. She appeared out of place in this theater of crime; charged with ‘drinking in public from an open container’. Her lawyer pled ‘guilty’ and Judge Glatt threw the book at her. The young woman received a $1000 fine and court costs.
I began to think twice about my plea.
At 11.20am, there were three defendants left in the courtroom. I approached the railing and handed my ticket to what I now know was the prosecutor, standing at the railings. I was called within minutes.
Glatt: “Charles Lamont vs. State of New Jersey, you are charged with ‘parking in an emergency parking zone,’ a violation of ordnance 190-26. How do you plead?”
“I plead not guilty, your honor,” I said.
Glatt: “Do you want me to set a court date for trial?”
“Set a court date?” I said. I thought this was the court date. I do not want to take any more time off work for a trial,” I said.
Glatt: “Are you aware there is a ordnance in Hoboken that says you cannot park your car for more than 72 hours without moving it?”
“No,” I replied, “and my car was not parked for more than three days. That’s my point,” I said. I was about to explain my parking story when Judge Glatt interrupted.
Glatt:”Do you want to plead guilty or do you want a court date?”
My head sunk, “No, if it means taking another day off work, then no I don’t want a court date.”
Glatt: “Do you wish to plead guilty?”
“Yes,” I said.
Glatt: “You know by pleading guilty you give up your right to a trial?”
“Yes,” I repeated.
Glatt: “Pay the $20 dollar fine downstairs.” She did not look up from the manila folder in front of her.
It was over in less than three minutes. I had no idea what happened. My car was parked for 65.5 hours between April 14 and April 17, well within the 72-hour limit Judge Glatt stipulated. I pled guilty to a offense I did not knowingly or legally commit, or so I thought. However, I was not prepared to take more time off work and come back to court, to contest this ticket. I left the courtroom and I joined the ranks of guilty parties that went before me. Later, after some research, I found out I was in fact GUILTY, despite Judge Glatt’s 72-hour ruling.
Footnote: The Lesson
Practically anybody from Hoboken officialdom can designate a street ‘an emergency parking zone’ under ordnance 190-26 and for more multiple reasons both real and imagined. The city is not obliged to notify legally parked car owners of the change is street designation. All the city had to do is place the emergency sign 48 hours in advance of the emergency date.
Judge Glatt was partially correct when she informed me of the Hoboken parking ordnance; except it was not a 72-hour parking violation but a 48-hour violation. In addition, it was not a city ordnance but a state law. According to New Jersey State law, Title 39:4-56.5, ‘abandonment of a vehicle,’ a car is considered abandoned if it is parked for 48 hours or more, in the same location without being moved. Hoboken emergency parking signs are placed 48 hours in advance of the emergency date, so the city can legally tow away any cars parked in that zone, without fear of repercussion.
Be warned; do not assume when you legally park your car for the week that it will be there when need it. The street you parked your car on could end up designated a temporary parking zone and you may be none the wiser.