Clifford Latta has written an excellent letter regarding one Judge Paula Bechtold and asked that I post it here as well. I am happy to print this as a public service to fellow citizens as I have personally witnessed very unprofessional behavior on the part of this judge. Several lawyers I know also feel that this judge behaves in an improper manner, ie, allowing hearsay testimony, eye rolling, selective recusal, etc…. Anyway, I think it would be prudent for everyone issued a citation to immediately request a different judge. I am not sure but I believe it must be done prior to an arraignment.
‘Guilty As Charged Before the Hearing Starts!’
I appeared in the Coos County traffic court a few days ago on a ‘seat belt’ ticket. After presenting what I considered ample proof that there was a reasonable doubt concerning officer McNeely’s honest opinion that I did not have my seat belt on I was founde ‘gulity’. I asked the judge Bechtold if anyone was ever found ‘not guilt’ in her court. Her answer was unclear to me. I then said that I felt that I had presented ample evidence that cast a doubt on the evidence against me and that it was my understanding that reasonable doubt was enough for me to be found ‘not guilty’. I was stunned when she said the criteria used to determine guilt was ‘a preponderance of evidence’ (51%) not ‘reasonable doubt’. The issuing of a citation, by a police officer, meets that level of ‘proof’ so pleading ‘not guilty’ is an exercise in futility. A court wherein a citizen can have a fine or other action that will impose detrimental repercussions if the citizen is found guilty should be greater than ‘a preponderance of evidence’ and more the ‘reasonable doubt’ criteria. Who can guess what degree of financial damages (fines and insurance premiums to name just two financial losses that can occur through a traffic court judgment) and other problems emanating from such an impossible legal barrier for a person truly ‘not guilty’ to meet.
I want to adamantly protest the weak level of proof required to determine guilt in traffic court. It is important that the people know that pleading ‘not guilty’ to a violation is a waste of time, energy and money. On the day that I appeared not one person was found ‘not guilty’ and fines were imposed in every case.
Traffic court appears to be a money making assembly line with ‘guilty’ the only result possible; the mere issuing of a ticket means you are ‘guilty as charged’ before the hearing starts.
What an easy way for the system to make money….and that is not how the law is suppose to work. How shameful that I and many other innocent people find it absolutely impossible to be found ‘not guilty’ in a court of law.
For those who feel that they have been unduly targeted or ticketed or harassed, it is important to note that police would not be successful in these endeavours without the full cooperation of the district attorney and the judicial system. It is very important to evaluate those running for DA or judgeships and to monitor those appointed. Additionally, there is a judicial counsel review set up with the state where complaints against judges may be filed. I urge anyone who feels that they have witnessed or been a recipient of improper behavior by a judge to file a detailed complaint. Some people just shouldn’t sit on the bench.