Keene, NH business owner Christopher Waid received a parking ticket when he was downtown in late 2017 and immediately went to the parking department in the city building to demand his right to a trial. While inside the building, he received a second ticket on his car! He also immediately filed for his trial on that one. The double ticket trial was slated for early April and would involve two of the three Keene parking enforcers, meaning they couldn’t be on the streets victimizing other peaceful motorists if they are sitting in a courtroom! Even if Chris had lost the trials, just keeping the enforcers off the streets for a couple hours is a win on its own.
Chris entered the Keene District Court to face down the charges on April 9th and emerged victorious, with both tickets dismissed by new Keene judge Erin B McIntyre. (Longtime district court judge Edward J Burke is recently semi-retired and is only doing fill-in work.) Chris brilliantly challenged both parking tickets on technicalities. The first ticket was thrown out by McIntyre because the location of the alleged offense was not correct and the second ticket was tossed because parking enforcer Linda Desruisseaux lazily cited the wrong section of city code. Many judges would have simply allowed the prosecutor to amend the tickets upon request but McIntyre wasn’t letting the prosecutor have any slack! The exasperated Keene police prosecutor, Eleanor Moran, upon the second dismissal vowed she’d be filing a motion to reconsider, however she never did, according to court records. Here’s the full trial video:
There are a couple of important lessons here.
First, if you can afford the time, always take tickets to trial. It clogs the courts and forces them to actually have to work to get their conviction. Usually, they will win, but you are guaranteed to lose if you just pay the fines and don’t go to trial. Plus, bureaucrats are lazy and frequently cut corners and screw things up. You’ll never know if you don’t look at the supposed evidence against you. In Chris’ case, they botched up BOTH tickets and the judge agreed with him! If he’d just paid the fines like most people do, that would only encourage their behavior. Thankfully in New Hampshire, we don’t have court costs like many states, so there’s no financial penalty for taking a ticket to trial beyond the time it takes you to do it. The more people do this, the more charges will just be dropped before trial, since prosecutors only have so much time in the day and they’ll have to start prioritizing actual crimes with victims over fundraising like parking and speeding tickets.
Kudos to Chris and everyone else who challenges tickets for victimless crimes. The state gets away with continual victimization because people won’t stand up. Examples like Chris’ are encouraging to those of us who care about freedom as much as they must be discouraging to people like the parking enforcers, who also lost their years-long anti-free speech court battle against Keene’s “Robin Hooders”.
Chris is the owner of ThinkPenguin.com, a linux-and-privacy-focused computer hardware business and is also a part of the New Hampshire Freedom Migration. He’s a Keene homeowner and an activist who sets an example for others – despite having a lot to lose. He has put himself in harm’s way to defend the right to record police, for instance when he was arrested for crossing the street while doing just that at a DUI checkpoint in Manchester last year.
When I asked him for his thoughts on the trial, he told me, “No matter how hard the city tries they just can’t seem to catch a break with these parking meters- from the robin hooders of yesterday to anger over the new electronic meters- the people of Keene have repeatedly said no to the parking meters. It’s time that the city actually listened to the people of Keene and put an end to the parking meters in Keene”