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Getting ticket-writing officer to appear in court is a trial in itself


The Intrepid One receives an array of mail, but we recently got our first traffic citation. We weren't cited for a violation, but Kay Turner of Towson sent us a copy of one she received for "failure to stop and yield at through highway."

Getting a ticket isn't the only thing that bothered Ms. Turner; she also was perturbed about going twice to Baltimore County District Court in Towson for court dates, and the matter still is not resolved.

The details: A Baltimore County officer issued Ms. Turner a $40 summons in October for failure to obey a stop sign at Loch Raven Boulevard and Edgewood Road.

On the first trial date, set in December, the officer had left court when Ms. Turner heard her name called. For the second trial date, in February, the officer was ill. A new date is scheduled this month.

"I'm innocent and can prove it. If he doesn't show up, it's not my fault," she said.

Mark G. Spurrier, director of the legal division of the Baltimore County police, said county officers are not required to be in court for traffic offenses unless requested by the defendant.

The ticket instructs defendants to sign and return it if they admit guilt and refuse a trial. If they don't sign, they stand trial.

State police troopers -- who deal mainly in traffic violations -- are required to be in court for each ticket they issue.

Judge John H. Garmer, administrative judge for the Baltimore County District Court, said that if an officer's absence is unexplained, the case normally will be dismissed. However, court personnel often will call the officer's precinct first to check on his or her whereabouts.

He also said judges usually call first the officers with the fewest cases. Therefore, if Ms. Turner arrived late at the November trial, the officer may have come and gone.

Ms. Turner also has a problem with the citation itself and believes it should allow space for defendants to indicate if they want the officer at the trial.

"The ticket is geared toward saying I'm wrong and admitting my guilt," she said.


Speaking of tickets, yours truly motors very uneasily these days because of expired tags on the Intrepidmobile.

We bought a new car from a Montgomery County dealer April 14 and were issued cardboard temporary tags with the promise that new tags would arrive within three weeks. The temporaries expired May 29. We're still waiting for the new ones.

We called the dealer last week asking about the tags and were told there was a mix-up with the paperwork and the new tags would arrive shortly. We're still waiting.

This must happen frequently at this dealership because they told us, "If there's a fine, we'll pay it. We always do."

Although driving with expired tags carries no points, a $40 fine can be assessed. OK, we thought, we can deal with the threat of a ticket if the money to pay it wouldn't come out of our pocket.

We gave the state police a call and were unnerved to learn that it's a police officer's discretion to stop and immediately yank the expired temporaries from a vehicle.

In other words, if the officer has a bad day and spots us on, say, the beltway or Interstate 95, he or she could confiscate our tags and leave us stranded.

"The responsibility still lies with you to get new tags," said state police spokesman Michael McKelvin. However, he cheerfully added that in most cases the Motor Vehicle Administration will grant a 30-day extension to motorists with "reasonable conditions."

"And it seems to me that you have 'reasonable conditions.' "


Carolyn Mews lives in Chinquapin Park in Northeast Baltimore and commutes downtown daily via St. Paul Street during the morning rush hour. It's a routine, bumper-to-bumper ride that flows well most days.

But often, she says, the trek is delayed by a dreaded traffic malady -- bicyclists in the left lane.

We frequently see bicyclists on St. Paul Street and other heavily traveled roads during rush hour, too -- but in most cases pedaling in the right lane.

But we've also seen bicyclists in the left lanes, and, as Ms. Mews said, slowing traffic. She suggests that a good place for all bicyclists is in the right lane with slower traffic.

Maj. Alvin Winkler of the city Police Department's traffic division, said bicyclists are legally allowed in the left lane.

"In the left lane, they make cars go around them and pass on the right, which can be very dangerous," he said. "They should just use common sense."


The Metro isn't the only means of transportation to experience growth. Groundbreaking on three extensions to the Central Light Rail Line is scheduled in about three weeks.

The Mass Transit Administration plans to add 7.5 miles to the 22.5-mile line with stops at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Penn Station and Hunt Valley. The extensions are expected to cost $106 million and be operational by spring 1997.

About 6 million riders a year use the light rail, which runs from Timonium to Cromwell Station/Glen Burnie. Last week, the Metro added stops at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Shot Tower/Marketplace.

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