It said: Re: State of Texas v. ChipSeal (Poetic license, don’t ya know!)
Hmm. It’s me against the entire state of Texas? I think I could be a contender to get the Nobel prize for being the most annoying cyclist, don’t you?
It went on: Dear Mr. ChipSeal, The offense of impeding traffic is defined at Section 545.363 of the Texas Transportation Code. Sincerely, Toby Mash, City Attorney for Ennis Texas.
Well, certainty! Now with a fixed charge, I can defend myself!*
How this came about
In my narrative A Tale of Two Jails, a judge (Who it turns out is Municipal Judge Johnson) released me with the promise that we would meet in the next week. He spent nearly a half-hour with me.
He said he was interested in hearing a defense for cyclist’s use of the highways.
He is very idealistic of juries, and spoke of them as being a forum of “equity” for the community. He encouraged me to choose a jury trial.
He said at this judicial level, it was reasonable for me to represent myself, and that a wider latitude of conduct would be extended to someone who did so.
He answered many of my process questions, including how to submit a motion to the court.
I was surprised when he suggested that I speak to Mr. Mash about it. So I did.
I went to Mr. Mash’s office and walked in unannounced. I expected that I would need to make an appointment. To my surprise, Mr. Mash dropped all that he was doing and immediately sat down with me for about twenty minutes.
He too was helpful with my process questions, and enlightened me on some of the bureaucratic details of how this whole thing goes down.
Should I choose a jury trial, 24 Ennis residents will be assembled on a Wednesday evening. Both Mr. Mash and I would be able to ask questions of them under the watchful eye of Judge Johnson, and both Mr. Mash and I would each be able to disallow six of them without reason. The goal will be to empanel six jurors before it becomes so late that we annoy them. (That part worries me. I seem to be extraordinarily annoying!)
I find this task daunting. Both judge Johnson and Mr. Mash advised me to bone up on Texas Jury Selection rules. I will also be required to pay a fee to cover some of the cost of empanelling the jury. (Mailings and the like.)
Mr. Mash said I could file a motion to combine my charges into one trial. I am inclined to do so. The three Ennis City violations are essentially the same, and if I prevailed on one charge tried separately, the remaining two would be dropped.
If they are combined, I will have the opportunity to question all of the officers involved.
On filing motions
A motion is submitted in writing to the court clerk, and if granted by the Judge, is sent on to Mr. Mash’s desk. (What? No internet submissions?**)
Mr. Mash said that when the motions begin hitting his desk, he then proceeds to see if a case can be made, usually by interviewing the arresting officers.
I asked about getting information about what particular law I am accused of breaking, rather than the vague description of “impeding traffic”.
He said that the formal charge, including the section of the law, is normally sent to the accused ten days prior to his trial, but a motion could be submitted for an earlier release.
Since I had on my person a written out motion for that very purpose, I asked him to look at it to see if it was what the court expected in a motion presented to it.
Because Eli Damon was so good as to include his lawyers motion in his discussion of his case, I adapted it for my purpose. The paper Mr. Mash saw said this:
Motion for disclosure of statutory relevance.
Your Honor, I do not yet know what statute I am being accused of violating. My ticket only says “impeding traffic”. There is no reference to any chapter or section of the Texas Transportation Code, or any other law other than this vague description of violation.
I am certain I was operating my vehicle lawfully under the bicycle specific rules found in chapter 551. Operation Of Bicycles, Mopeds, and Play Vehicles. I am very familiar with those statutes. Therefore, my accuser must have some other, undisclosed and unknown to me portion of the law in mind to have so accused me.
Would the court order the prosecution to disclose the statute under which I am accused? Without such information I am unsure as to how to defend myself.
With that as an example before him, I asked about filing a motion to see relevant dashcam video. He told me to be as specific as possible in my request, and that generally I would be able to see the video but not have a copy. Because I found Eli Damon's motion so helpful, I intend, once this whole thing is done, to publish the motions I submit to the court, and any other helpful things I come across.
He then returned my motion to me. Thus this letter of disclosure to me was a happy suprise.
*Sec. 545.363. MINIMUM SPEED REGULATIONS. (a) An operator may not drive so slowly as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.
**Submitting a motion electronically is impossible, because by doing so it changes into an e-motion! Why am I the only one who laughs at my jokes?
5 days ago