Published on:

What the Oliver Stone movie “Platoon” and traffic court have in common

PlatoonColt654-5

I am not a big war movie buff, but I love Oliver Stone’s 1986 Vietnam movie classic “Platoon,” which starred Tom Berenger as Sergeant Barnes, William Dafoe as Sergeant Elias, and Charlie Sheen as Private Taylor. I am drawn to the movie because although it is set in Vietnam it’s not a war movie but about good and evil.

In the movie William Dafoe’s “Sergeant Elias” is the “good” Sergeant, Tom Berenger’s “Sergeant Barnes” is the “evil” sergeant, and Charlie Sheen’s “Private Taylor” is the protagonist. Sgt. Barnes murders Sgt. Elias because he was worried that Elias would rat him our for an unjustified killing of a Vietnamese civilian. Barnes blames Elias’s death on enemy action, but Private Taylor is suspicious as he saw Elias alive and being chased and shot by Vietnamese soldiers after Barnes had said he had already been killed by the enemy.

While Private Taylor is lamenting to fellow soldiers his belief that Sgt. Barnes had tried to kill Sgt. Elias, a drunk Sgt. Barnes pounding down a bottle of Jack Daniels comes upon the conversation. An angry and intimidating Sgt. Barnes stumbles around the bunker rhetorically asking what they know about “killing,” criticizing Sgt. Elias as a “crusader,” and declared “there’s the way it ought to be and there’s the way it is.”

And therein lies the commonality between the movie “Platoon” and traffic court: “there’s the way it ought to be and there’s the way it is.” There is not a court appearance I make when I do not see something that makes me think of Sgt. Barnes, drunk on Jack Daniels, angry, sweaty, and intimidating, telling his troops “there’s the way it ought to be and there’s the way it is.” Here are some examples of the way it ought to be vs. the way it is in traffic court:

The way it ought to be: 

A simplified and user friendly process  and procedure.

The way it is:

A confusing and complex procedure where terminology and proceedings are foreign to the common experience.

The way it ought to be: 

A traffic ticket that is easy to digest and clear to understand what your rights are   and how to proceed in defense in of your case in plain English.

The way it is:

A double columned, 6 sectioned document written in some spots in miniature font, which also contains procedure and timing requirements which are no longer valid as well as confusing and incomplete recitations of the law.

The way it ought to be: 

A streamlined process which leverages technology and practices state of the art time management techniques.

The way it is:

The courts are still run,by and large, the way they were run back in the day when Abraham Lincoln was still practicing law, ensuring that you waste the most time possible.

The way it ought to be:

Consistency among the courts and  the judiciary.

The way it is:

There are over 1,400 traffic courts in the State of NY. Despite the fact that there rules of procedure applicable to all courts, most still adhere to the doctrine of “that’s the way we do it here.” In addition, the NYC traffic courts are an “administrative tribunal,” which means that is is a totally different court system than the rest of the state. It has it’s own rules, regulations,  standards, and procedures. Confused? Don’t worry you’re not alone so are most lawyers.

The way it ought to be:

When representing yourself pro se, having the ability to informally state a legal premise to the judge as to why the ticket or case is defective and, if correct, having the judge grant the appropriate relief.

The way it is:

All legal arguments must be formally made in writing upon a “noticed motion” to the prosecutor and properly served and filed with the court, after which the matter can be set down for oral arguments. Failing to dot all of your “I’s” and cross all of your “T’s” will result in your application being denied on procedural grounds without the substantive argument being heard.

The way it ought to be:

If you are on the verge of making a cataclysmic mistake in either accepting or rejecting an offer, the judge should at least advise you as to the fact that you are likely making a huge mistake, explain why, and offer you an opportunity to at least consult with an attorney before you proceed further.

The way it is:

The judge is not there to act as your attorney or as a stop gap from your poor decision making process. If you represent yourself you do so at your own peril.

What you can do to ensure your rights are protected

The remedy to not ending up dead on patrol like Sgt. Elias is simple. Hire your own attorney to represent your interests in court. A New York speeding and traffic ticket defense lawyer is not confused about the terminology of the court nor the contents of the ticket.

Our firm we will appear in any court in the State of New York, and even get your personal court appearance waived so that you do not have to go to court. We know and understand the differences and nuances between the various courts as well as the NYC Traffic Court system.

If we spot a legal issue that can lead to a dismissal we know how to leverage that issue to either get you a great deal or get the matter dismissed by making a perfected written motion to dismiss.

Our speeding ticket defense lawyers know the difference between a good and bad deal, know when it is better to turn down an offer and take the case to trial, and just as importantly when to “hold our noses” and accept a deal that is not great but still works in your case.

We know the totality of the regulatory scheme and what administrative punishment will be meted out or avoided by resolving your case and as a consequence whether it is worthwhile to proceed with the disposition.

We do tremendous work for our clients and they love the work we do for them. You don’t have to believe me though. check out what our clients say about us in their own words by clicking here.