Tommy’s Two Cents: Community Service
Sometimes, when I’m feeling wild and rebellious, I’ll do something out of character. I’ll do something like parking my beat-up Honda Civic somewhere where it’s clearly forbidden. Sometimes I’ll park somewhere that requires payment, and I’ll flip the bird to the parking meter as I hop out. Sometimes I’ll hop on the train after forgetting my U-pass and I’ll just skip paying my fare.
Pretty wild huh? That’s usually what I’m thinking. I commit these acts of defiance, like many of us do, as a way to fill that rebellious urge I developed in my pre-teen years. I end up feeling pretty cool stickin’ it to the man.
That is, until I get back to my car and see they’ve stuck a nice shiny ticket between my windshield wipers.
As I watch the chinook winds blow that ticket around like an inflatable man outside of a used-car dealership, the only thing I can see is the smug look of a bylaw officer as they drive away, knowing they’ve taught another valuable lesson.
In this installment of Tommy’s Two Cents, we’re switching things up a little bit. Instead of doing a budget product review, I’m going to shed some light on how to get a pesky fine reduced.
I should probably start this off by saying I have nothing but respect for law enforcement. I’m a big believer in a society that reinforces its rules, and I’m super thankful we have people working around the clock to make sure we’re safe.
However, I’ve never actually been able to afford a ticket, so this has forced me to try and find ways around it.
There are a few options you can explore when deciding how to handle a ticket. I’ll briefly gloss over the first couple of options, but I’m really only going to focus on the one I think is the best.
Option 1 – You can take your ticket and burn it. You can continue to be defiant by just pretending it never happened. If you choose this method you can realistically get away without paying the ticket for six months, maybe longer. The only thing about doing this is it usually ends up one of two ways.
It can pan out like it did for my roommate, who didn’t pay his ticket for a year. When he came back from a trip to Mexico, he was refused entry back into Canada. This led to an awkward phone call with his folks, and a sad plea for an e-transfer.
You could also end up like my mom, who had a warrant issued for her arrest after failing to pay her ticket for over a year. From what I hear, this isn’t such a bad outcome. It turns out that three days behind bars can provide some much-needed rest. It’s also a great opportunity to meet some really neat pen pals.
Option 2 – If you pay your ticket the day after it’s issued, the discounted rate is actually pretty good. This is the least likely of the options, as I’ve never met a student who was truly proactive.
Option 3 – You have every right to plead ‘not guilty’. If you’ve been binge watching Suitsfor the hundredth time, and you’re feeling particularly confident in representing yourself and pleading your case, this isn’t a bad option. Often times, the person who issued the ticket can’t be bothered to give your broke ass the time of day.
If this is the case, then you can get away scot-free. I’ve also heard of the judge just throwing the case out before it even goes to court. Keep in mind this one is a bit of a gamble. There’s no way to tell if the person who gave you your ticket is a devout justice warrior. If that’s the case, you’re pretty much screwed.
Option 4 – These next two words are the most important words you can use when trying to not pay for a ticket, and I can’t emphasize them enough. COMMUNITY SERVICE. My feelings are that by taking the community service option, you can get two birds stoned at once. The only thing employers like seeing on a resume more than relevant work experience is volunteer endeavors.
Community service: a win-win situation
The way I see it, you can pay off your ticket without spending a dime, build up your resume, and impress your friends by donating yourself to the community for a day. There’s no reason to disclose your real motives – the bottom line is you did a good thing. You can sleep well knowing you’re a pillar of the community.
The process of reducing your fine to community service is a fairly simple one.
Throw on your Sunday best and head down to the Calgary Courts Centre on 5thAve. Going to court is exhilarating. There are more escalators than you can shake a stick at. The elevators feel like they’re moving at warp speed. I had honestly never even been to the 9th floor of a building before going to court. The entire building reeks of tax dollars, so when I walk in there, I usually act like I own the place.
You should too.
Remember, the earlier you get there, the faster you’ll get through. To submit your appeal, you need to go to the 2nd floor. Once there, put on your favourite podcast. You’re about to be standing in queue for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once you get to the front of the line, you’ll tell a clerk that you’d like to have your fine reduced, and she’ll send your case up to the courts on the 9th floor.
When you find your courtroom, you’ll be given the option to have your fine reduced, extended, or transferred to the Fine Option Program. The Fine Option Program makes your ticket payable through community service and gives you an additional six months to pay with cash, should you decide to later. On top of that, they’ll reduce your fine as well.
My most recent case had my $250 transit ticket reduced to a $150 transit ticket. The best part about it is that I get to decide where that $150 goes. Heck, I can probably give it to the Mustard Seed, one of the many crown jewels that have come out of Calgary.
If you like stickin’ it to the man, this isn’t a bad way of going about it. I like to think of it almost as a peaceful protest, just without a real cause or a picket sign. As I said before, community service gets you jobs, saves you money, and makes you look like an icon on social media. My two cents for the week is to use the Fine Option Program as much as you can from here on out.
Thanks for listening,