Thursday, December 9, 2010

OK Buddy, You're Bus-ted

Please read this carefully.  If you can spot the problem with it, you are ahead of all the lawyers, judges and police in Virginia for the last 40 years, until one John G. Mendez came along and everyone else said "Whaaaaaaaaa?"

Here is what the law concerning stopping for school buses said, since 1970:

"A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children." 

At first glance, it seems to say that we have to stop for a school bus which has stopped to pick up or drop off kids...but it doesn't say that at all.  It says that we have a stop a school bus which is stopped for that purpose.  Somebody left out the word "at" following "stop."

Mendez, facing the charge of failure to stop for the stopped school bus, hired the greatest legal mind in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the noted attorney Eric E. Clingan, who read the statute under which his client was charged, noticed the omission, and ran like John Goodman at a buffet to get to court and see  Mendez beat the charge.

"He can only be guilty if he failed to stop any school bus," Judge Marcus D. Williams said at the end of the brief trial of John G. Mendez, 45, of Woodbridge VA. "And there's no evidence he did." 

According to the Washington POST, that newspaper contacted state delegate, Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax), who represents that area, and Albo said: "That's not good. That's a very serious charge. That needs to be fixed."

But the state Virginia legislature will not reconvene until January, and even if they write a new, correct version of the law right away, most new laws won't take effect until July. We can only hope that drivers, down in the state where Maryland shops for firecrackers and hams, will follow the spirit, and not the letter, of the law until then.

Judge Williams said he hopes this is addressed so "we don't have to keep dealing with it."
John Mendez (Washington POST)

As for Mr Mendez, he had been having a run of bad luck that day earlier this year when he blew past a stopped school bus and was given a ticket for it.  He had recently lost his job, and had all of his tools ripped off when someone broke into his car.  For all we know, that's legal in Virginia too!

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