"Believe what ya like. Think what ya like. You'll be judged for what you do."
-- Tim Minton, Eyrie

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Guilty! (with Explanation)

     It turns out, I am a hypocrite. I preach traffic safety. Don't speed, I admonish. Don't tailgate. Don't text and drive. Don't drive if you're under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or prescription medications. Make sure to signal when you're changing lanes. No aggressive driving. Be polite and considerate of other drivers, especially if they're young or old or display a handicapped sticker. And again and above all, don't speed.

     And then what happened the other day? I opened the mail to find . . . I got a speeding ticket!

     The state of Maryland alleges that I was driving 49 mph in a 35-mph zone.

     The truth is, even though I'm usually one of the slower drivers on the road, I probably was going 49. But let me explain. And then I'll throw myself on the mercy of the court.

     By way of background, I'll tell you a little bit about my accuser, the state of Maryland. B and I actually considered retiring to Maryland. At first, we thought Washington, DC. But living in Washington, DC, it turns out, is way too expensive for most retirees.

     Then we thought we could retire to the suburbs of Washington. You've heard of Bethesda, MD? Or Silver Spring? Oh, how naive we were! The Washington suburbs are just as expensive as the District. Plus, traffic in the suburbs of Washington is enough to drive you to an early grave.

     At one point we visited Annapolis, MD. It's the capital. It's less than an hour drive to Washington. And it's still close enough to our old hunting grounds in the Northeast. You can hop on Amtrak for a 3-hour train trip to New York City.

     Annapolis is home to historic St. John's college and the U. S. Naval Academy, and features lots of waterfront, boating, restaurants and entertainment. Annapolis is expensive, yes, but not as bad as Washington. We even looked at a few houses in Annapolis. But the prices were a stretch for us, and the real-estate taxes are pretty steep.

     And then we found out that Maryland would tax our retirement income. Maryland does not count among the 13 states that tax Social Security benefits. But it does levy income tax on IRA and 401K withdrawals. And since IRA withdrawals were going to provide a significant amount of our retirement income, that gave us pause.

Caught on tape. And yeah, that's me .... on a four-lane
highway with no traffic. Do you see
a speed limit sign? So am I really speeding?
     We also found out that while Maryland doesn't tax its own people who collect government pensions, it does tax pensions from out of state. B has a small pension from New York. It's small enough already, so we didn't want the tax people of Maryland making it smaller.

     So we decided not to retire in Maryland, at least in part because we felt they were just after our money, and targeting us as out-of-staters. We don't mind paying "our fair share" in taxes, but we don't want to be treated differently, singled out as an easy mark. So we went someplace more welcoming, as in Pennsylvania, where we can keep our Social Security and IRA benefits and live a comfortable retired life, paying taxes like normal dutiful citizens but not worrying about where we'd get the money to stave off a greedy taxman.

     So I hope you now appreciate the position of the state of Maryland. They're pretty aggressive about raising money from people. Or, to put it bluntly, Maryland is out to fleece innocent citizens, especially those from other states who happen to be passing through.

     And that's what we were doing. Passing through. Which leads me to my speeding ticket. Clearly, the authorities in Maryland set up a speed trap for unsuspecting people like us.

   The facts of the case:  I was driving on a Saturday, around 8 a.m., heading out to the Interstate. As you can see, the road I was on is a four-lane highway. During the day the road is choked with traffic, so maybe a 35-mph speed limit makes sense under that circumstance. But when I was traveling, there was no traffic at all. And when did you ever hear of a clear, four-lane highway with a 35-mph speed limit? Do you think I was posing a risk by driving 49 mph? Do you think they noticed my out-of-state license plate?

     Okay. You're the judge. You've heard my explanation. Are you sympathetic to my argument? Are you ready to give me a break? Or do you think I'm a threat to society and find me guilty as charged? 

     To be fair, the state of Maryland did not throw the book at me. I'm not going to jail. I won't have to pick up litter by the side of the road. They even say on the citation that paying my fine will not result in points and will not increase my insurance rate. They just want my money.


Wisewebwoman said...

Oh wow. You just reminded me of a time I was leaving Quebec and all these mad French drivers passing me on the highway and I was pulled over by the police (I couldn't believe they were after me until they sort of forced me to the shoulder) and handed me a ticket for $200 for 10k over the limit in a 100k zone. I was so astonished. I said but all these other cars were literally passing me, I was in the slow lane. And they french-shrugged at the dim anglaise from Ontario where I lived at the time. Cash grab. i fought it remotely but it only resulted in another penalty of $20.

Totally, totally sympathize. I had forgotten how enraged I was.


gigi-hawaii said...

Just pay the bill. The law is the law. Nobody is above the law. Look at what's happening to Trump. They are impeaching him for breaking the law.

Tabor said...

Maryland sends speeding tickets freely to those who live here as well. Recently in Florida several speed traps were shut down because they seemed to be there for money and not safety.

Tom said...

Oh Gigi, I hope you're not sitting as judge if they ever haul me into court! And Tabor, come to think of it, the last speeding ticket I got was in Orlando, FL, sometime around 2005 or so.

DJan said...

The giveaway is the fact that you get no points on your license or information sent to your insurance company. What a scam this is. But I'd pay it if it were me and grumble to myself. :-(

Snowbrush said...

Jeez, gigi, yours is a mentality that I have always found frightening in that it allows no distinction between the trivial and the horrific.

Now, Tom, I'm glad that I wasn't thinking about moving to Maryland because this post would have given me pause. Yes, I am sympathetic. One criticism of tickets that don't involve an officer is that they take a one-size-fits-all approach, and it makes no sense at all that the same speed limit is imposed regardless of traffic, weather, road conditions, time of day, or any and all other considerations. Sometimes when I take Peggy to the airport at 4:30 a.m., we hit the fifty-five mph highway only to be stopped by red-light after red-light without another car in sight, so there we sit, wasting time, wasting gas, polluting the air, and for what! So, Tom, I think you've raised an issue here that really does cut across party lines, and you and I are in full agreement. In MD, could you even take the matter to court if you wanted to, or do they cut you down to their size on that front too, and, oh by the way, how much was the ticket?

Unknown said...

What I wonder is why you were driving in the left lane?? Just sayin' ... :-)

Janette said...

Here is the answer---
Delete this post and state that they cannot prove that you were the one driving the car.
They cannot prove it, they cannot give YOU the ticket.

Otherwise...drive within 5 of the limit, in the right lane (or at least the center) and, for the Love of God, cover that Pennsylvania plate. It is a huge "I am speeding" sign to both Maryland and Delaware!

Red said...

I've been in you're shoes. Up to age 75 I had never had any traffic violation. The speeding ticket I got was almost a violation. I fought it and won.

Plaino said...

as an attorney once explained to me: "the law doesn't make it right or wrong. The law makes it legal or illegal." If you think you can fight it and reduce the fine. go for it. Otherwise, render unto Cesar.....

Plaino said...

...and I meant to write 'Caesar".

DavidH said...

In Hawaii all tickets are issued by officers using calibrated laser guns. If you were speeding they would pull you over and hand you the ticket. You can either pay by mail or go to court. There is no sympathy in court. If the officer shows up you will found guilty unless he did not correctly calibrate his laser gun.

Tom said...

Well, it's not worth it to drive a hundred miles to municipal court in Maryland to fight the ticket, esp. since in the eyes of the law I'm guilty. So like DJan says, I'll pay the fine; but instead of grumbling to myself, I'm grumbling to you guys!

Arkansas Patti said...

Sure hope the grumbling to us has given you at least a bit of relief. We don't mind and it makes a good post. You made me realize there are hidden factors to consider when looking for a retirement state.

Kathie said...

Maryland does pull that crud! No doubt about that :)

Bob Lowry said...

I lived in West Virginia for a few years back in the 70's. Once while driving to Maryland's Eastern Shore I got a ticket in a similar situation: no traffic, 4 lane road, 45 mph speed limit and I was supposedly doing over 55. In those days there were no cameras, just a cop by the side of the road.

Coming home I remembered to slow down in that section of the state!

Suemn said...

ha! ha! I'd let you off the hook Tom. Be glad you don't live in Minnesota where they tax pension, social security and 401K:) Gotta love it!

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Snowbrush said...

"instead of grumbling to myself, I'm grumbling to you guys!"

I think that this is one of your more interesting posts because it's so easy to relate to, and because I should think that it will do you good to get people's reactions.

I've rarely gotten tickets, and when I did, I usually fought them and won. The last time I got a ticket my wife did too--we ran a stop sign on our bicycles. Cops here in Eugene rarely ticket bicyclists, but we got ours two days after a bicyclist had been killed by a car in a nearby intersection.

Terra said...

That is understandably annoying to get a ticket in those circumstances. I don't think they should be allowed to issue those remote computer generated tickets anywhere. But who listens to me, ha ha.

Snowbrush said...

"I don't think they should be allowed to issue those remote computer generated tickets anywhere."

Oregon has them, and I've noticed that I'm a whole lot less inclined to breeze through yellow lights now that cameras are watching me ever which way, so I would have to say that I'm in favor of them. I hear that Texas views them as a violation of privacy, but the concept of privacy when it comes to saving lives in public spaces makes no sense to me, so I assume that what Texans are really saying is that they hate government, and want the freedom to behave in any way they please wherever they please..

Unknown said...

Actually Maryland does not tax all retirement-related income - see "Maryland Pension Exclusion". The first ~$30K (per person; $60K per couple) of some retirement-related income is not subject to Maryland state income tax starting at age 65. This includes SS, 401K withdrawals, 403B withdrawals, and income from pensions. However withdrawals from TIRAs do not qualify for the pension exclusion and are subject to state income tax. This is one reason why it may not be prudent to roll 401K or 403B funds into a TIRA.