The hard seats of a courtroom are the last place carefree students expect to end up after a weekend spent enjoying themselves off campus.
Yet for some unlucky students, this scenario has been a reality, and not always a pleasant one.
When Tony Bachich ’05 and Tom Andreacchio ’05 attended Bridgeport Municipal Court along with their roommates for a noise violation at the beach, they were surprised by the treatment they received.
“Basically, the judge said we were a waste of her time and didn’t want to hear our story. She said if we plead guilty and paid a fine nothing would go on our records,” they said. “But if we tried to plead not guilty we would lose, and then that would go on our permanent record. We felt like we had no choice but pay the fine.”
The group was upset since they had planned to fight the ticket because they believe that the loud noise came from adjacent houses and not their own.
The group brought photographs taken around the time of the infraction as physical evidence, as well as witnesses, to try and prove that their noise violation was a miscommunication.
“You feel completely out of your element,” said Bachich. “There are people being led in with orange jumpsuits and handcuffs for who knows what charges, and we were sitting there because someone thought we had a loud party.”
However, after waiting in court for several hours, the judge asked to speak to a group of cases, including theirs, outside of the courtroom where she told them how she felt about their case.
When the judge talked to the student representing their group, she was not interested in seeing any evidence or hearing any witnesses.
“It sucks, it’s a mockery of justice,” said Andreacchio.
When a student gets a ticket off-campus, the university is notified through contacts with the Fairfield Police department. Whether these infractions take place locally at the beach, or further away at a bar in Norwalk, the university finds out.
The students then are entered into the campus judicial system. Students meet with the director or assistant director of judicial to talk about the incident, and further judicial action depends on the situation.
Since students do not have control over when they will appear in court, most students end up missing several classes in order to attend their appointment.
Coordinator of Off-campus Students Duane Melzer stressed that students should remember that “state court and judicial systems are two separate organizations, so students have to answer to both systems because they are independent of each other. There are state and town laws, but also as students you need to follow university code.”
Rachel Donnelly ’05 doesn’t relish the idea of going to Bridgeport Municipal Court: “I’ve never been to court so I don’t know what it would be like, but I imagine it would be kind of scary unless I could get out of it by crying.”