When Shirley Disandro was cited for speeding in the summer of 2008, the U.S. attorney’s office came to her defense.
Huh? Since when do government prosecutors get involved with state traffic court? When, as it turns out, the defendant is a federal employee.
You see, Disandro is a letter carrier for the United States Postal Service and on the day of her fine in Temecula she was using her personal vehicle to do her job. It was at her bosses’ request that the U.S. attorney’s office stepped in.
Didn’t do any good, though.
Especially when she didn’t show up for trial on Jan. 6, 2009, after her federal lawyer filed a last-day notice — by first-class mail even — that the case had been removed to the U.S. district court.
In Disandro’s absence, retired Merced County Superior Court Judge Michael Hider — sitting by designation in Riverside County — went ahead with the traffic court trial anyway and found her guilty of speeding and driving with a load that obstructed her view. He issued a fine of $300.20.
The Riverside County Superior Court’s appellate division upheld the fines, dismissing Disandro’s argument that Hider had denied her the opportunity to confront the officer who fined her.
Late today, the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Riverside division upheld that decision, but not for the same reasoning.
The trial court erred by proceeding with trial without determining whether Disandro’s absence was both “knowing and voluntary,” Justice Manuel Ramirez wrote in People v. Disandro, E049726, but the error was harmless because the defendant made no relevant argument she would have been found not guilty even if in court.
Justices Thomas Hollenhorst and Betty Richli concurred.
So much for federal intervention in traffic court!