Judge Lawrence Meyers, who has served 19 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals -- the longest tenure of any judge on the nine-member elected panel, told The (Austin, Texas) American-Statesman he has been denied the right to present an adequate defense to the charge of speeding after being pulled over for going 19 mph over the speed limit on Interstate 35 in North Austin Aug. 8, 2008.
Meyers told the newspaper he has a reasonable defense to the charge, though he declined to elaborate on what it is, but that the municipal court judges mishandled the case and never allowed him to present it.
After initially stalling his hearing six times, Austin Municipal Judge Ferdinand D. Clervi refused Meyers' seventh request to put off the trial date and when he failed to show for court, Clervi signed an arrest warrant. Eventually, Meyers made his way to court and was told he could either plead guilty and pay a fine or plead not guilty, post $500 bond to answer the arrest warrant and the trial would be rescheduled.
Saying he felt pressured, Meyers said he took the guilty plea, expecting the fine to be between $100 and $200 -- the typical amount charged to traffic offenders. When Clervi levied a fine of $481, Meyers refused to pay. When the payment deadline passed, Clervi signed another bench warrant for Meyers' arrest, which remains active.
"I hate that there is an arrest warrant out, but I've got to look at the situation," Meyers told the newspaper. "All I was wanting to do was get it over with and be treated like any other citizen. I would've paid a fine within the range of punishment."
Instead, he's filed a writ of habeas corpus -- a legal challenge common in Meyers' appellate court but unheard of in traffic court -- charging Clervi violated his constitutional right to defend himself against the charges.
The American-Statesman said it's unlikely Meyers will be sought out and taken into custody by police who don't usually serve arrest warrants on traffic charges, but if he's pulled over again he could go to jail.
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