Was just checking the amazon page for my SURVIVING ON THE STREETS book and I happened to notice this one sour review from some brainy guy named Christopher Debraine. Which is just like me. 20 good reviews and I’ll always notice the one bad review. Ha ha. Anyways, ole Chris takes me to task for not offering enough savvy advice about how to deal with the court system and tickets and the legal aspects of homelessness.
“Do NOT buy this book if you are looking for a how-to, or a manual, or even a lot of advice.
What you get here is a collection of personal anecdotes(which are interesting and amusing in their own right), personal opinion and politics (which are less interesting, and sometimes downright obtuse), and a scattered handful of advice.
You get more from forming your own opinions after reading about his experiences than you do from his actual advice. also, he tends to gloss over things you’d think were important, such as handling vagrancy tickets. how did ace overcome his tickets? he “jammed the machine with a blizzard of paperwork, and they forgot about it.” … yeah.
Anyway, the sad fact is that not many books such as this exist, mainly because the kind of people who end up on the streets either never get their life together enough to write something (let alone get published), or have no interest in helping other people should they suffer the same fate.
In summary: interesting and amusing, but NOT informative.”
* * *
The anecdote he was referring to was the time when the judge said he wouldn’t fine me if I pleaded guilty to this pot ticket, I’d just have to go to this Drug Education class, but then it turned out the class cost hundreds of dollars to sign up for (bastard!) but I did manage to beat the ticket by signing up for the class and then blowing it off (so I didn’t have to pay money or have a warrant go out for my arrest). And I was smug about how I weaseled my way out of that one. So fuck Christopher and his sneering comment. (Chris is probably one of those guys who gets lots of tickets and we could all learn from his experiences by learning what NOT to do).
But it did make me wonder if it was a glaring omission to have not delved more deeply into that aspect of the homelessness experience. I didn’t for several reason:
1.) I myself, rarely got tickets, so I didn’t have many personal experiences to share. But that’s the point of my book. If you do it right, and follow a few basic common sense rules, you WON’T get jammed up by the courts. And that’s the BEST way to deal with it.
2.) The laws pertaining to homelessness vary so much from city-to-city and state-to-state — as well as how the courts apply those laws. So the advice I give you for how to deal with it in Berkeley, might be the exact WRONG advice for how to deal with it in Chicago.
I guess if I could give one all-purpose bit of advice it’s: DON’T ANTAGONIZE THE COPS. If you get on their bad side they can surely make your life miserable. And they can usually even run you out of town if they want to, and there’s not a lot you can do about it.
The other advice is: If you’re getting a lot of tickets, it may be because you’re doing it wrong, and you might want to re-assess how you’re operating.
That said, there are basically three ways you can deal with your homeless-related tickets:
1.) Go to court and either pay the fine or sign of for community service (which is what I usually did, spending a week or two picking up cigarette butts in the park.
2.) Just blow off your tickets (which is how most street people deal with them). Eventually, they’ll turn into Warrants For Your Arrest. And eventually the cops will probably arrest you. And you can spend a week or two sitting on your ass in jail. And that usually clears the ticket. Or:
3.) You can fight your ticket in court. Plead not guilty to the ticket, and then they’ll set a court date for you to state your case. Hate Man used to do this all the time. And he almost always prevailed. Mainly because the cop who gave you the ticket usually doesn’t have the time to show up in court over such a trivial matter, and since the cop can’t give his side of the story, the judge dismisses the ticket. The down-side is, if you take it to court and LOSE, the judge will usually give you a stiffer penalty than if you had pleaded guilty, to punish you for wasting the courts time . . . Nonetheless, if you have a good understanding of how the law works, and feel you have a strong case (and having the advice of a lawyer also helps) you might want to consider this option.
There, Christopher. Are you happy now??