To be honest, I toyed with the idea of not going to court and foregoing bail since I had my licence back, but the lawyer we met on Saturday advised me to go to Court. So it was that on Sunday I called my boss and explained the situation, and on Monday I went to court. I was there before 8:00 am but Courts rarely start sitting before 9:00 am. Take your time if this ever happens to you.
The session began, and a number of cases were read out before mine was. It was through these cases that I discovered what happens if you don’t appear in court. The process is as follows:
- Your name is called out.
- The prosecutor reads out your sin(s).
- If you’re present, the judge decides whether there will be a hearing that day (lengthy cases, perhaps crimes). If it’s an offence he/she will pass judgement.
- HOWEVER if it is established that the accused has not deigned to appear in court the judge simply says: “Cash bail forfeited to the State, warrant of arrest issued.” Next!
So the chance you’re taking by not appearing in court is that the police won’t come looking for you. It’s perhaps a risk worth taking, except that they ask for your phone number when you’re paying bail, so if they really wanted to they could nab you. But I think they have neither the time nor the motivation to look for a traffic offender. If they do look for you, and if they find you, dear reader rest assured that your bail-posting days are over. You will be hauled by the seat of your over-speeding pants straight to jail until court time.
Anyway, court was pretty quick. I stood up when I was called, I confirmed that the allegations were correct, and the Judge fined me KES 7,000. I had heard horror stories of KES 30,000 (the Naivasha court is particularly notorious) so on balance, it wasn’t too bad…
…or so I thought. For that was when the fun and games began.
Paying your fine
I had carried KES 20,000 to Court, so I was ready to pay. But my spirited and determined efforts to pay my fine were thwarted by the belated discovery that one is not in fact allowed to pay one’s own fine. I abruptly found myself being escorted at a brisk pace to the Kibera Law Courts gaol. During this regrettably short journey I was brusquely informed by yet another officer of the law that I had to locate and instruct someone who could go and:
- Deposit the cash for me in KCB Account Name “Judiciary Kibera Law Courts” Account no __________________
- Bring the deposit slip to Kibera Law Courts
- Obtain a receipt from the Kibera Law Courts
- Present it at the cells and thereby
- Get me released.
I told the cop who was taking me to jail that I had brought myself to court, so it was unlikely I’d run away post-judgement. I actually asked him to let me go pay and come back. Ah the naïveté of ignorance…
“Hatufanyangi namna hiyo Boss. Tafuta mtu aende akulipie. Na ni kwa nini hukuongea na officer?”
“Hapana, unajua mi sihongangi…”
“Sisemi kuhonga…” [I honestly don’t know what else he meant, and he did not take the trouble to elaborate.]
Suddenly, I was in jail.