Welcome to traffic court, where you are a judge for the day.

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This article was published 13/7/2015 (2548 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Welcome to traffic court, where you are a judge for the day.

Actually, this Highway Traffic Act ticket will never see a courtroom because, well, I'll let the guy who got it tell you why.

Dave Watt is miffed he was ticketed for spitting seed husks out his sunroof.


Dave Watt is miffed he was ticketed for spitting seed husks out his sunroof.

Initially, Dave Watt introduced himself via email.

He and his wife, Arlene White, are both in their mid-50s, and are both former Winnipeggers who have been living in New Zealand since 2010.

They're on vacation here now, and last Thursday they were in a rented Jeep on their way across the Moray Bridge, and Dave was chomping on Spitz sunflower seeds. And tossing them out the open sunroof.

As Dave tells it, he had no sooner started to let the sunflower hulls fly when he saw a police cruiser behind him, lights flashing. Dave said he could see the officer waving his arm at him, to pull over.

"I did," Dave wrote in the email. "I rolled my window down and had my licence out before he got to the car."

His New Zealand licence, of course.

"He grabs my licence, looks at it and rudely asks. 'What are you doing here?' "

That not only made Arlene feel unwelcome, she felt intimidated.

"I replied, 'Visiting friends,' " Dave's email continued. "He says 'I've stopped you for littering. In this city, we do not throw things out the sunroof.'

"I said, 'It was sunflower seeds!' "He says, "It does not matter, it was litter.' "

And the fine tops $170.

"He took my licence and went back to his car. After a number of minutes, I decided to phone our friends to let them know why we were late. I thought if I sit here, this cowboy will give me a ticket for using a phone in the car. I decided to get out and stand in front of my car to make the call. He did not like that.

"He yells at me, 'You do not get out of the car while stopped by police!'

"I said, 'I just want to call my friend.'

" 'You do not need to phone anyone right now. Get back in the car!' A minute later he hands me the ticket, told me the dates I have to pay it."

The next day, Dave drove to the West District police station in hopes of having the ticket tossed. After all, as Dave argued, they're only sunflower seed remnants and all kinds of seeds litter the land naturally. They're for the birds.

Much like the littering ticket.

Dave got nowhere at the police station, where the sergeant he spoke with wasn't going to say, one way or the other, whether sunflower seeds fall under the label biodegradable.

"He said he did not know the circumstances of the case and could not answer. He also said he could not speak for the officer involved or what he had witnessed."

Dave wasn't through appealing.

"My wife and I then went to the provincial court on Broadway to plead guilty with an explanation. 'Sorry, there is nothing we can do if it is outside the dates specified on the violation.' "

The first chance he has to argue his case in traffic court is Sept. 1

He and his wife leave for New Zealand next week. And the way they're feeling, they won't be back. Even though, when I visited them Sunday at the friend's home in Riverview, Arlene talked about still loving Winnipeg and how she keeps up on happenings by reading the Free Press online. The problem both Dave and Arlene have is what they consider to be the overwrought aggressiveness of the police officer who pulled them over for nothing more than hucking husks on the highway. They're more accustomed to the police in New Zealand, who don't carry firearms on their hip and, as a result, tend to approach a situation using their verbal skills to be charming in a disarming way.

Of course, in this case, we don't have the Winnipeg police officer's side of the story. Although, when I spoke with Dave and Arlene, they added some details missing from the email that helps explain why the cop might have got worked up.

I wondered how the officer could have seen something as small as a sunflower seed husk flying out of the top of the Jeep. Did it happen to hit his windshield?

"He said they bounced off his windshield," Dave said.

Well, I suggested, one might imagine how a police officer could have taken that kind of in-his-face littering in a personal way.

But, as if that wasn't enough of an insult, there was more where that came from.

After the officer had explained that the stop was for littering, Dave spit more Spitz right out his open window and onto the road near the cop.

Well, traffic court judges for a day, what do you think?

Guilty? Or not guilty?

As for how Dave is going to handle it, he has the traffic court email, and he could just settle it by credit card. Instead he's vowing to communicate via snail mail when he gets back to New Zealand.

You know, drag it out until it dies.

"I wanted to resolve this thing," he said as we parted Sunday. "The police wouldn't help. The courts wouldn't help. Screw it."

So, if I may sum up the case for the court, think of it this way.

Now, you honorary traffic court judges know how the cop felt.

When he was "Spitzed" in the face.