|Court Appearance Ticket|
Every year the United States Forest Service Law Enforcement (USFS) Incident Management Team (the cops) attempts to write as many tickets to family coming home as they possibly can to justify their presence. They give out tickets for broken tail lights, failure to use a turn signal in a deserted parking lot at 2 AM, lack of seat belts, controlled substances (even just a trace amount), beads hanging from your rear view mirrors, lack of insurance, prescription medications if the label doesn't clearly have your name on it or you can't prove who you are, dogs off leash, a vehicle missing a front license plate even if you live in a state that does not issue a front license plate and a lot more violations of the letter of the law.
However, these tickets are not the type of citation you would probably receive for any of these issues in your hometown. These are mandatory court appearance tickets. There will be special court dates set up just for us, so we can go to the local courthouse, fire station or visitors center and go before a magistrate. In the past, charges have been reduced, fines were often minimal and the court has allowed people to make payment plans ranging from 90 days to pay $75 to 18 months to pay $25 depending on the hardship cases people have expressed.
If you do not show up for your mandatory court appearance on the date indicated on your ticket, a Federal Bench Warrant will be issued for your arrest. Then the USFS LEOs will come into the gathering looking for you. If they find you they will arrest you and put you in jail until the next court date. If this happens on a Friday afternoon, you will be in jail until Monday. If they do not find you at the gathering, the next time a law enforcement officer for any reason stops you, your ID will be run through the database and you will go directly to jail.
Of course, everyone is free to manage this situation as they wish but I strongly recommend you go to your court date. I have seen people charged with crimes that could potentially result in a six years sentence walk out with a $500 fine and three years’ probation. Many people end up with charges being dropped. Keep in mind that every year the dynamic is different and these results may not always be available. There are lawyers at the gathering (I am not a legal expert) who attend the court dates and will assist as best they can although I recommend you catch up with them before your court date to gain a better understanding of your specific charges and strategies to get the charges dropped or reduced. If you do not know these people personally, go to INFO and let them know you received one of the magic tickets and you need legal assistance.
Want to come home without a ticket?
Make sure your car is 100% legal, all windshield wipers, turn signals, tail lights in perfect working condition. Have a legal, licensed driver with liability insurance. Make sure all small children are securely fashioned in the right car seat for their age/weight. Click here for info on car seats. Do not use anything illegal in your car that could be smelled by a dog or law enforcement officer. Don't drive under the influence! We want your journey home to be a safe one.