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Can I invoke my Fifth Amendment rights in Traffic Court in Lake County, Florida?

Lady Lake, FL |

I was involved in an accident for which I received a Careless Driving charge. I was advised by the officer to contest the ticket; as it is only $166, it doesn't seem worth it to contract an attorney.

As there was no witnesses (other than myself), I'm wondering if I am able to invoke the Fifth? Can I be forced to testify against myself?

Attorney Answers 6

Posted

The burden of proving that you are guilty is on the State. If there are no witnesses the State will likely be unable to prove its case against you.

You have an absolute right to refuse to testify against yourself in this case and cannot be forced to.

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Posted

If you were involved in an accident, but there are no other witnesses than you, then it is difficult to understand how you got a ticket in the first place. The gut feeling is that if this was a one-car accident, then the police officer gave you a "careless driver" summons because (a) he/she was a witness and/or (b)most, if not almost all, one car accidents are due to the negligence of the operator. Having said that, you are not compelled to testify against yourself. Since the police officer would have to take the stand and testify against you, you have the opportunity to hear what the evidence against you is, before you decide whether to testify. But, beware, if this is a one car accident, and the only explanation offered (ie- condition at the scene where the car left the road but no other factor appears to be visible) leads to a conclusion that the driver lost control for no apparent reason, and you do not testify, you can expect to be (a) found guilty and have to pay a fine, and (b) get points on your license - assuming you do not give an explanation.

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Posted

Even though it is a traffic ticket, traffic courts abide by the same rules of procedure and afford everyone the same Constitutional Rights as in criminal courts. You have an absolute right to not say anything in court. You may not be forced to testify against yourself and you are not required to make any statement in your defense. The judge is not allowed to consider your silence in his decision.

The problem you are likely to run into is that you more than likely told the officer what happened. As an exception to the hearsay rule of evidence, he can now tell the judge everything that you told him. That, plus the fact that he saw a wrecked automobile, will probably satisfy the judge.

Contact a traffic defense lawyer in your area if you have any questions.

By responding to questions on AVVO does not establish an attorney-client relationship between the questioner and Garrett Law Group, PLC. Responses should be considered and used for informational purposes only. Every case is unique in its facts, and all legal matters should be discussed with a licensed attorney prior to making any decisions or taking any actions.

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Albert Lee Crosner

Albert Lee Crosner

Posted

Attorney Garrett has provided you with some very valuable things to consider. You should really contact a traffic defense lawyer in your local area.

Posted

Spend a couple hundred bucks for a local traffic court lawyer, and it will likely be worth every penny

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Posted

First, you will have to testify if you want to present evidence on your behalf. You cannot simply stand mute if you are the only witness. However, if you have a pending criminal case, then anything you say under oath can be used against you in that criminal case. Without knowing more, no attorney can give you proper advice in this case.

Second, the officer may not show up for court, and the judge could dismiss the case, but that happens far less often than people think.

Third, you could plead no contest and ask the court to withhold adjudication and points in return for paying court costs and attending driver improvement school. That is quite common, but your driving history may not allow it.

Fourth , you can contest the ticket and present evidence that mitigates or absolves you of the alleged violation. If you lose, though, you could face an even higher penalty.

Fifth, you can hire an attorney. I handle such cases in Lake County for $99. Many other attorneys have comparable rates.

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Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Christopher Robert Dillingham II

Posted

You can, of course, decline to answer any questions based upon your right against self-incrimination, but if you have no one to present evidence other than yourself, then all you can do is cross-examine any witnesses, and in most cases, that's only the officer who wrote you the ticket. If you want to testify to present your side of the story, then anything you say can be used against you.

Posted

You have a right to remain silent. You have a right to cross-examine any witnesses against you.

Legal Disclaimer:

If this information has been helpful, please indicate below.

Mr. Lundeen is licensed to practice law in Florida and Vermont. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that, if known, could significantly change the reply and make it unsuitable. Mr. Lundeen strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in your state in order to ensure proper advice is received.

This ans. does not create an attorney/client relationship.

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