I was issued a ticket at an accident and I am disputing the ticket at an informal hearing. What can I expect at this hearing? Any tips or advice would be welcome...
The ticket was "failure to stop in assured distance" if that helps at all. Thanks!
You can expect to be found responsible! Just kidding but every joke has its element of truth. At the hearing, the officer and the other driver will be present and you will plead your case in front of a magistrate. The officer was probably not there when the accident took place. The "assured clear distance" ticket means that you hit someone from behind. The law presumes you are negligent in such a case. It is not a conclusion -- just a presumption, You have to disprove it. What will you say in explanation of hitting someone from behind? There is a slim chance that the officer will offer you a reduced ticket with the other driver's consent. If you can't explain why this isn't your fault, you probably want to take any offer you get. If the other driver does not show up, you are home free.
Informal hearings are like bench trials for criminal matters. They are long, slow pleas. Just as one is virtually never found not guilty by a judge at a bench trial one is rarely ever found not responsible at an informal hearing.
The magistrate/judge will listen to what the officer says happened, saw and did. Then the magistrate/judge will listen to your version. Then the magistrate/judge will render his or her determination of whether or not you are responsible.
The type of citation you were issued is very difficult to beat. The reason being is that even if you were travelling the posted speed limit, or going slower, is not a defense. The crux of the offense is that whatever speed you were travelling was too fast, and prevented you from stopping in assured distance.
For future reference, if you intend to fight a ticket you should simply deny responsibility and demand a formal hearing. If nothing else this usually results in your having an opportunity to discuss the matter with the prosecuting official and perhaps work out some type of plea bargain.
Before the informal hearing starts you will get the opportunity to meet one on one with the police officer who wrote the ticket. At this meeting with the police officer, the police officer may or may not offer you a reduction to an offense that carries less points or have lesser fine. Remember, the fewer points the better. A lesser fine is always nice but when your insurance goes up by $1000.00 per year because you picked up a few points on your driving record, you will regret not agreeing to fewer points in exchange for a lesser offense that probably has a higher fine.
If you and the officer cannot agree on a reduced offense or if you choose not to admit responsibility then your case will proceed before a magistrate. The police officer will take the stand first and explain to the magistrate the facts and circumstances surrounding your ticket. After the police officer completes his version of the events you will get the opportunity to address the magistrate and explain why you did not commit the offense that was ticketed.
In your case, "failure to stop in an assured distance" (assuming that you were not also involved in an accident stemming from the same incident) is a pretty low offense and it is unlikely that you will have much success at an informal hearing.
If you are not satisfied with the results of the informal hearing, you get another chance and can request a formal hearing. At a formal hearing you will get a chance to meet with the City, County of State Prosecutor prior to the formal hearing and again attempt to resolve the matter amicably. If you cannot resolve your matter with the prosecutor you will then go before a Judge however this time the prosecutor will be calling witnesses and you can call you witnesses as well.
I would need to know more information about the facts surrounding your ticket but I believe that your chances of success at both an informal or formal hearing are quite low. Unless of course you get lucky and the police officer doesn't show up (don't forget to ask for a dismissal if the officer does not show up). In a smaller town like Marquette, it is unlikely that the officer would not show up.
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