Fighting a Speeding Ticket in California
Almost everyone has gotten or knows someone who has gotten a speeding ticket. Many people decide just to pay it and be done. Others opt for paying the fine and attending traffic school in order for no points to be taken off their license and to avoid their insurance carrier from finding out. Very few people decide to actually argue the ticket itself. I have recently had to do a lot of research on this particular situation for a client and know a number individuals who are equally interested in the topic, so I thought I would share my findings in hopes that it will benefit you and everyone else in the future.
There are tactical strategies for proceeding with arguing a ticket. No one method is guaranteed, but all methods have their advantages .
First of all, make sure to appear on or before the date listed on the traffic ticket. You can usually go to the clerk of the court and state that you will be contesting the ticket at which point they will ask if you want to contest it by a trial by declaration or a trial by judge. Often times you will need to pay the bail amount listed on the ticket up front. This varies by jurisdiction, but the clerk will inform you if money is due at that time.
If you decide to contest the ticket through a trial by declaration, you are given the opportunity to write into the judge and argue your side of the case. The citing officer then has 30 days in which to respond with their supporting facts as to how and why you got the ticket. If the officer fails to respond to the judge, your ticket will be dismissed. If the officer does respond and the judge finds you guilty, you can still request a trial de novo and have your day in court.
If you contest the ticket through a trial by judge, it may be good to hire an attorney if this ticket could really affect you or increase your insurance rates. Your attorneey can show up to court early and see if they can either talk to the police officer that cited you or the prosecutor, if one is there, and ask them to stipulate to a lesser charge, one that may involve no points on the license and may have a reduced fine. If the officer agreea, when it your case is called, the attorney will tell the judge that the officer or prosecutor stipulated to a new charge, and will state the particular code the charge is listed under so the judge has it on record. At this point your case would be over. If the officer or the prosecutor will not stipulate to a lesser charge your case will proceed as planned.
When the judge asks for your plea, you (or your attorney if you are representedby one) should ask the judge if the court is offering traffic school. If the judge says yes, you should say, "Thank you your honor, I will reserve that right per rule of court 4.104(c)(3) and plead not guilty." Always make sure that the code section you are stating is up to date and hasnot changed. At this point, the citing officer will testify as to what happened the date the ticket was issued. Many officers are very knowledgeable about what they need to say in order to validate their testimony. If they fail to state that they were on duty, in full uniform, in a marked patrol car when they issued the ticket, or they fail to state how they identified you as the driver of the vehicle, or fail to establish jurisdiction or state the elements for a prima facie case for the section of the vehicle code you were cited under, when it is your turn to cross-examine the officer, you will tell the judge you would like to make an 1118 motion and point out the missing element. In some cases, judges will let the officers go back and fix their statements, but in other instances, this could be enough to get your case dismissed.
If the officer did a perfect job laying the foundation, then you have the opportunity to cross examine the officer on any points the officer brought up during the initial testimony. After examination of the officer is complete, you have the right to call any witnesses you may have. In traffic court, the person who was issued the ticket has a right not to personally testify. This can be an advantage or a disadvantage. Based on the surrounding circumstances and the credibility of the individual, this will be your judgment call. Remember that anyone you call as a witness, including yourself, can be cross-examined by the prosecutor. If no prosecutor is present and the police officer tries to ask questions, you should object and remind the judge that the officer is only a witness and is not allowed to cross examine.
After everyone has been examined there will be time for closing statements. At this point you will want to point out any weaknesses in the case and reiterate any strengths. The judge will then make a ruling, hopefully in your favor.
There are many other things that should be considered when deciding to argue your traffic ticket in court, but this is some general information that may prove useful. You may want to consider hiring an attorney to help you mitigateyour ticket as much as possible, but an attorney is not always needed.
Remember the best way to avoid getting a ticket is to not break the law in the first place.