The Date To Appear In Court On The Ticket Is The Date To Worry About
Many people wait until they receive a notice from the court to start action on a ticket. In most cases this is fine, but sometimes the court will accidentally not send a courtesy notice, the courtesy notice will go to the wrong address or, for some other reason, you will not get the courtesy notice. It is your responsibility to check with the court to see if your citation is in the system (http://www.sanmateocourt.org/ecal/). Usually, the court will give you a later date to appear than the officer wrote on the citation. Don't miss your due date! You will wind up with a failure to appear, additional fines and eventually your license will be suspended.
Set An Arraignment (first court date)
Once you have checked the online system and located your citation, San Mateo requires you to set a court date via the internet (http://www.sanmateocourt.org/ecal/).
You may have to first obtain an extension online for your ticket, which can be done at the website listed above. Note that if you schedule your arraignment date after the due date on the citation, you will likely receive a failure to appear!
Appear At Your Arraignment
Regardless of where in San Mateo County the officer cited you, your first court date will be in Redwood City at 500 County Center Drive. At your arraignment, you will plead not guilty and request a triall date.
At this point, you will choose to either not waive your right to trial within 45 days, or "waive time" and agree to have a trial after 45 days. There are strategic considerations related to either choice.
At this stage, an attorney may file what is called a "demurrer", which may result in the dismissal of a case. Also, an attorney may choose to disqualify or ".6" one of the 4 commissioners that may hear the case.
Request Discovery Materials or Issue A Subpoena Duces Tecum
In the interim between your arraignment and trial, besides doing any research on the law surrounding your case, you may want to request discovery or issue a subpoena duces tecum (a subpoena for certain items). Items you may want to inspect include the calibration certificate for a radar or a maintenance record for a red light camera unit. There are strategic considerations to contemplate that are too complex for this guide.
Appear At Your Trial Date
If you were cited in the Northern part of the county (Daly City, South San Francisco, etc.)
you will appear at the South San Francisco Courthouse. If you were cited in the Central part of the county (San Mateo, Burlingame, etc.), you will appear at the City of San Mateo Courthouse. If you were cited in the Southern part of the county (San Carlos, Menlo Park, etc.) you will appear at the same courthouse where you had your arraignment in Redwood City.
Trial is the time to present any evidence you have, or to discredit the officer's testimony.
If you have properly researched the law surrounding your case, you should carefully listen and take notes of the officer's testimony; if the officer misses any legal element of your case, you will raise this in "closing argument" - make sure the evidence is closed at this point so the officer does not add to or correct his testimony.
Trial is a very complicated procedure and all aspects of it cannot be covered in this guide.
If you are found not guilty or your case is dismissed, congratulations. If not, you will have to pay a fine, and depending on certain factors, may be allowed to complete traffic school (some commissioners will not allow a defendant to attend traffic school after a trial).
Be sure to pay your fine before the due date, and to complete traffic school. Failure to pay the fine will result in a failure to pay hold on your license, and additional fines will accrue.
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