TABLE OF CONTENTS
AVOIDING THE TICKET 5
Loud/Exotic Equipment 6
Your Driving Ability At The Time 7
"I'VE BEEN STOPPED - WHAT DO I DO NOW?" 8
WHAT FORM OF DEFENSE DO I TAKE? 12
How Do I Start To Fight This Ticket? 12
Preparing Your Defense: Gathering Your Data 14
Sample Questions and Motions and Objections 16
Motions To Research 17
Objections To Research 17
Other Forms Of Evidence 18
Preparing Your Defense 18
THE COURT DATE 19
Who's Who In The Court Room 19
So you got a traffic ticket! Well, you can join the elite group of more than 34 million people who receive a ticket each year from a police officer.
With the vast variety of law enforcement officials who can give out these papers of doom, it is understandable that you to could get caught up in a simple oversight or mistake. But the question you probably want to ask now is what could you have done to prevent this from happening in the first place and what can you do now to get out of this mess!
Understand that this book is intended to help you to avoid a ticket to begin with and assist you in "beating the rap" as they say. Studies have shown that most traffic infractions are successfully prosecuted but what they donít tell you is that as many as 95% of all citations are not even contested in court and that when they are contested by people just like you and me, most are dismissed. In those cases that are not dismissed,
the court often takes consideration of your driving record, i.e. this being your first ticket or the offense being trivial in nature to begin with. In some cases the court plea bargains to reduce the fine or make you pay a fine but not make the ticket part of your permanent record. This keeps your insurance company from finding out about the ticket and raising
your rates. Some states may have different terminology or the procedures may vary slightly but most states have now reduced the majority of moving violations to civil infractions carrying fines starting from $50.00 and some states still consider some violations as criminal and the fines may vary from state to state.
The fine itself may seem small compared to the overwhelming perception of the burden of going to court and facing the officer, the prosecutor and the judge, but the original fine is not the only money that will come out of your pocket. The time and effort you spend to defend this ticket may save you higher insurance premiums down the road. Many states already have programs built in just for this, where as you can attend a drivers improvement school to prevent the ticket or points from showing up on your record. The fines paid to the states, counties, or municipalities are for the violation itself should you pay them or be found guilty in court. The increase in your insurance premiums is only a response by private industry
and not part of any fine by the government. This may not make you feel any better, but should give you more of a reason to pursue the issue through the courts. Many people are mistaken that if they go to court and are not successful, that they will be fined some exorbitant amount of money for the attempt. This is not true and most states have no court costs above the original traffic ticket itself. We also need to remember that just by contesting a citation, it does not assure you of winning your case. You need to be prepared for court. We will cover that matter later in Chapter 4.
The main thing to remember is that the moment you choose to fight or contest this ticket the successful outcome is greatly increased by your being prepared and following a few simple rules.
Many ideas in this book are past proven methods to prevent a ticket from happening, but as we all know technology has jumped light years ahead in the area of speed detection and you need to stay paced with the latest equipment to assist you from getting a ticket. In the chapters to follow we will take you from prevention to prosecution and include the latest technology available on both sides of the issue for you and the
officer. This book will assist you in how to prepare for court should prevention not be successful, what to say, what not to say and how not to become someone who has contributed to the millions of dollars paid to each state in traffic fines. This book is not legal advice but simply tactics and information to help prevent you from being stopped and issued a ticket, and court strategies should you receive a ticket. A police officer frequently states " just doing my job". Now lets do ours.
Avoiding The Ticket
Everyone would like to know just how to prevent from being stopped in the first place and you can do certain things to make yourself less of a target. There are many different areas where you can lessen your chances of getting the officers attention, and lets face it, you do not want the attention of a person who has the potential of writing you a ticket that could cost you as much as two tickets to a Broadway play or more. So what can you do? The obvious is to slow down! However, there are other contributing factors that may cause you a traffic ticket.
Lets break it down into several categories: Vehicles, Loud Equipment, Conditions and Your Driving Ability at the Time of the Ticket.
Its a known fact that bright colors draw the attention of most people and lighter colors tend to blend in with the surroundings. If you should be one who likes a flashy color, you have to understand that if you are driving down the road alongside a lighter colored car speeding side by side he just may choose to stop you rather than the other car.
To get the officers attention only for a moment is all that is needed if you are doing something just a little above the law at the time.
If you like to have a car that sounds really cool, (which is often loud and in violation of most exhaust statutes) you may have to pay the price when you push those RPM's just a little too far. Glass packs, (straight exhaust pipes) are going to be heard from great distances and you will stick out more so that a person with stock equipment. This goes for cars, trucks and motorcycles. If you are one who likes fancy lights on and under your vehicle you donít need to be driving outside the law because someone with his own set of blue lights will see you and turn his on right behind you. Offensive writings and bumper stickers on your vehicle will get attention you would rather not have; lets not give him a reason to stop you before you do something wrong.
The officer can find a justifiable reason to stop you if he really tries. You need to make sure that any equipment you place on your vehicle is permitted by your state Department of Motor Vehicles. Those states which still have vehicle inspections can answer questions pertaining to equipment.
Your Driving Ability At The Time:
At the time of the alleged offense were there any physical or mental diversions at the time preventing you from driving within the law? Fatigue is a common example and unfortunately carries little sympathy with the courts or any officer who stops you. You can explain to an officer who stops you for a violation that you are just a little tired and he may or may not give this some consideration but I would not count on it.
Taking medication is another form of physical condition but I would hesitate to tell this to an officer unless I had that medication with me show him it was not a narcotic or one which could be having adverse affects on my driving. If you have nothing to show him, you may find your self out on the side of the road doing a field sobriety test.
I've Been Stopped - What Do I Do Now?
Hard as you may try, sometimes you just cannot avoid those flashing blue lights. The only thing you can do now is to remain calm, observant and respectful to the officer walking up to your car. This is when you first begin to prepare your defense.
First and above all, pull your car over safely in an area that is not blocking traffic. Don't worry, the officer will stay behind you! If pulling off on to the shoulder of the road, make sure the officer can safely get out of his car behind you.
Do absolutely nothing to bring additional attention to yourself. The next time you see this officer will be in a court of law, and you want him/her to have a hard time recalling you.
After you have stopped your car, turn off the engine and roll down the drivers window. You should remain in your seat belt, and place your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them. If you were not wearing your seat belt, don't bother trying to put it on now. Remember, he/she does not know you and must take caution when approaching your vehicle. If it is between dusk and dawn, turn on your dome light so he/she can quickly observe you and others in your car.
Even though you may be quite anxious at this time, try to remain as calm as possible. Take a deep breath. Keep your temper in check.
When the officer approaches your door, be respectful and ask the officer what you have been stopped for. At this time, he should tell you exactly; if you were speeding, running a red light, improper lane change, etc. If he stopped you for speeding, he most likely will ask you if you knew how fast you were going when he turned on his blue lights. Your choices
here might be to tell him, "No officer, I don't recall", or "I thought it was the speed limit", or "The speed limit, I'm sure. I checked my speedometer right about the time you stopped me. You don't want to say something faster than he clocked you for. You might as well write your own ticket! Remember, you have the right to remain silent, but he most likely won't tell you that. Don't offer more than you need to.
When he asks you for your license, insurance and car registration, tell him where they are located before you reach for them. Should you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon, let him know and tell him where it is. Should it be in the glove box with the registration, don't open it until you have explained the situation to the officer. Then proceed with his full attention. Close the glove box back so your weapon is not easily accessible. You may have to show your permit to ease his mind. Do not hesitate to do so.
Sometimes an officer may request that you allow to have your vehicle searched. Does he have a legitimate excuse? Probably not. You however, have the right to ask him why he would want to search your vehicle. Should you consent to a vehicle search without a search warrant, even though you have nothing to hide? ABSOLUTELY NOT.
If the officer suspects alcohol or drugs, he can search your car without your consent. He can also inspect your car for obvious violations. Should you disagree with him, you will have to take it up in court.
Once the officer has told you why you were stopped, you should observe his demeanor and actions to see where this is leading. If he seems a little bothered by the stop, he probably feels he doesn't have sufficient evidence to back up the stop. He may only issue a warning. If he has a superior attitude, he most likely will issue a ticket. If he has already started writing the citation, don't bother defending yourself at this time. It's too late. You will get your day in court. If anyone is in the car with you, make sure they remain completely quite.
While he is busy preparing your ticket, you should be busy preparing your trial. Make note on the following if possible. Mental notes will work until you can get to pen and paper should you find yourself without any:
Once the officer has completed the ticket, he should ask you to look it over for errors and then sign it. He should make you aware that by signing it, you are not accepting fault, but are merely acknowledging receipt of the ticket. You have the right to request that your court appearance be moved to your county seat, if possible. If he is unable or unwilling to do so, ask him to please note it on the ticket before signing. If he refuses to note it on the ticket, don't make a scene. Sign the ticket and add this to your notes.
Once you have signed the ticket, you may request to see the read out on the radar unit he has used. In some circumstances, you may be able to do so, safety providing. Don't ask specific questions regarding the technical side of a radar gun. Make only mental notes of what you saw. Don't do anything to bring attention to yourself.
Once the officer has issued the ticket, he may remain in his vehicle for several minutes completing his report. You can do the same, but if you decide to pull away before him, be sure to do so in a safe manner.
What Form of Defense Do I Take?
Now you must decide how you want to fight this citation. You have several options available to you. You can always choose to pay the ticket and be done with it. Or you can decide to win this fight!
Some things to keep in mind when making this decision are:
Was I doing excessive speed?
If you answer no to any of the questions, then you should consider fighting this ticket! If you truly feel you deserved the ticket, then you must deal with the consequences of such. You may even want to consider going to driving school and paying the fine in trade for a clear conscious.
How Do I Start To Fight This Ticket?
The first thing you will want to do is to plead Not Guilty. This does not mean exactly what it sounds like. All it means is that you are now making the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty.
You may not need the use of a Lawyer unless there are other circumstances surrounding the citation. Were you accused of drinking? Was anything illegal found in your car? If not, you probably can win this on your own and save attorney fees. After all, you have all the information from the ticket, and the memory of that awful experience as your defense!
The first item on the agenda is to make sure your driving record is in impeccable order. If you have a parking ticket, take care of it. Make sure your tag and registration is up to date. If you have any previous tickets, get a printout of your points and what they were for. Review the ticket for accuracy. Was the correct statute used? If not, you may have grounds for "motion to dismiss".
The second item will be to arrange for a court date. To do this you must enter your plea of Not Guilty to the court. You can do this in person to the Clerk of the Court, the Judge himself or mail a copy of the citation with a formal request for a trial date. Contact your local authorities to see what is the best method for you. You may be requested to actually pay the fine at this time. If you lose the trial, you will have already paid the fine and are done with it. You cannot be charged additional fees because you challenged the ticket. Should you not be able to attend the trial for any reason, you do not want to be charged with a Failure to Appear for wasting the courts time.
Your trial will be within the next 45 days if you request a Speedy Trial. You don't have to have a Speedy Trial if feel it would be at a busy time for you and would make getting off work difficult, leaving early from a vacation or anything that could keep you from making your court date. Also, the longer you wait, the less the officer will remember about you and the ticket. However, some people just want to get this over with before they lose their desire to fight. Weigh all the factors before making a decision.
Should you elect to have a Speedy Trial and the courts respond that the officer will be off work that day, or possibly on vacation and would like to reschedule, you should say no and refuse to waive your rights to a Speedy Trial. If they proceed to reschedule, then you may now have grounds for a mistrial.
Do your homework. Go to your local library or law library (most court houses have one and are open to the public) and research your state statutes regarding speeding tickets and your rights to a Speedy Trial. Your time is as important as an officers days off or vacation time. If the judge finds that the prosecutor had reasonable cause to continue your case, then go with it. Do not do anything to make the judge angry. You can always appeal if you lose, and it will almost always be overturned.
Preparing Your Defense:
Gathering Your Data
You have the right to subpoena documents used in issuing this citation or witnesses that will be beneficial to you. (Do not subpoena the officer or any officer who assisted in the ticket.) You can do this through a Public Records Request Form. See your Clerk of the Court for details.
When requesting a subpoena for documents, make sure that you include records involving the radar gun (if one was used). Ask for all logs referring to calibrations, FCC License use (who at that department was trained and certified to use it), any repairs, problems or specifications pertaining to that radar gun, including the tuning fork.
Ask for records concerning the officer issuing the ticket. Request information regarding his formal training and certification in using the radar gun, how many tickets were issued that day and for the previous 20 work days, specifics on the patrol car or motorcycle that he used to make this traffic stop. This is very important if he did not use a radar gun, but clocked your speed on his speedometer. The prosecution can request that your request be denied with "motion to protect" which could keep you from accessing these documents. Should this happen, you need to document it carefully and when your court dates comes up, ask for a "motion to dismiss". If this does not work, ask the judge why you are being denied pertinent information to help substantiate your case. He may decide to grant your request at this time and you can file for a "motion for continuance" so you can now prepare your case.
Once you have all the documents in hand, you will need to review every piece of evidence available. Did the radar gun's records show excessive repairs? If so, it could have problems of accuracy. If no records are found, it could show that the unit was under duress and in need of maintenance. The manufacturers manuals will detail how often routine maintenance is needed.
Radar calibration is used to check the unit for accuracy. It must be logged in and recorded each time it is checked and should also be certified each time. Some experts will say that to be completely accurate, a radar gun must be calibrated immediately before and immediately after a ticket is written with a tuning fork. Has this been done? Has the department met all the specifications of the FCC License that allows them to use the radar gun?
On the issue of the officer's records, you will want to look for excessive tickets issued, a certain area used, was the same gun used several times that day before you got your ticket? If so, you could prove that the gun was under duress from excessive use. Was the other tickets that day issued for approximately the same speed? Maybe the unit was malfunctioning. How many hours did the officer train before being allowed to use the radar gun? There are standards set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. You should check with your local area to see if training requirements meet these standards. The standard is 24 hours of classroom instruction with an additional 16 hours of field training through a qualified supervisor.
Should your stop have resulted from a patrol car speedometer or the officers estimated guess system, you will need to have records detailing the maintenance on the patrol car. If using the guessing system, most officers are trained to judge an oncoming vehicle within 3 miles per hour of their speed. Others may use their speedometer to pace the car going the same direction. If so, records are very important to describe the stress on the vehicle and the officer.
Now that you have gathered this information, you will need to create a list of questions for the officer to be answered in court. Start with the most important. Some sample questions are listed in the next few pages.
Sample Questions and
Motions and Objections
The questions listed below are only some samples of area's you may want to elaborate on. You should research your local state Statutes for state specific laws. The motions and objections listed below can and should be researched through your local library, law library or the Internet and should be written with your pertinent information with regard to state law. Remember to not venture too far off the subject at hand - your ticket - and to conduct yourself in a professional manner.
These questions would be directed to the officer issuing the ticket:
How long have you been a police officer?
Other Forms Of Evidence
It's always a good idea to return to the scene of the citation. Look for details you might have forgotten to mention in your immediate notes. Check to see how well speed limit signs are marked and how far apart they are. If possible, draw a diagram of the area, including all traffic lights, signs, road markings, buildings, everything possible. Don't leave out trees in the median or on the sidewalks, benches, even bus stops. If signs are blocked from a drivers path, take pictures detailing this. Make them and your diagram large enough that the judge can easily see your point. If they will not help your case, don't use them. You don't want to help the prosecutor win the case against you.
Preparing Your Defense
You are now at the point of preparing your defense. Was the ticket issued under the correct state statute? If not, ask for a "motion to dismiss". It may not work, but will make the officer look like he does not know his statutes very well. Was the radar gun or car calibrated as specified in the manuals?
Be prepared to use any and all of this information in court. Be thorough and precise in your documentation. Make a list of the most important information for quick reference. You don't want to be nervous in court and forget something important.
If you have time, visit the courtroom you are assigned to and observe the judge and his characteristics. Get a feel for how he handles similar situations, make note of something that agitates him, and prepare your case and questions so as not to upset the judge. Familiarize yourself with the surroundings so you will feel comfortable. If you feel you cannot communicate well with this judge, see how difficult it would be to be reassigned to a different judge.
The Court Date
When your time finally comes, you will feel completely prepared to fight this battle against professionals. Don't let the courtroom overwhelm and intimidate you.
You are ready for battle! While the prosecutor may be more familiar with these situations, you have the benefit of actually being present at the stop and memory recall.
Use it to your advantage.
Make sure that you are dressed to make a good impression. This means tasteful clothing; nothing flashy or inappropriate. The first impression you make will be before you ever get to say anything.
Who's Who In The Court Room
Understand who everyone is, and what term may be used to refer to them. You will be known as the Defendant. The Prosecutor will be the lawyer defending the state and the officer. The Police Officer is of course the one who issued the ticket. The Bailiff is a uniformed officer of the court who will call each case and keep order. The Clerk of the Court is the judge's assistant. Any others will be the Witnesses for either the defense (your witnesses) or the prosecution (additional police officers who were present if necessary).
There may be several to many trials going on that day, and you will have to wait your turn. It could take all day! Be patient. Get there early and let them know when you arrive, that you would like to be placed as early as possible on the docket for your scheduled time.
Once it is your case's turn, you will be sworn in by the Clerk of the Court to tell the truth. The prosecution will be allowed to go first to present their case. (Remember to always refer to the judge as Your Honor. He/she is not someone you want to start off on the wrong foot with by making a simple mistake in showing respect). Should the officer not appear in court at this time, the judge can give reasonable time for him to appear or throw the case out. The prosecution will be allowed to give their opening statement first to present their case. Then you may proceed to give your opening statement. Take notes of what they plan to prove and how, and compare it to your notes. You may have to do some rearranging at this time.
Next, you will be allowed to make your opening statement and state how you plan to defend yourself. Give only the basics, and keep it simple and short. You may elect not to give an opening statement. You might choose this option if you don't want to give the prosecutor any idea what your defense is going to be, so he can dispute it before you have a chance to defend yourself.
Once opening statements are completed, the prosecution will call his/her first witness, the officer issuing the citation. He will ask him for details of the event. Remember, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove you are guilty. If the officer must read from his notes, you should object and request that the officer testify from 'independent recall'. You can also ask to see what the officer is reading from even if it is only the citation itself. If the officer cannot testify without the use of notes, then he should be considered incompetent to testify. If the judge allows him to use the citation or notes to continue, make sure he refers only to the specifics on the notes. Any abbreviations should be abbreviated in court. He must read it exactly as written.
If you feel a question is completely irrelevant to the ticket, you may object and you certainly should if the situation warrants so. But beware, if you object too many times without due cause, the judge will just become annoyed with you.
Now you will have a chance to cross examine the witness. This is where your list of questions will be utilized. Ask each one precisely and with surety. Example: "Officer Smith, on the day this ticket was issued, do you recall what the traffic pattern was ten minutes before and after this stop?". Go through each of your questions and ask the officer to be very specific with his answer. Chances are, he will not remember very much about minor details concerning this stop when he has stopped many others since then. Your job is to make him lose creditability with the court. Make him appear to not remember very much about this entire situation.
When you are through cross examining him, the prosecutor will have a chance to once again question him. He may then request any physical evidence they have, such as a diagram, photos, the citation itself or a police report if one was written. During this time, the officer may give a narrative, or brief statement in his own words of what happened and why he issued the ticket. The prosecution will most likely rest his case at this point, unless other witnesses are necessary. If so, the same procedure will follow.
Once the prosecution has rested his case, you can make a Motion to Dismiss by Defense if you feel you have sufficient evidence to do so. Otherwise, you will now present your side.
You will be offered the same respect and courtesies the prosecution, and may now state your side of the story if you so chose. You do not have to testify. If you do, the prosecution will have the opportunity to object to your testimony just as you had when the officer was testifying. The prosecution will now have the chance to question you directly concerning the citation. Otherwise, you now present your evidence (diagrams, photos, reports etc.) which will now be recorded as Exhibits (A, B, C, etc.). You should give detailed statements concerning why you feel these are pertinent to your case. You may want to rest your case now with a closing argument reiterating your innocence.
Note, the prosecution can once again call for witnesses to clarify any statements.
Once both parties have rested their case, it is now in the hands of the judge. The judge may take a few minutes to review his notes or may respond immediately.
You are looking for a verdict of Not Guilty. If this is the case, congratulations. Drive carefully and celebrate your win!
If however, the verdict is Guilty, then know you have done your very best to defend yourself. Should you decide to appeal this to a higher court, you will need to hire a lawyer and be prepared to pay a fee regardless of the outcome. This could be a very expensive endeavor and you should think very seriously about whether or not to appeal.
Finally, take a good look at your driving habits. Do you tend to be a little heavy footed? Are you always in a hurry? If so, consider slowing down. It not only will save you the time and aggravation of defending another speeding ticket, it just may save someones life.
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