You may think fighting your traffic ticket seems like a waste. You may feel “a cop says I was speeding, and it’s going to be her word against mine,” so why bother?
Wrong. Fighting a traffic ticket is always a good choice because you have the chance to have your fine dismissed and to prevent any points from being added to your record from the ticket. There is no additional penalty for contesting a ticket.
If you decide to fight your ticket in court, there are several ways to increase your chance at winning your case. Here are five tips that you should keep in mind when fighting your ticket.
Trial By Declaration
Suppose you are ticketed for running a stop sign. With minor traffic violations like this, you can request a Trial by Declaration in which you submit a written declaration on a form to the court. On this form, you will plead not guilty to the traffic offense, and explain the facts that you believe show you are not guilty.
When drafting your declaration, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced traffic attorney. You will be signing the form under penalty of perjury, so you cannot lie in your declaration. However, that does not mean you are required to admit that you are guilty. Your attorney can help you draft a statement that does not lie, but does not admit guilt.
The officer who gave you the ticket will be asked to submit his or her own statement about your offense. Based on a comparison of the two statements, the court may dismiss your violation or find you guilty. The good news is that California law allows you a second trial if you are found guilty. So, the trial by declaration is a good choice because it costs you no additional fines and it allows you two chances to beat your ticket.
In every court case, there are two ways to lose: not to show up or to show up late. Courts have a lot of cases to work through each day, and judges want to get through them as efficiently as possible.
Remember that a traffic ticket is a promise on your part to appear in court on a specific date. If you break this promise by not showing up, the judge can issue a warrant for your arrest for failing to appear, which can result in additional fines and a hold on your license. The court can also decide to try your traffic case without you. If you cannot appear, you should speak to an attorney about appearing for you.
Perhaps a construction crew that was working on the sidewalk obstructed your view of the stop sign. Maybe a vandal had stolen the stop sign and it was not there when the officer stopped you. These would be facts that explain why you rolled through the stop, and you are allowed to bring evidence of these facts to the court’s attention.
If you can, go back to the scene of your violation and take photographs that show these factors exist. Continue reading →