If you have been cited with a traffic violation, it may be possible for you to fight the ticket, and possibly fight it successfully. It may largely depend on what the ticket is for; if you were speeding in a “presumed speed limit” area, or you were avoiding an accident by making an illegal turn, you may have a sound defense to bring to court. The following defense strategies are sometimes successful, depending on the situation:
- Challenging the Officer’s Observations: If you have witness statements, photos of the area, and diagrams of where your car was in relation to the officer’s, your case will be stronger.
- Mistake of Fact Conduct: If you can show the judge that you made an honest mistake, she may dismiss it. For instance, if a stop sign was obstructed from view or if it had been stolen, your failure to stop ticket would likely be thrown out.
- Legally Justified Conduct: Showing that you were justified to slow down in the left lane before turning would be legally justified conduct.
- Conduct to Avoid Harm: The court may dismiss your ticket if you can show that your actions were a direct result of avoiding harm to yourself or others. An example would be swerving across yellow lines to avoid hitting someone.
Though these strategies are common defenses, it may still be difficult to have your ticket dismissed. An attorney who is experienced in traffic court may prove to be quite beneficial.
How Can I Decide Whether to Challenge a Ticket?
If you are undecided on whether to challenge a ticket, you may wish to consult a lawyer. It is important to find out exactly what it is that you are being charged with, and refer to the law. It may come as a surprise that police officers will sometimes write tickets for violations that are not actually violations. The officer may not be up-to-date on the law, or just didn’t realize that the citation he wrote was not an application of the law.
Either way, the first step should be to check to see whether the law applies to your situation. If the ticket/citation does not apply, then it is clear that you will want to challenge the ticket.
How Can I Better Understand What I am Charged With?
The internet has a wealth of information on state laws, and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in your jurisdiction should have traffic laws on their website. DMV resources break down the traffic law into parts so that you have a better understanding of where your case may stand.
But typically traffic tickets are only infractions with some of them misdemeanors. But ultimately they all have a similar basis of law. The basic concepts are whether the ticket was given while you were driving or while the car was parked. From there, it is easy to break down the elements that make up each traffic ticket.
How Do Judges Treat Traffic Laws?
Judges treat traffic laws as they treat any other law, meaning the law is the golden standard. Judges and attorneys interpret the law in a technical manner, word-for-word as it is written. This means that the judge and will uphold the traffic statute, by sticking to its interpretation.
The judge is legally obligated to listen to both sides in court. If you have solid evidence pointing in your direction, it is possible for you to win in court. While you may have a chance to argue your case, traffic court judges have heard it all and will rarely be moved to change their view. Ultimately, the only thing to change their viewpoint will be if the law did not apply to your situation.
What Other Types of Questions Should I Ask Myself About the Case?
Other questions you may want to consider and are closely related to the above defense strategies include:
- Did the officer stop the right car? It may be likely that the officer pulled you over in heavy traffic after mistaking you for another motorist;
- Was there an error in the officer’s methodology? Did the officer use laser, radar, or LIDAR to determine your speed? You may be able to introduce calibration records into evidence; or
- Was the ticket someone else’s fault, or was it caused by a freak act of nature? Defects in highway signs or traffic signals are also reasons a judge may look more favorably on your case.
What Happens If the Officer Doesn’t Show Up?
If the officer fails to appear in court, you will more than likely win your case. Many drivers can have their citations thrown out when the citing officer doesn’t show up in court. This is due to the fact the person able to give evidence about why you were cited is not available. If you want to contest the ticket, then the it’s your word against… no one else.
However, the judge has the right to continue with the citation. They typically will dismiss the citation, but it’s important not to bet on this and be prepared to explain to the judge why you believe the citation should be dismissed.
Do I Need a Lawyer?
If you have a traffic citation and are considering challenging it in court, consulting a criminal lawyer can be indispensable. Traffic tickets can be expensive and they may even raise your insurance rates or affect points on your license. An experienced lawyer will be able to explain your rights, help build your case, and represent your best interests in court.