- Postponing the court date can significantly increase the odds that the officer will not be present during the trial.
- Never go with the date on your ticket. That’s usually a “gang date” for the officer, where the officer has scheduled all of his or her court dates at once. If you schedule for an extension that falls on a different day, chances are they aren’t going to come in on their day off just for you.
- Try to choose a court date that is closer to the holidays or summer vacation days – this might increase the odds of your officer being out on vacation.
Camera Tickets and Hearsay People often think that there’s little they can do with a camera based ticket, but they’re amazingly easy to beat. Here are some tips:
- Courthouses will rarely go through the trouble of bringing the video or picture to court, usually resulting in an automatic dismissal of the ticket.
- Even if they do, there is no human subject to question other than the officer who viewed the tape. The second the officer opens his mouth, you just object “hearsay”. Hearsay is the equivalent of “so and so told me”, which courts consider unreliable evidence. After all, the officer didn’t actually see you do anything, rather the officer is relying on the observations of someone/something else. As a result, the officer can’t testify as to what you did wrong and obviously neither can the camera. It takes courage to do this, but it can work.
Trial by Declaration In many states, you are entitled to a trial by mail. You submit your claim as to why you are innocent in a letter, and the officer must do the same. While officers will often show up for court because it is an overtime opportunity, trial by mail is pure paperwork, and they will often not bother to submit their side of the story. When this happens, you win by default. Should you lose by mail, you have lost nothing: you can still request an in-person trial, request traffic school, or pay your fine. The Sixth Amendment Requires a Speedy and Public Trial The sixth amendment guarantees you a speedy and public trial, and this can be an easy basis to avoid a ticket. For example, in California, a speedy trial is defined as 45 days from the time of the infraction. In many jurisdictions you must go to the courthouse in person to get a court date. Among those legal documents you are asked to sign, will be one in which you waive your right to a speedy trial. Do not sign this document. You cannot be legally forced to waive this right. What this means is that if the court system cannot fit you in, within those 45 days, (times for your state may vary) then your case must be dismissed. Tickets Based on Radar Guns Most radar guns need to be recalibrated every 30-60 days, and due to ignorance, lack of funding, or laziness, they rarely are. One solid argument for your case is to prove that the measurement device is faulty. In some states the officer must check the calibration after issuing the ticket – usually by using two tuning forks held in front of the radar, which vibrate at the frequencies for 35 mph and 55 mph. Verify whether this was done and documented. Check Your Ticket for Errors While courts will often excuse minor errors on a ticket ? a misspelled name or whether your car color is maroon or dark red ? if the officer cites the wrong law on the ticket, or grossly misidentifies the highway or your make of car, you may to get your ticket dismissed. Defenses That Don’t Work The following is a short list of common defenses people often make when fighting traffic tickets that just don’t work:
- You claim ignorance of the law. It doesn’t matter how honestly you misunderstood what was required, it won’t work.
- You argue that no one was hurt. The no-harm-no-foul rule doesn’t apply in court. The only exception is whether safety is part of the law itself, and you can argue that obviously you operated your vehicle safely because no one was hurt.
- You complain that the officer selected you alone out of a dozen other potential violators. Admitting that you were in fact guilty, but that there were other guilty people present doesn’t help you. You can win a “selective enforcement” defense, but it’s very hard to do and requires that you demonstrate the officer had a specific and improper motive to pick on you. For instance if you filed a report against the officer and he just happened to pull you over the next day with a dozen other violators nearby, you may win.
- You give the judge a sad story. It doesn’t work, judges hear this all day long and may doubt your honesty. At best this will slightly reduce your fine.
- You claim the officer is lying. Between you and the police officer, the judge is more likely to believe the officer. Unless you have specific proof, it won’t work.