Authored by Douglas Mefford in Criminal Law
Published on 06-05-2009
While the thought of representing yourself in traffic court in order to defend against a ticket might be frightening, there are ways to beat the system. Whether you were charged with speeding or some other moving violation, you can save money and protect your driving privileges. The two major secrets to success are preparation and presentation.
It is good to remember that you are supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, so the major burden of proof is with the state to prove your guilt. You must remember that your primary focus will be to cast doubt upon the evidence and try to make it seem faulty, unclear or just wrong.
You must first notify the court that you are contesting the case. You need to write the court a letter requesting copies of the police reports, any test results, witness statements, or whatever else may be useful in this matter. It is your right to be supplied with this information about the charge against you.
You should also remember that if the arresting or ticketing officer has failed to appear, it could be grounds for immediate dismissal as you are supposed to have the right to be confronted by your accuser.
Investigate the specific state Vehicle Codes or whatever local ordinance you have been charged with breaking. Know what the specific illegal activity is and compare it to your own actions to see if they are actually the same thing.
Take pictures of the scene yourself to help prove your case and make scale drawings that demonstrate the actual event. Have a reputable mechanic check your odometer and give you a statement of his findings. If you can find witnesses who can give a positive report of your behavior, then have them appear. Passengers and family, and even older children can make good witnesses. If the event was near a store or business, find out if anyone there witnessed the event and subpoena him or her if necessary. Strangers will carry greater weight with the judge than family.
Making a good impression is essential. A clean and tidy appearance coupled with a pleasant, mannerly attitude will count well in your favor. Remember to always address the judge as “your honor”. State your case in a clear, easily heard voice and be an attentive listener when others are speaking. Make sure you are on time for your trial and above all, do not be belligerent or argumentative with the judge. Such behavior could lose the case regardless of the facts and provide you with an additional contempt of court charge.
Some factors in building a good defense include establishing the speed limit in the traffic zone you were in. Photograph traffic signs or note if there were none to specify the limits in the area. If your violation was observed by radar, try to prove that there was heavy traffic and it may not have been your vehicle. This may also work in the case of photo radar. Attempt to prove a case of mistaken identity. Depending on the precise charge, you may be able to at least cast doubt as to your guilt. If you have conducted yourself in a civilized manner it may be possible to have the charge dismissed.