FAQ's on Traffic Violations - Answers
1) What type of evidence is obtained when one of
the red light cameras takes my picture for running a red
Two types of evidence are obtained. First, a series of still shots are taken which show the license plates of the car and the occupants of the vehicle. Second, a 12 second video is taken, showing approximately 6 seconds before and 6 seconds after running the red light. You may view your red light video prior to going to court. Your original notice will have a phone number to call to arrange an appointment.
2) Speeding is a major problem on my
street. How can I get assistance from the Traffic Division?
Speeding is a major cause of accidents and one the primary areas of concern for all traffic personnel. Whenever possible, streets that receive a notable number of complaints receive immediate attention. This may be through simple radar enforcement, use of the Radar Trailer or by teams of officers working together to reduce a particular problem. All of this takes a significant number of man-hours per day and is dependant on staffing and the specific problem being addressed. A chart is maintained that logs in specific complaints. Each area is given attention, depending availability of officers and the number of hours needed to address the problem.
3) What is the difference between a
Motorcycle Officer and a Traffic Officer who drives a
Motorcycle Officers normally specialize in traffic enforcement via radar as well as target specific problem areas of the city where collisions occur. Their ability to maneuver easily makes them ideal for this purpose. They also work special events, where space and rapid response is critical.
Traffic Officer assigned to a car also works traffic enforcement, but spends the majority of his time as an investigator of collisions. Such officers also work Hit & Run collisions, as well as more serious accident scenes.
4) I received a Parking Ticket, yet
my neighbors car did not for the same violation. Why did this
Parking enforcement is a major task for the Traffic Division and can be overwhelming in the sheer number of violators. The reason a particular vehicle is cited and another by-passed can be due to a number of factors. These include: Number of complaints on a selected vehicle, limitation of time on behalf of the citing officer, previous markings by an officer on a particular problem vehicle, vehicles selected by priority in terms of the seriousness of the violation and finally, the officer was called away prior to completing all of the tasks on that specific street.
It is always best that, if you have a concern or question as to citation, call the officer in question and ask them your question. This insures you have the proper answer as to why a particular action was taken.
5) My vehicle was
impounded for 30 days. In the past, I had a vehicle impounded for only 24 hours.
Why the difference?
The most common reason a vehicle is impounded for 30 days is a Driver's License violation. Additional reasons for 30 day impounds include Reckless Driving or Drag Racing.
6) What is a "continuance" and how do
I request one?
A continuance is the moving of a trial date to a later date. The prosecution or the defense may request a continuance for any of several reasons. Work conflicts, school schedules, health problems, vacations and the need for more preparation time are all acceptable reasons for requesting a continuance.
You can request a continuance by contacting the COURT, via the court clerk, and explaining why you need it. This can be done by telephone or in person. We recommend using registered mail so you will have proof that your request was sent and received. The burden is then on the court to respond. It's best to make a request for a continuance at least two weeks in advance of the trial date.
7) Why should I request a
If you intend to gather information for your defense and prepare your presentation, you may need more time than the court has allotted between the time you received the ticket and your trial date. You may live a long distance from the court, and it would be more convenient to move your court appearance to another time. Or, you want to increase the likelihood that the officer who gave you the ticket will not appear in court on the day of your trial.
How do I get the information I need to prepare my defense?
There are both formal and informal mechanisms for the gathering of information: Request or Motion for Discovery, Open Records or Public Records Laws, Interrogatories, Depositions, subpoenas, and personal research.
8) What is a Request for
A Request for Discovery is an information request you would make to the prosecutor, usually the District Attorney, for relevant information related to your case. If you were cited for speeding, you may want information on the kind of speed measurement device the officer used to clock your vehicle, or the training records for the officer that measured your speed. A simple written request, sent via registered mail to the District Attorney's office, is usually sufficient to exercise this inquiry.
Some states mandate that certain kinds of information must be released to a traffic ticket defendant making a Request of Discovery. The release of the information is not optional. Other states specifically relieve the prosecution from any responsibility to fulfill a Request for Discovery. We recommend a trip to a local library and the assistance of the librarian (most are very helpful) to find out how your state treats Requests for Discovery.
A Motion differs from a Request in that a defendant makes the Motion to the court and not the prosecution. In a Motion for Discovery you must justify your reasons for making certain requests for information and the court will decide if your request has merit. If the Court determines that your request is legitimate and the information is needed for your defense, it will order that the information be given you. The prosecution can object to your motion and the court could order a hearing to argue the Motion for Discovery.
10) What is an Open Records
These laws go under different names in different states, but their intent is to make public records available to all citizens. In general these laws mandate that public records be released to anyone making a request. Certain records, such as medical or tax records, may be protected by privacy laws and are not available through a simple request. However, you can usually obtain radar equipment maintenance records, calibration records for breathalysers, and training certificates for specific officers through an open records request. Open Records Requests are independent of the court and your trial, and the failure of an agency to provide requested records will not automatically result in a dismissal of charges. Remember, this procedure is for the purpose of obtaining EXISTING RECORDS. It cannot be used to force the government to create new records.
11) How do I make an Open Records
A visit to your local library and a review of your state's open records law is a good place to start. Generally an open records request is made to the agency you believe holds the records you want. This is usually the police agency that issued you a citation. For best results make the request in writing and cite the open records state statutes that give you the right to request the information you seek. There may be reproduction cost fees (the law usually requires that they be "reasonable") for the materials you want. You may also want to request that the agency certify the documents to be valid copies of the originals.
12) What is an
An interrogatory is a written request to the prosecution for information related to your case. For example, if you want to know where the officer was sitting when he or she clocked you with radar, you could ask that question and perhaps include a map of the general area where the officer could mark his location when he observed your vehicle. If your request appears reasonable and has a bearing on your defense it will most likely be honored.
13) What is a deposition?
A deposition is a formal meeting, with a court reporter, where the defense and/or prosecution may question witnesses who are under oath. This is a very expensive and time- consuming procedure and not often employed in traffic ticket cases.
14) What is a subpoena?
A subpoena is a court order to appear or bring information to a court proceeding. The target of the subpoena can object to the order, and a case within a case can evolve that deals solely with the subpoena. A subpoena has to be "served" on the party being ordered to produce information or testimony. Anyone can serve a subpoena, as long as they are not directly involved in the litigation. Along with the expense, another downside of subpoenas is that the information is usually not produced until the time of trial. For purposes of developing a defense it is desirable to have all relevant information well before your trial.
15) What kind of personal research
can I do?
Any defendant should clearly understand the violation they are being charged with. You may need to make another visit to the library and look up the statute you have supposedly violated. It may be possible that the officer cited the wrong statute, or that you did not meet the definition of a violation.
Re-visit the site of your alleged violation and look for elements that you could use to your advantage. Take photos that will help you make your arguments. Make measurements that may show errors in distances that were reported by the officer.
16) Will errors on the ticket
result in the charges being dropped?
Courts will often excuse minor errors on a ticket. A misspelled name, incorrect address or difference in opinion on whether your car is aqua or green in color will not result in a dismissed ticket. Conversely, a major error such as citing the wrong statute, radically misidentifying your vehicle or listing the wrong highway as the site of the violation should provide justification to dismiss the ticket. However, it may be advantageous to say nothing about the errors until your trial. Let the officer use the ticket to describe the violation, location, and identification of your vehicle (they all do). After he or she has sufficiently buried him or herself with perjured testimony, you can document the errors and any legitimate court will dismiss the charges.
17) If I don't sign my ticket,
does that mean it's invalid?
No, but not signing for a ticket in can lead to other charges. Signing for your ticket, merely means that you will pay the fine or plead not guilty and show up in court. If your name was spelled wrong, that could be used in court with other anomalies to introduce reasonable doubt in the officer's testimony. However, if all the information relevant to the stop is correct, a spelling error will not result in the dismissal of the charge(s).
18) What if the prosecution
doesn't give me the information I requested?
If your state mandates that certain items be given you, and they aren't, or the court orders that certain items be given you, and they aren't, you can ask for a Motion to Dismiss for failure to provide Discovery and it's likely the motion will be granted. However, if no such mandates exist and the court has not ordered that certain items be given you, there is little likelihood that a dismissal will be granted. Although, a continuance might be granted to give you more time to seek the information through other channels.
19) If I prove that my speedometer
was defective when the officer stopped me for speeding, will the court dismiss
No. The court might consider it a mitigating circumstance, but it's likely you will still be found guilty.
Does the officer have to show me the radar/laser reading?
This is not required in most jurisdictions. Also, whether the officer allows you to see the speed reading has virtually no bearing on your case. Officers can lock on radar readings and leave them on to display to any hapless victim, even though it was not their vehicle that registered the displayed speed.
20) Should I hire an attorney?
This is always a personal call. In the vast majority of cases an attorney will arrange a plea bargain for his/her client. It is very rare for an attorney to get involved in a protracted traffic court trial. The expenses for such a trial would exceed most defendants' financial limits. If you are going to court, our advice is to do so with legal counsel. (Click here for: Attorney Locator Service)
21) Can I write the court and tell
them why I'm not guilty?
Some states allow a "trial by declaration" , which is, in a sense, a written explanation or defense you send to the court. In general, we doubt the fairness or effectiveness of such a defense. There is very little incentive for the court to find the defendant "not guilty."
22) Can a police officer issue me
a ticket if he's outside his own jurisdiction?
If the violation took place within his jurisdiction the answer is yes. If the violation took place outside his jurisdiction the answer is less clear. There may be interagency agreements that allow police to exercise their authority outside their jurisdictions. There may also be state laws that allow inter-jurisdictional enforcement actions. One point to remember, the officer that observed the violation and issued the citation is the only person that can testify against you. The likelihood that an out-of-area officer would appear to testify against you at your trial is somewhat remote.
24) What if the officer was rude?
If the officer had to follow you for a quarter-mile or more until you noticed him in your rearview mirror, he may be unhappy. You were guilty of "contempt of cop," which happens when you don't do whatever it is an officer wants you to do. Regardless, it is not a good idea for you to act in a similar manner.
25) What if they only ticket
people of my race?
Sometimes this has every appearance of being true, largely due to stops for trivial traffic laws like seat belt violations, playing the radio too loud, or having a blown out light bulb. If you believe the officer stopped you based on your race, we recommend making a complaint to the police department and/or city government. If it continues to happen after the complaint, consider a lawsuit.
26) What will happen if I just
ignore the ticket?
If it's for a moving violation such as speeding, ignoring it may result in a suspended license and/or a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. This is true even if you got the ticket outside of your home state.
27) But everyone was going over
the speed limit. What if I was just pulled out of the crowd?
It may be true, but it is totally irrelevant now. Plead not guilty and go to court. In court, don't complain that you were being victimized; the judge does not want to nor have time to listen to a claim that is nearly impossible to prove. If the officer shows up in court, cross-examine him by asking questions in such a way as to make it appear he had no idea which vehicle caused the reading on the radar gun.
Does it have any bearing on the validity of the citation if the officer who
observed the violation and the officer who issued the citation are NOT one in
the same? (i.e. one officer operating the RADAR radios to another officer down
the road, who pulls you over.)
Yes it does. First, the clocking officer must be able to confirm that the car being pulled over was the car he clocked. This confirmation should be made to the officer that does the stop. The officer that does the stop is responsible for identifying the driver to whom the ticket is issued. Both the officer that clocked the vehicle's speed and the officer that issued the ticket must be at the driver's trial. This also applies to situations involving the use of airplanes to clock vehicle speeds.
THIS SECTION DOES NOT CONTAIN LEGAL ADVICE . The information presented here is based upon best available information at time of posting. TrafficViolationLawfirms.com does not assume any liability pertaining to the accuracy of the information presented. Readers are advised to verify information they intend to rely upon.
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