How do I prove that I really stopped at the sign?

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Question:

I have requested a hearing over a citation for failing to come to a full and complete stop at a stop sign. My adult daughter was in the car with me and agrees that I did indeed come to a full stop. How do I prove my case at the hearing?

Answer:

To successfully contest your ticket, you'll want to treat your hearing as a trial and prepare for it as best you can. 

First, figure out exactly which law you violated -- it's usually written on your ticket. Next, look up the law and read it to understand its every nuance. (You can find the text of the law by googling the state name and code number, or look it up on the state law section of www.nolo.com.)   The court cannot find your guilty unless you did something the law prohibits -- although in your case, the factual issue over whether you stopped will probably be the main issue.

Unfortunately, if it ends up being your word against the police officer's, 99 out of 100 times, the person with the badge wins. Having your daughter as a witness helps, but not as much as having an independent witness whose allowance is not dependent on your beating the ticket and fine.

You'll need to attack the officer's judgment in giving you the ticket. There are a handful of ways to do that -- but again, you'll need to check your actions against the letter of the law. You may be able to prove that:

  • You did stop, but were further back from the white marker line or crosswalk than the law required. In these cases, an officer hiding behind a bush 50 feet down a side street might not be able to see you clearly.
  • The stop sign was obscured -- hidden by storm-blown branches, twisted the wrong way by kids, or obscured for any of a variety of reasons.
  • The stop sign was newly installed -- an unfamiliar sight on a road you traveled frequently.
  • The limit line or crosswalk was too faded to see clearly. It's best to use photos or diagrams to visually back up your argument to the judge.

Finally, insist that the police officer show up at your trial. If the officer doesn't show, ask the judge to drop the charges on the grounds that you have been denied your right to a fair trial, because you would not have the right to cross examine the officer.

For more free information about fighting your ticket, read Five Strategies for Fighting a Traffic Ticket.

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