Before you show up in traffic court for your trial, there are some things you must do, and more you should do.
Contacting the Court for Information
The date by which you must pay the fine or ask to appear in court should be printed on your ticket. For obvious reasons, paying up is usually made very
In any fight, it is best to know your opponent's strategy. Fortunately, you often have the legal right to do this (called "discovery"). In many states you have the right to demand access to the officer's notes made at the time or soon after your ticket was issued. You also have the right to demand access
Here are some reasons why you may want to delay your day in court:
You need more time to prepare.
You or a key witness will be out of town.
You need to delay the time of your possible conviction in order to keep from accumulating too many "points" on your driving record over a specific period.
Start your trial preparation by writing down everything you can remember about your traffic violation. It's best to do this as soon as possible after the incident, while your memory is still fresh. You may also want to go back and photograph or diagram the scene from different angles and locations, if
Diagrams or enlarged maps of the place where you got the ticket are often useful to help the judge understand what happened. That's why so many officers include them in their notes and show them to the judge at trial. And that's also why you'll be better equipped to illustrate inaccuracies in the officer's
Defendants who know what to say and when to say it are far more likely to win than are defendants who stand up and hope to come up with a convincing story. In short, if you've come this far, you want to be well prepared. One big key to doing this is to carefully practice your presentation.
You have the right to present witnesses who were present and observed the situation that caused you to be ticketed. This will usually be someone who was in the car with you, but it could be a pedestrian or the driver of another vehicle. But before you ask a potential witness to testify for you, you'll
A prosecutor gets a chance to cross-examine you and any other person who testifies on your behalf. If a prosecutor is not present, sometimes the judge will ask the officer if he or she wants to cross-examine. Most officers will decline. In this situation, the judge may ask a few questions on his or her
After issuing a speeding or other traffic ticket, most police officers write notes -- usually on the back of the ticket -- with details of why you deserved the ticket and what the conditions were at the time. If you can obtain those notes before your traffic court hearing, you'll be ahead of the game.
Preparation is the key to successfully questioning (cross-examining) the officer—with an eye toward raising a reasonable doubt as to your guilt. You can ask almost anything you want, so long as the answer you're seeking is in some way relevant to your effort to prove you didn't commit a particular
If you haven't convinced a judge of your innocence at trial, your chances of overturning his or her decision by appealing are small. Even though every state gives a person the right to appeal, the process is almost always tedious, typically involving many hours and some expense. In short, before you
Defense lawyers will nearly always say that a jury trial is better for a defendant. This is true, but only if you prepare carefully to fight in a much more complicated legal arena. Not only will you need to pick a jury, but instead of just facing the arresting officer (as often happens when your trial
Jury trials are time-consuming for you, judges, prosecutors, and the police. This means once you ask for one, the system has some incentive to settle your case without going to trial. Deals can take many forms, depending on the situation. For example, if you are charged with speeding and running a stop
Here we look at the jury selection process, including:
basic jury selection procedures
good questions to ask potential jurors, and
how to disqualify a hostile juror.
How Jury Selection Works
Many lawyers believe that selecting members of a jury is the single most important phase of the trial.
This section takes you step by step through a traffic court trial, with information on your options at the various stages of the proceedings. For simplicity's sake, throughout this section the term "prosecutor" and "the prosecution" will be used to refer to whomever is doing the prosecuting against you,
In most of the 50 states, you do not have the right to a jury trial in a traffic ticket case, which means a judge alone decides whether or not you are guilty. In the others, you can insist on a jury trial. When only a judge is present, traffic violation trials tend to be fairly informal—certainly more
After the jury is selected, the jurors will be "sworn in" by the judge or clerk. Then, the trial proceeds in much the same way as a trial before a judge. (See What Happens in Traffic Ticket Trial by Judge?). Opening Statements Though opening statements are often skipped during a ticket-related trial