How do I Prove That I Really Stopped at the Sign?

Strategies for contesting a stop sign ticket when an officer wrongly claims you failed to stop.

Question

I got cited for running a stop sign and requested a trial to contest the ticket. The officer said I didn't come to a full and complete stop but I actually did. My adult daughter was in the car and agrees that I did indeed come to a full stop. How do I prove my case at the trial?

Answer

For contesting any traffic ticket, you'll first want to know what law you're accused of violating. Typically, the code number of the violation is written on your ticket. You might see something like "VC 1500" or "TC 330." The VC stands for "Vehicle Code" and TC is short for "Transportation Code." Once you figure out the code section, do an Internet search to come up with the text of the statute. (Get more information about doing legal research for traffic cases.)

In most states, the stop sign statute will—in a longwinded way—say that when approaching a stop sign, you must come to a complete stop before reaching the closest of a stop line, the crosswalk, or the intersection itself. So, when you're arguing your case in court, keep in mind how the offense is defined.

Unfortunately, when it's your word against the police officer's, the person with the badge usually wins. Having your daughter as a witness helps, but not as much as having an independent witness who you don't have a close relationship with. In most cases, you're not going to have such a witness.

What you're left with as a defense, is attacking the officer's judgment in giving you the ticket. There are a handful of ways to go about doing this, but again, check your strategy against the letter of the law. Some possible defenses might include:

  • Showing that you stopped well in advance of the stop, but the officer was positioned in a way that prevented him from seeing where you came to a halt.
  • Proving the stop sign was obscured—by tree branches, for example—or illegible.
  • Proving the limit line or crosswalk was too faded to see clearly.

It's also possible that the citing officer won't show up for your trial. If that happens, you typically win without having to do anything.

(Get more about strategies for fighting a traffic ticket and stop sign tickets in particular.)

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