Without question, the single biggest mistake I see people make when they try and beat a traffic ticket in court, is failing to prepare for their trial. We’ve all seen television shows with trial scenes and as entertaining as they can be, they couldn’t be further from reality. Yes, even Judge Judy isn’t realistic. Any trial, whether it’s a murder trial or a traffic ticket trial, must follow proper court procedure.
The first thing you must know is that, in Florida, the state has the burden of proving the case against you. If they can’t do that, the matter will be dismissed. Simple enough. If there is no one to testify about what you might have done wrong, the judge will have no choice but to throw the matter out.
When you do show up, don’t get excited because you don’t see the police officer at your first court hearing. I’m sorry to tell you, but in South Florida, your first actual court hearing does not require a police officer to attend. It’s called a “pre-trial hearing (or pre-trial conference),” and it takes place before your trial (hence the word “pre” before the word trial). The courts are hoping people want to resolve their case here and not continue on to trial.
But you read this blog, and you are too smart for them, so don’t fall for it. Wait until your name is called (yes, I know it can be hours) and tell the judge that you would like a trial. After you do that, they will set your case down in a few months and you can finally have your day in court.
If you haven’t researched your violation by now, what are you waiting for? Get online or go to a library and read up on the statute you were charged with.
When it’s the day of your trial, dress appropriately, show up on time, and wait for your name to be called. We’ve already covered that the police officer will go first and explain to the judge exactly what he or she observed you doing. The officer might produce documents to verify what he or she is saying. You will have an opportunity to look at those documents and ask questions, but not until the officer has finished speaking. Oh yeah, here’s some more free advice. Don’t be rude and interrupt. You’re not F. Lee Bailey, so don’t try to be. When the officer is finished, and has met his or her burden (meaning he or she has proved to the judges satisfaction the elements of the charge), you can finally speak.
Now, I know it’s been a long time. You probably got this ticket months ago and have been dying to tell a judge just how wrong you feel this ticket was. You have been practicing and rehearsing exactly what you were going to say for months, and you’re getting so good at it, that your own mother actually believes you were not speeding. So don’t blow it. Take a deep breath and try to discredit police officer’s case. If it was a speeding ticket, did the officer testify to all the elements in the statute you read? Did the officer make a visual observation of your speed that was consistent with the speed measuring device?
If you can’t think of any questions (and I just gave you two), it’s time to make your case. My last piece of free advice is that factual defenses generally do not work in traffic court. Meaning, do not tell the judge what actually happened. Trust me, you are walking into a trap.
I’m not suggesting you lie, what I’m saying is that your story of what you were doing is probably going to convince the court that you are, in fact, guilty of the violation.
Telling the judge that the light was yellow or that you were keeping up with traffic or that your car doesn’t go that fast are all things the judge has heard a million times and even if any of those were true, it doesn’t matter. The judge probably doesn’t believe you anyway.
Generally a police officer’s credibility in traffic court is much higher than the person who received the ticket and will most likely say or do anything to get out of it. This is why the only defense in traffic court is a legal defense which is based on legal arguments, not factual ones.
For some legal defenses, you will have to stay tuned, they’re coming soon.