I always encourage everyone to fight their traffic tickets and keep your hard-earned money in your pocket instead of surrendering it to the corrupt state. I have often referenced the fact that I've beaten about 15 tickets since I learned how to properly fight the revenue agents in 2001. One of those victories which was particularly gratifiying was a speeding ticket I received in Upland, CA in 2002. On 11/8/02, I was cited for driving 48MPH in a 35MPH zone, "in violation of the state's basic speed law." At trial, I pled not guilty and was initially convicted of speeding, but appealed and won in California Superior Court of Appeals, when a panel of three superior court appellate judges ruled for me and threw out the phony conviction. This was pretty easy to do, and I encourage everyone else to do so. [See my TRAFFIC TICKET ARCHIVES here.] After many years, I finally got around to scanning my legal brief and the Superior Appellate Court ruling on the matter.
But first people must remember that we all have the right to presumption of innocence. Here is why I think that everyone should plead not guilty to every ticket- every time. The revenue agents are getting very aggressive in issuing citations for nearly everything. Oftentimes these fines and fees are upwards of $600-$1000, an obscene amount. The economy is bad, and people ought to keep as much of their own money as possible- in addition to keeping your auto insurance rates low and affordable.
The first thing people must do when they receive a citation for a traffic infraction is read the specific statue that you are charged with allegedly violating. Do not underestimate the importance of this seemingly obvious step. Many people overlook this and assume for example, that a speeding ticket is just that. However, there is no statue which simply says "Bob was speeding." What does the statute specifically say? I will give you an example. In my case, I was charged with violating BASIC SPEED LAW, California Vehicle Code Section 22350. The code states:
22350. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.HelpIgotaTicket.com is a great free site where I learned nearly everything I know about fighting traffic tickets. It applies only to California, but might be helpful to others in learning basic due-process concepts which may be applicable in your state. As Geo McCalip at HelpIGotaTicket.com points out in his Basic Speed Law Defense, long-established Case law in CA reveals people can admit exceeding the posted speed limit but are not guilty of violating California Vehicle Code section 22350. In his index of case law, McCalip points out numerous relevant cases, such as this one:
People v Behjat - In a prosecution under Vehicle Code section 22350, the record must contain substantial evidence from which a fact finder could conclude either that the defendant drove at a speed that endangered people or property or that she drove at a speed that was unreasonable for the driving conditions.In other words, even if I don't deny going over the posted limit, if I am not endangering people or property, or if the weather conditions aren't dangerous at the speed I am going, etc., then the state does not meet the legal criteria for a conviction of violating CVC 22350. If an officer had charged me with violating CVC 22349, on the other hand, which states "no person may drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than 65 miles per hour," that might be a tougher charge to beat. (But still definitely worth a shot.)
In addition to learning about the technicalities of 22350, I learned about something else, called a TRAFFIC SURVEY. I had never heard of a 'traffic survey' and don't particularly care what it is, other than the fact that the cop in this case needed to produce an original or a certified copy of it in court, if I demanded it. In this case, Officer Hilliard of the Upland Police department was the cop who gave me the ticket. In court during trial, he claimed to have a traffic survery, but when I asked IS that a certified copy signed by an engineer?, Hilliard did not answer. Additionally, Judge Mary Fuller disrupted my questioning of the defense witness and said that I would get a chance to question him later. Since Hilliard did not answer my question, and thus did not produce a valid traffic survey as required by law, that made this circumstance a SPEED TRAP, and Officer Hilliard was ruled incompetent to testify as to my speed. Here is some case law on this:
- People v Earnest - Because the People did not produce either the original engineering and traffic survey or a certified copy of it demonstrating that the posted speed limits on the pertinent segments of roadway were justified by current engineering and traffic surveys, none of their evidence as to the defendants' speeds was - admissible...
- People v Studley - This case presents the following question: where a motorist is cited, by the use of radar, for speed in excess of the state maximum speed limit on a nonlocal road with a prima facie speed limit of 50 miles per hour, and where a traffic and engineering survey is not proved at trial, do California's speed trap laws apply to compel exclusion of all evidence of speed? We hold the answer is "yes."
Two recent court rulings People v. Huffman (88 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1 , 106 Cal.Rptr.2d 820) and People v. Behjat (84 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1)] have held that:[I]t should be noted that there was a whole lot of preliminary things I did which led to my victory, begining at my trial. You will understand why these things are very important.
No conviction can be sustained unless the record contains substantial evidence supporting each element of the charged offense. These cases can seriously cut down the number of convictions based on over-reliance on technology, especially if we cite them as part of our defense.
When I arrived at court for my trial in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, the bailiff herded everyone into the courtroom and passed around a white "sign-in sheet" for everyone to sign. There was a paragraph at the top of the paper. Unlike everyone else, I had the nerve to actually read it, and it basically said that I hereby waive my right to have a real judge hear my case and agree to have a traffic commissioner hear my case. I was reading over it carefully and the white haired, gruff bailiff agressively barked "you gonna sign it or not?" I said EXCUSE ME, YOU'RE ASKING ME TO SIGN A LEGAL DOCUMENT. AM I ALLOWED TO READ IT? OR AM I BEING STRONGARMED INTO SIGNING SOMETHING I HAVENT READ?