What Evidence Do You Need to Fight a Traffic Ticket?
Maybe you think the radar gun wasn’t accurate. Perhaps you believe the officer’s view was obstructed when they claimed you ran a stop sign. There are lots of reasons why you might want to do more than just pay the fine and chalk the whole thing up to experience. If you want to take the case to court, what evidence do you need to fight a traffic ticket?
First of all, your traffic ticket should have one of two boxes marked by the officer: “Court Appearance Required” or “No Court Appearance Required.”
If you don’t need to appear in court and opt to pay the fine, the conviction will go on your record. This can increase your insurance premiums and even affect your ability to get certain jobs.
You can also plead guilty and request an order for supervision. This lets you avoid the conviction by paying the fine and attending traffic school.
The third option is the most challenging: plead not guilty and request a trial. There should be information on your ticket explaining how to notify the appropriate traffic court that you will be fighting the ticket.
Document the Scene
This has never been easier. The location where the alleged violation occurred may be vital to your case:
- Was the stop sign clearly marked?
- How long is the yellow caution signal before the stop light turns red?
- Most of all, what was the officer’s vantage point? Did they have a clear view of both your vehicle and the infraction?
Take photographs of the intersection or street where the alleged violation took place. Position your car as it was on the day you received the ticket. Then take pictures from where the officer was. Print them out, ideally on 8 x 10 photo paper. You can present this evidence in court. Witnesses can be helpful as well; generally speaking, they will need to appear in court as the opposing side has the right to cross examine (and you can’t cross examine a witness statement).
Check that Gun
A malfunctioning radar gun or one in need of service may be grounds for dismissing the case. For some, the best defense against a radar gun is if the operator is in an area with a large number of vehicles, as the device doesn’t tell the operator which one it is locked onto. The signal often comes from the car or truck that has the highest reflective surface.
Your best defense may lie with evidence only the citing officer has access to. The best way to get this is to either file a Motion for Discovery with the prosecutor or a Request for Discovery directly to the court. You will need to list what evidence you are seeking and why you need it.
More common in larger criminal or civil trials, discovery is also allowed with traffic cases. Unfortunately, police departments and traffic court judges aren’t as used to receiving them. If your motion is ignored you will need to follow up––sometimes more than once.
If your case hinges on this evidence and the opposing side doesn’t produce it, you may have grounds for dismissal. Of course the paperwork required for this process is specific and tedious. That’s why many people prefer to hire an experienced traffic ticket lawyer.
There’s always a chance that you will arrive for your day in court only to find the officer has failed to appear. In most cases, this will lead to a motion to dismiss. Gathering the evidence to fight a traffic ticket and appearing in court is time consuming. It may not seem worth it when the fine is only a few hundred dollars. However, increased insurance premiums can quickly exceed this. That’s why busy people often prefer to hire a skilled traffic ticket lawyer to do the fighting for them.