Finding yourself pulled over for a traffic infraction can leave you in a bind. Not only can it leave you late to work, but you may find yourself paying significant fines. In some cases, you may choose to pay the ticket and be done with it. However, you may want to go up against the charges and try to get them cleared from your record. Traffic court may be an option in many jurisdictions that hand out violations. Going before a judge in traffic court takes a little bit of knowledge on the process and what you should and should not say.
Understand the Process
Appearing before a judge may seem scary, but if you know that there is a process to follow, it may make things less daunting. The usual order of a traffic court proceeding includes:
- Opening statement – both you and the prosecution get to summarize your respective cases
- Presentation of evidence – both parties get to present evidence and witnesses to prove their points
- Closing statement – a summary by each side reaffirming why the judge should rule one way or the other
- Judge’s order – this is the final say and will determine if you are convicted
You always have the option to be represented by a lawyer in court should you desire.
Question the Police Officer
The star of a traffic court proceeding is the police officer that pulled you over and issued the citation. If the officer does not show up to court to testify, you have the right to request a dismissal. Some judges may want to give the officer another chance to show up depending on the charge. Therefore, your case may be delayed or moved. Most times, however, if the officer doesn’t come to court, the case is dismissed.
You have the right to question the police officer who pulled you over. The officer must be able to independently recollect the events leading up to pulling you over and any interaction they had with you. Consulting with notes while testifying is not permitted, and it may get the officer’s testimony thrown out.
The Right and Wrong Way to Speak in Court
A courtroom is no place to make a scene or speak sharply to people. There are some things you should never say to a judge or in a court, including traffic court. You should not blame the police officer for the stop and claim that it was illegal unless you have evidence to back this up. Do not blame the prosecution for being malicious, again, unless you can prove it. Judges do not like believing you are being disrespectful or wasting their time, and you will probably wind up getting convicted.