Traffic Violation Defense: Rights, Evidence, And Strategy
Traffic stops and tickets are not quite inevitable, but most Californians will face them at least once in their lives. When you do, here are some essential defense strategies and details you ought to know. This article includes the basics of traffic violation defenses, including…
- The most common traffic violations and their potential consequences,
- Possible defense strategies for traffic charges and the role of rights and evidence in implementing them, and
- How a lawyer can help you improve the outcome of your traffic violation charge.
What Are The Common Traffic Violations Californians Are Likely To Face?
The traffic violations that occur most frequently on California roads are:
- Failing to stop at a stop sign or a red light
- Citations for not using a hands-free phone while driving
These are just a few, however, of the possible traffic violations and tickets you can get from driving badly or inattentively, and failing to perfectly follow the rules of the road.
What Are The Possible Consequences Of A Traffic Violation Conviction?
The most common consequence for traffic violation convictions is having points on your driving record. More points can drive up your car insurance rates, and even lead to a loss of driving privileges if you accumulate multiple violations.
The second most common consequence is a fine. The financial burden of which can add up to several hundred dollars, or more, depending on the traffic charge in question.
Finally, some traffic violations are even serious enough to result in jail time, which can be extremely disruptive to your life.
What Defense Strategies Can Be Used To Fight A Traffic Violation Charge?
The first step to fighting a traffic violation charge should always be to gather as much information as possible. This is difficult on your own, but that is where having an experienced traffic violation defense attorney becomes key.
Your attorney will be able to request and review a copy of the notes that the officer took at the time of your citation as well as body or dashboard camera footage.
In some circumstances it may be beneficial to file a trial by written declaration. Such a “trial” requires the officer to respond in writing and explain the reasons for the citation. Doing so essentially gives you a first chance to challenge the traffic citation. Best of all, if you lose a trial by written declaration, you still have another opportunity for a court trial with a judge.
Before you get to trial, another occasionally available strategy is to negotiate with the citing officer or attorney in advance of the trial proceedings, if your particular court allows that.
How Can I Best Protect Myself And My Rights During A Traffic Stop?
Traffic stops are always stressful, and sometimes officers may seem very friendly, but their words sometimes hide hidden questions for which your answers might later be interpreted as admissions of guilt. You and your rights are always best served by avoiding making any statement to law enforcement or attempting to talk the officer out of the citation.
Seemingly innocuous statements given to the citing officer could be used as an admission of guilt and will be brought up at your trial.
What Role Does Evidence Play In A Traffic Violation Defense Case?
In traffic trials, the law enforcement officer who cited you will rely upon their notes and testify about their memory of the incident for the prosecution.
Your interests, on the other hand, are best served by identifying and gathering (with the help of your lawyer) any evidence that could contradict the officer’s version of the events in your favor. This could include witness testimony or other evidence such as documents, audio recordings, photographs, or camera footage.
What Are Some Of The Technicalities Or Errors That Can Undermine A Traffic Violation Charge?
In any legal case or law enforcement action, there are rules and procedures which need to be followed, even for traffic violations. If improperly implemented, these errors can be used to challenge the charge or even have the case thrown out.
In a traffic case, the charging document is the citation issued during your interaction with law enforcement. There are often issues with that document, and any such errors could result in a dismissal. Such mistakes could include:
- An incomplete citation.
- An incorrect vehicle code section.
- An incorrect description of you.
- An inaccurate driver’s license number.
- An incorrectly transcribed name or date.
Other technical issues can be used to challenge your traffic violation charge, such as an uncalibrated radar or LIDAR device or the lack of a speed survey altogether.
A speed survey is required to establish that your speed was unreasonable, it determines the “reasonable speed” for that particular stretch of highway. If no speed survey exists, then you may be able to get a dismissal of the charges.
These are just some of the many technicalities or errors that can be used to challenge a traffic violation. Errors no ordinary layperson would even think to check, much less know how to identify, which is why hiring an experienced and specialized lawyer is essential for building a strong defense.
How Can A Lawyer Help Build A Strong Defense Against A Traffic Violation Charge?
A qualified traffic attorney is essential if you truly want to contest your traffic violation and have the charges reduced. They can review the facts of the case to identify any weaknesses or vulnerabilities and conduct an independent investigation to gather the evidence necessary to contest the citation.
For example, an attorney might visit a location to determine if any factors may have been present that could affect the officer’s ability to observe you, or that might impact the reliability of what the officer indicated as grounds for the traffic violation.
Finally, if the case goes to trial, you will need an attorney who knows and understands the details of your case. Only then will they be able to effectively defend you by cross-examining the officer regarding the deficiencies in their case.
Above all, however, a lawyer will keep you informed and help you understand the advantages and disadvantages of different strategies, including negotiating or settling in the pretrial phase.
What Potential Defenses Are Available For Speeding Tickets, Specifically?
For speeding tickets, in particular, there are several potential defenses your lawyer can help you develop. For example, the speed survey mentioned earlier, if not properly done, can result in a dismissal.
Furthermore, law enforcement’s reliance on an uncalibrated radar/Lidar device or issues with the reliability of the speedometer on the patrol vehicle (which must be calibrated) can be important. If the law enforcement officer obtained your speed by pacing, the speedometer’s calibration is vital to their case. If it was not calibrated or is out of calibration, that could also help you dismiss the charges.
Both are just examples, however, as the strategies available in speeding ticket cases are as varied and nuanced as the cases themselves. Only an experienced and specialized attorney can help you build a strong defense. If you have received an unfair traffic violation or one you plan to contest, contact an attorney immediately.
For more information on Dealing With Common Traffic Violations In California, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (415) 728-9982 today.