Speed Traps Are Another Form Of Highway Robbery.
The traffic law enforcement is not a justice system. It is an ‘injustice’ system. It is designed mostly for revenue and not so much for safety enforcement.
What To Do If You Are Stopped.
(NOTE: This Blog is no substitute for expert legal advice, or the services of a licensed member of he Bar. It is not intended as a guarantee of success when you find yourself entrapped in the traffic court system. Look at this as more of road map to help you to see where you are, where you need to go, and how to try to get there procedurally in this virtual maze of traffic laws, rules, and procedures. The best advice is to hire a good lawyer, but you may be able to navigate within this system without one if you take not of and observe some of the helpful hints contained in this Blog.)
If you are stopped, do not panic. It can happen to the best of us. You may not know why the police officer has stopped you. One of your car’s head lights or a turn signals may not be working properly; or, your license plate renewal sticker may have expired. Your vehicle inspection sticker may be out of date. You may be a victim of racial profiling or a candidate for a random sobriety test.
Whatever the reason, this can be a very tense and dangerous moment. Depending on who you are, where you are, and the temperament of the police officer approaching you, your life may even be in danger. As the cop approaches your car, s/he is watching every move that you make. Do not make any sudden moves, and keep your hands where they can be seen. Just remain calm and wait for the officer to approach you.
Be careful and respectful of the police officer. Place both hands on the steering wheel and lower the window about half-way. Keep talking in a calm and relaxing manner. You want to put the police officer at rest. The officer at this moment is as much afraid of you and you may be of him. As he approaches your vehicle, this is the most dangerous moment of this routine. Some states have outlawed dark or tinted windows because so many police have been shot approaching cars for routine traffic law violations.
This is not the time to make any sudden moves. Do not reach for your wallet or sunglasses in the glove compartment. Do not reach to unbuckle your seat belt.
Once you have exchanged pleasantries or introductions, make this a social time. Smile. Be polite, kind, courteous, and respectful of the badge and uniform, if not the gun and camera pointing at you from the police car.
The officer will ask to see your driver’s license and automobile registration. Now you can reach for them but relax and do it slowly.
You want to keep him talking and not writing a ticket. Tell him about your sick relative in the hospital that you are on your way to see. Get him to talk about how his day has been. But, do not tell him anything about how you were driving. Do No Admit Guilt. Do not say anything that that will persuade him that you knowingly violated any traffic law or that can be used against you in court. Just talk. Laugh. Bag. Plead. Moan. Compliment him on his uniform. Take his mind off law enforcement and where his ticket book is. Once he starts writing a ticket, he must issue you a citation.
Many times you can talk your way out of this. If it was a minor infraction, he might let you off with a warning. If he thinks you are comical or cute and this is your first violation, he might give you a break.
Keep it low-keyed. You want this to be a forgettable incident. Do not say or do anything that makes you appear unusual or memorable. You do not want to give him anything unusual to jog his memory at trial. Keep a low profile.
Do not cop an attitude. Do not ask the cop if he knows who pays his salary. It would be unwise to try to use your acquaintance with another police officer or a politician as a means of bullying the officer. The street is not the time or the place to threaten or to debate the merits of your case. Try to show the cop what a nice person you are. You might get off with a warning.
This is not a criminal situation, so the policeman has no duty to read you your rights. You want to know what he is thinking. Try to find out his side of the story without telling him yours. This is fact gathering time for you. Where was he sitting when he first saw you? What distinguished you from all the other drivers on the road? Do not argue with him, but do not admit anything either. Do not admit guilt. You have the right to remain silent.
In a pleasant way the cop is going to try to get you to admit guilt. He will ask you some seemingly innocent questions: such as, do you know why I stopped you; or, do you know how fast you were going; or, did you see that light back there; or, did you have your seat belt on; and, did you know your license had been suspended?
Deny everything. No, I don’t know why you stopped me. Yes, I was driving the speed limit. Yes, I saw the light and it was green. Yes, I always wear my seat belt. No, my license is not suspended.
If the cop insists on issuing you a ticket despite your best efforts to persuade him otherwise, you must prepare to fight the ticket. The first thing you need to do is to gather as many details about the incident as possible. You need ammunition for question that you will ask the police officer at trial. Anything that you ask him and he cannot remember will weaken his case and destroy his credibility. You have to raise reasonable doubt. You will test the officer’s memory at trial. In order to be sure of your facts, you need to start taking notes now. And take some pictures. The camera does not forget and the camera never lies. Details are important.
If you go to court you will have a chance to ask the police officer questions under oath on the witness stand. The officer writes a lot of tickets. He will rely upon any notes he made on the face of the ticket to refresh his memory at trial. He will not remember you or what you looked like unless you did something to make a memorable impression upon him. So, again, keep a low profile and gather as many details as you can. Take notes; draw a diagram of the area with traffic lanes, speed lanes, car pool lanes, and intersections, and, take pictures. Lots of pictures. The more the better.
Here are some things you want to record for use at trial. Who said what to whom? Who said it first? What was the distance between where the violation occurred and where you were stopped? What other people were around that may have witnessed the incident? Were there road construction workers around, or grocery store employees on a coffee break? Did the officer call for a back-up officer in another car with a video-camera to observe and assist? What was the weather like? How much visibility did you have? Was the street clean, and dry and in good repair? Were there skid marks on the pavement? Were there other vehicles, like big trucks, passing you, or going in the opposite direction, that could have affected the readings of the speed radar? Were there passengers in your car? What were you wearing? A shirt and a tie? A coat? A hat? What was the color of your shirt? What was distinctive or unusual about your car; such as, mag wheels, a roll bar, 2-door or 4-door, tinted windows, political bumper stickers, a big dent, and other such things?
Was there anything unusual about the behavior of the officer? Was he more interested in you than your car? Did his breath smell of alcohol or garlic? What was the color of his uniform? What was his name as recorded on his name tag? What was the number of the police vehicle he was driving? What was the license number? Was it old or new? Did it have a collision bumper? Was there a computer in the front seat? What type or model of speed detection device was in the car? You might want to ask him, at trial, about the model number of the device and when it was last calibrated? Or when he was last given training in its operation? Was he certified to used that type of equipment, and at trial, ask to view his certification card. It is important to record details like these. These will be extremely important at trial. They may save you. The more details you record at the time of the incident, the more accurate your memory and your testimony will be; and, the less accurate the testimony of the officer will appear. When the testimony comes down to your word against his, as it always does, the judge will be inclined to see the ability to recall more accurate details as a test of credibility.
Finally, if you were not able to persuade the officer to let you off with a warning, you are given a ticket, a traffic citation. This is not the end of the world. Remain calm. Do not get your blood pressure up. Relax. Get on with your life. In the days that follow you will probably think about the incident in a much calmer frame of mind. If something comes to your mind that you think is important, write it down. Put it with your other notes.
Some people are so angry that they even rip the ticket up and throw it away. Some even throw it into the cop’s face. That is a big no no. He will surely remember you. He might even make you stay put, sit in your car, while he get’s on the radio and the computer and checks every county in the State to see if you have other outstanding traffic citations, or outstanding warrants, or whether you are a U. S. citizen and whether you are in the country illegally.
The correct thing to do is to relax, take a deep breath, and put the ticket in a safe place. It is your friend. It is evidence. It is chiseled in stone. It cannot be changed without giving you written notice. You can make sure it has not been changed, if you take time to review the court’s copy at the time of trial. You can compare the ticket you received on the street and the one presented to the judge at trial, if you did not tare it up or loose it.
The ticket will have the time and place for your trial appearance listed on it. This is the only notice you will receive. The government will not send you a reminder. It you miss the court date for any reason, you have admitted guilt and the government gets a default judgement against you. All your preparation has been in vain. You lose.
The same goes for the cop. If he does not show up at trial, you win. Sometimes it happens that the ticketing officer does not show up, for whatever reason. That is a good day for you, and it happens more often than people realize.
A few days after the incident, when you are able to think more clearly, you will have to evaluate your options. Do I want to fight this ticket in court? Would it be easier and more simple to just pay the fine? I make good money and the fine plus court costs will not hurt me financially. So what if my automobile insurance rates go up. I am too busy to take a day off from work and go to traffic court. Even going to “driving school” after hours and on weekends would not be so bad. I can afford a few more “points‘ on my driving record at DMV.
But, on the other hand, you might not be guilty. It is the principle of the thing. And, besides the cop was a jerk. It’s just not fair. Why should I be singled out? There are millions of other people speeding all the time and they will continue to do so. Also, the cop made so many mistakes; I can beat this. I don’t need to hire a lawyer. The Government has the burden of proof, and it must prove its case against me. I am presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is America. I want my day in court.
In America, everyone has a right to plead“Not Guilty“. It does not mean that you did not do it. It simply means that you believe the Government cannot prove that you did it. You might have been driving 95 mile an hour in a 45 mile zone, or you might have run a red light 10 second after it turned red because you were sending a text message to a friend and not paying attention. You still have a right to plead “Not Guilty”.
Pleading “Not Guilty” is a good decision. It often is the “best” decision. After all, no one is going to jail here. Having a trial is better than not having one. Being prepared is good, but even if you are not, it is not the end of the world.
You have two trial options. You can appear in court or you can appear by Declaration. To “Appear By Declaration” simply means that you have written a letter to the Judge or Clerk of The Court stating your position and including any photos or diagrams that you wish the Judge to consider before he renders his decision. It is a good idea to send it “Registered Mail, Return Receipt Requested” so you have written confirmation when it was received and who signed for it. You want to be sure it arrived prior to the date of the Hearing.
If you have prepared your case and you are ready, going to court can be fun. You may be surprised to see how justice is dispensed and who are the ‘usual suspects‘. A casual glance around the court room will give you a new view of “equal justice under law”. Notice the demographic differences between the defendants (poorly dressed, ethnically diverse), the lawyers (with briefcases, joking with the police), the prosecutors (fresh out of law school and nervous in J C Penny suits), the bailiffs (cocky with the guns), the court clerks (young, female, nicely dressed), and the judge (in the black robe).
What To Do If You Go To Court.
Beg. Plead. Moan. Cry. Do not plead the 5th.
There is lots of “due process” but very little justice in the traffic law enforce system