29 May 20 Tips: What Happens If I go to Court Myself for My Traffic Ticket?
20 Tips: What Happens If I go to Court Myself for My Traffic Ticket?
When you receive a traffic ticket, it is always a good idea to contest it according to ny-defense.com, given that the consequences of pleading guilty go beyond the fine and additional fees you may have to pay. However, for those people who choose to fight their tickets, very few hire lawyers except for commercial drivers. If you are wondering what would happen if you deiced to go it alone and represent yourself in traffic court, then keep reading.
What to expect in traffic court
If you are planning on going to court yourself for your traffic ticket, it is important to know what you can expect as covered by the following points.
In most states, you don’t have the right to a jury trial for minor traffic offenses like speeding, running a red light, and improper use of a cell phone (all of which are handled by ny-defense.com). This means that if you want to fight a traffic ticket, your guilt will likely be decided by a single judge rather than a jury. Non-jury trials are called “bench trials”.
Consider your charge
While minor traffic infractions are technically considered crimes in most states, they usually aren’t handled in criminal courtrooms. Only the most serious driving-related offenses like DUI, reckless driving, and vehicle homicide go to criminal court. Drivers who receive tickets for violating less serious traffic laws will go to traffic court.
Traffic court is different than criminal court
Traffic courts are somewhat less formal than other courtrooms. In traffic court, there is generally no right to a court-appointed attorney, which is why you will see lots of people without legal counsel representing themselves, which is helped by the fact that the stakes in traffic court are lower than they are in criminal court.
The start of the trial
There are usually quite a few cases scheduled for a trial on any given day in traffic court. The clerk will first call each case, and the driver and officer who issued the ticket come up to the front. If the driver is present but the officer isn’t, the driver essentially wins the trial and the judge dismisses the ticket as discussed at ny-defense.com. But if both parties are there, the trial will commence.
While in most trials the attorneys make opening statements in which they explain to the jury what they think the evidence will show, the evidence that is presented at traffic trials is usually fairly straightforward and traffic courts are normally quite busy. This means that traffic court judges typically aren’t interested in hearing opening statements.
The government will usually get straight into it
Given that, as already mentioned, traffic court judges typically aren’t interested in hearing opening statements, after the traffic court clerk calls the case, the government will start presenting its evidence straight away as per ny-defense.com.
The government’s evidence
In most traffic cases, the government’s evidence will consist of only the testimony of the officer who issued the traffic ticket. While in some states prosecuting attorneys represent the state in traffic court trials, in many states there aren’t prosecutors in traffic court, meaning depending on whether there is a prosecutor, the officer will either answer questions posed by the prosecutor or simply tell the story and answer any questions the judge might have.
When the officer is finished, the driver or the driver’s attorney has an opportunity to cross-examine the officer and ask questions of their own. The reason why it is usually recommended that you hire an attorney like ny-defense.com is that this stage of the trial can get tricky and could damage the prospects a favorable outcome if you mess things up, and you likely will, given you are not trained for or used to this.
Rules of evidence
It is worth noting that, despite the informalities of traffic court, the rules of evidence still apply. This means that the driver or their attorney can make objections to the officer’s testimony or other evidence presented by the government.
The driver’s chancer to present evidence
Once the government has presented all of its evidence, the driver has a chance to present evidence as well. At this juncture, the driver might want to testify or present physical evidence like photos, videos, and the like. For example, for a stop sign ticket, a drive might want to present a photo to the court showing the sign was obscured by tree branches.
While some judges might allow for closing arguments, typically, as is the case for opening statements, traffic court judges announce the verdict after listening to and considering the evidence provided once the parties are done presenting said evidence, without the need for any closing arguments as covered at ny-defense.com.
Finally, the judge will announce the verdict – find the defendant guilty or not guilty. In most cases, judges state the amount of the fine immediately after announcing a guilty verdict. In some states, a driver might still be able to do traffic school even after being convicted at trial, and for drivers who are interested in this option, it probably wouldn’t hurt to ask the judge.
Should I go to court by myself for my traffic ticket?
If you think you want to represent yourself, then ask yourself and answer the following questions to see if you are ready:
Will I have the time?
Fighting a traffic ticket in most cases requires you to go to court at least twice. Once there, you will most likely spend the better part of the day in court while you wait for the clerk to get to your case. Your case may even be adjourned to another date. If you have a full-time job and have to take the time off work without pay, or by using one of your hard-earned leave/vacation days, then it may be cost-prohibitive to represent yourself when you could simply hire an attorney and have them represent you in court.
Am I resourceful?
Also, ask yourself if you know your way around the legal resource material in your local library or the internet. You should be able to read the section with which you are charged and the applicable definitions in that Act to identify the elements of the offense which must be proven by the prosecution to convict. If you can’t do all this, then you are better off hiring an experienced traffic attorney like ny-defense.com.
Can I present myself professionally?
This goes beyond dressing well while presenting yourself in the courtroom as it is about being able to present your arguments in a cool and calculated manner while showing respect to the judge, the prosecutor, and even the officer.
Do I get nervous when I have to speak in public?
Most people are uncomfortable with speaking in front of other people, let alone in a formal setting like a traffic court. Therefore, if you are one of those people who get nervous, don’t be afraid to admit this to yourself. You may be better off hiring a traffic attorney like ny-defense.com.
Can I think on my feet effectively?
Your case will involve questioning an adversarial witness, which will almost always be the issuing police officer. Therefore, not only must you prepare some questions you intend to ask, but you must be able to think quickly when the answers that are given lead you off in an entirely different direction.
Can I remain objective?
There is a reason why the saying, “He who represents themselves has a fool for a client” is common in legal circles. This is because it is very difficult to remain objective when you are arguing for yourself. Emotions can cloud judgment, even in intelligent people, which is why even lawyers usually hire other lawyers to represent their personal interests in court.
If you have answered yes to all the above questions, and done so honestly, then you are perhaps financially and emotionally ready to take on your defense in traffic court. If not, then you might want to hire ny-defense.com to represent you rather than gambling on yourself.
Situations where you should avoid representing yourself
The circumstances of some drivers make the consequences of a traffic ticket conviction quite severe. If you find yourself in the following situations, then you might want to seriously consider hiring an attorney.
If you have lots of tickets
Getting multiple tickets within a short period can lead to the suspension of your license. If you are in such a situation, beating a ticket could make all the difference as it could mean you avoid a suspension or even a revocation. To increase the chances of winning in traffic court, hiring an attorney might be the way to go.
If you are a CDL holder
Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) holders drive for a living and are subjected to stricter rules than other drivers. Under these rules, certain traffic violations can lead to CDL revocation, threatening one’s livelihood. The stakes in traffic court for such drivers can be very high, and with so much on the line, it makes more sense to get an attorney to represent you.
Hopefully, this article will let you know what happens if you go to court yourself for your traffic ticket in terms of what to expect, as well as what to consider before you decide to represent yourself. If you need assistance from a traffic attorney, then the top-rated ny-defense.com has got you covered.