Nothing Profound   drive-by writing by bkkRon

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Traffic Court: How To Win Your Case

If, or OK, when, you get a traffic ticket, ALWAYS take your case to court. If you're a hard-working person and you think you can't afford the few hours away from your job to go to court, imagine the extra cost if your insurance premiums go up by $200 per year.

If you're rich and earn the $120 for the amount of the ticket in a few seconds, it's still worth the time and effort to fight the case because a conviction stays on your driving record for three years, and your insurance record for seven years.

On your ticket, check the box to plead not guilty and/or request a trial date. If it doesn't give the option to do this by mail, visit your local court office (details on the ticket) to make the request in writing. This step takes only five minutes (plus travel time, plus standing-in-line time). Then wait for your court date to arrive in the mail. You'll receive the notice in about six months for a court date set at another four to six months later.

You might think your next step is going to court. Wrong. It's preparing. If you've been to court before, it's preparing your case. If you've never been to court, it's preparing yourself first.

Preparing yourself for court
  1. Learn about the players: The Crown Attorney, the Justice of the Peace, the police officer, the clerks, court reporters, bailiffs, etc.
  2. Learn court procedure. (You can visit and sit in on traffic court whenever it is in session.) If you know when to speak, when to ask questions (direct and cross-examination) and how to address the court, you'll be better prepared than 90% of defendants. The court will respect you if you show respect for it.
Steps to preparing your case
  1. Write down the events of everything you remember when you received the ticket.
  2. Prepare your testimony; you will get to tell the whole story in your own words.
  3. Gather and organize your witness(es).
  4. Prepare questions for your witness(es). Prepare your witness(es) by practicing.
  5. Anticipate the Crown's (prosecutor's) questions for your witness(es). Practice.
  6. Research the police officer who made the charge.
  7. Prepare cross-examining questions for the police officer.
  8. Prepare a closing statement and request for time to pay if found guilty.
  9. Prepare your clothing; dress in conservative, respectable business attire. Make sure every witness also dresses well.
The above planning and preparation will take time. But the education you'll give yourself will benefit you during your trial and better your understanding of the legal system. The whole process is actually quite entertaining. By showing you know what to do and when to do it in court, the Crown and JP will respect you and think of you more favourably than defendants who cause slowdowns in their procedures.

While in court during one of your visits well before your case, pay attention to how annoying it is when defendants don't come prepared, don't know what to ask the police officer when given the chance to do so, and generally have no idea what to do in court. Crown Attorneys and Justices of the Peace have to deal with people like this everyday. They become very irritated and the JPs tend to find most defendants guilty.

Simply by preparing, you'll give yourself a huge advantage, and you'll be surprised how respectfully you'll get treated by everyone in court when they see you know the proper procedure and that you're ready for each step in the process.

As well, even if you're found guilty, by stating your case clearly and asking proper questions of your and the Crown's witnesses, you'll have a better chance if you wanted subsequently to take your case to appeals court. The transcript of your traffic court case is required in an appeal and if you don't fully state your case here and now, you won't be able to introduce new evidence during an appeal.

You'll notice that I didn't mention anything about whether or not you were actually guilty of the charge against you. Not important. The goal is to try to get a not guilty verdict. If you don't go to court and plead not guilty, there is no chance you'll be found innocent. If you simply pay the ticket when you receive it, you'll of course be found guilty. All the dangers of the guilty verdict will be on your record for the next seven years. You'll get the demerit points on your driver's licence and have them for the next three years.

By going to court prepared and respectful, you'll leave respected. There's a chance you'll be found not guilty. But most of all, you will have learned something. And that's always good and worth the effort expended.


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