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How to Defend Yourself in Traffic Court with a Prosecutor and No Jury

1.

Wait for your case to be called and the charges read.

2.

Make a motion for continuance if you need more time; for dismissal if the ticketing officer should be present, but isn't, if you have not received documents you requested, or if the prosecution has not brought the case to trial within the specified time required by law under the "right to a speedy trial."

3.

Ask that multiple witnesses be excused from the courtroom so that they are not influenced by each other's testimony.

4.

Listen to the prosecutor's formal opening statement.

5.

Ask that you be allowed to give your opening statement after the prosecution has presented its case. This allows you to fine-tune your statement based on the case presented by the prosecution and to avoid revealing your defense.

6.

Object to the traffic officer's testimony sparingly - to instances, for example, where the officer does not explain how he obtained the information he is giving; where he presents evidence that you requested and never received; where he gives information that is "hearsay," not first-hand knowledge; where he states as fact something that has not been introduced as evidence.

7.

Cross-examine the officer. Re-cross-examine him only if the prosecutor brings up new issues during his redirect examination.

8.

Present your opening statement after the prosecution finishes its case. Make it a brief summary of the points you and your witnesses will cover in your testimony.

9.

Give your account as a narrative. If this is not permitted, ask and answer your own questions. Present your visual evidence.

10.

Answer any questions posed by the prosecutor and the judge. Object if the ticketing officer tries to question you.

11.

Call your witnesses. Ask your prepared questions if the narrative style is not allowed.

12.

Recite your compelling closing statement after the prosecutor has presented his. Point out that the evidence shows that there is reasonable doubt that you violated the law (or proves your innocence in the states where that is required) or that you had a legal reason for acting as you did.

13.

Listen to the prosecutor's rebuttal closing argument should he choose to give one. Object if the prosecutor introduces new evidence or testimony during his closing arguments.

14.

Await the judge's decision either on the spot or at a future date, "under advisement." If the latter and you are considering an appeal of a guilty verdict, call the court weekly to see if the decision has been filed.

Tips and Warnings

  • Decorum is key. Try not to react to exaggerated, incorrect or seemingly defamatory comments about you or your actions. You want to portray yourself as a rational person and present a case based on reason.
  • Read the Related eHows to prepare your defense.
  • Books such as Nolo Press' "Beat Your Ticket: Go to Court and Win!" by attorney David Brown provide details about procedures, what to expect when a prosecutor tries your case, and cross-examination questions directed toward specific traffic violations.

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