The first time I got the little yellow notice to appear that they give out here in California I was really confused. Back home when police gives you a ticket for speeding it has the fee you have to pay which is based on your income so the only time you’d really complain about it if your income has decreased from previous year. Well here it just states my alleged offence and the court where I need to appear by certain date and time. Depending on your offence you can just pay the fine, appear in court, contest the violation, request traffic school or request trial by written declation.
The first time I just paid the fine and requested traffic school so that I wouldn’t get a point and have my insurance rate increased. Well it didn’t take even a year when I got a second one. This time I couldn’t take traffic school because I had already done it once in the past 18 months. Even if I could have the point would still have shown on my driving record. After doing some research online I decided try my luck with trial by written declaration. According to many people there’s a change the officer won’t submit his side of the events and if you follow these simple steps the judge doesn’t have any other choise but to dismiss the case.
- Delay, delay, delay
Take your time and ask for all the extensions you can but never miss any deadline. At least here in Los Angeles you can do this online. You can ask one extension for your appearance date.
- Request trial by written declaration
Once your time is up you can send your bail amount and ask for trial by written declaration. For me they sent a letter with a form where you could check that you are requesting trial by written declaration. At this time you need to pay your bail amount. Make sure it reaches the court before your appearance date. It’s better to do this via mail than to go yourself to the courthouse. This will delay it further. You should see your new deadline online but it’s usually 30 days from your previous deadline. Since it was my first time I didn’t know how it was supposed to work. So I waited to get some papers in the mail but those never showed up so I sent a separate letter requesting trial by written declaration. I also went to the courthouse in person on the day I saw online that it was due and said that I had not received anything in the mail. The cleark told me that it was due today but I got another 30 day extension and the form I was supposed to get in mail.
- Submit your declaration
Again wait until last minute to submit your declaration. Your declaration should be something as simple as “I stand by my plea of not guilty”. Don’t give any excuses or provide anything information that could be later used against you. I literally wrote just that line as my declaration. Now all you can do is wait until the court processes it. At this time they will request the officers declaration and if they don’t get it the judge can only dismiss the charges unless of course you provided a statement that implicates you. The officer is not paid over time to write the declartion so he probably won’t do it unless you got some rookie still exited about his job. If you are unlucky to have the officer send in his declaration then all is not lost even though the judge will find you guilty. You can still request a new trial in front of the judge and what’s best about this is that you can get the officers statement and can then attack it’s creadibility. At this point it’s probably a good idea to hire a lawyer specialized in traffic court.
In the end I was lucky and the judge dismissed the case and I’ll get my $360 bail fully refunded in about 6 weeks. I’m not a lawyer and you should consult a one before taking these steps. They also might not apply to jurisdictions outside Los Angeles.