NMA Email Newsletter: Issue #7

Traffic Ticket Defense: What If The Officer Doesn’t Show Up?

When a motorist goes to trial for a traffic ticket, it is required that the police officer or officers that witnessed the violation and issued the ticket (not always the same officer) appear and testify to the facts of the case. If the officer does not appear the prosecution cannot proceed with its case.

If the prosecution is lacking its principal witness it can ask the court to dismiss the case or it can ask for a continuation to a later date. Often the judge will take the initiative to dismiss the case without a request from either party. But not always.

If it becomes apparent that the officer is not in attendance as the trial begins, the defendant can make a motion for dismissal and such a motion will usually be accepted by the court.

The rationale is this: The trial date is set at the convenience of the court and the prosecution. If there is any conflict the prosecution can request a different date and that request will be granted. It is the prosecution’s responsibility to have its case in order and its witnesses in place on the day of the trial. Likewise, the defendant, and/or his attorney, are also responsible to be in court and prepared to proceed with the trial. If the defendant is not there the court will find him guilty and he will be required to pay all fines and penalties assessed for the violation. Therefore, it is only fair and appropriate that if the prosecution is not prepared to go forward with its case because its witness is not in attendance, the charges should be dismissed against the defendant.

If the prosecution attempts to seek a continuation to a later date, thus requiring the defendant to return to the court yet another time, the defendant should strongly object and make a motion for immediate dismissal. Most often the defendant will prevail in that motion.

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