Helping NMA members fight traffic tickets is foundational to the NMA mission. Over the years we’ve collected lots of tips and suggestions for getting the best results in court. We recently came across this list of Frequently Asked Questions and thought it would provide a good refresher on some basic ticket-fighting principles. Look for Part 2 in an upcoming e-newsletter.
Does the officer have to show me the radar/laser reading?
This is not required in most jurisdictions. Also, whether the officer allows you to see the speed reading has virtually no bearing on your case. Officers can lock in radar readings and leave them on to display to any hapless victim, even though it was not his or her vehicle that registered the displayed speed.
Can radar clock the speed of one vehicle in a group of vehicles?
The radar operator is unable to determine which vehicle in a group of vehicles is responsible for the speed he sees on his radar gun display.
Can the police send me a ticket in the mail, even though they didn’t stop me at the time of the alleged violation?
Yes, but the officer who observed the violation must attend your trial and testify that it was your car he observed violating the law and that you were the person operating that car.
If my car was clocked from an airplane do the officer(s) in the plane have to attend my trial?
The officer that clocked your car and the officer that gave you the ticket must appear as witnesses against you.
How often do radar guns and laser guns have to be formally re-calibrated and checked for accuracy?
This varies from state to state. Some states have very specific requirements and many states have no standards what-so-ever. It is not uncommon for enforcement agencies to produce calibration certificates for a radar gun, any radar gun, regardless of the radar gun that was actually used to issue the citation.
Where do I send a Request for Discovery?
A Request for Discovery goes to the District Attorney/Prosecutor responsible for your case.
Where do I send a Public Information Request or Freedom of Information Request?
These requests should be sent to the agency or office that holds the actual record you are seeking, most often the police department that issued you a ticket.
What is a “Defense of Necessity?”
This is a legal defense where the defendant claims it was necessary to violate the law to prevent or avoid serious harm such as loss of life or personal injury.
Can police officers operate speed traps while parking on private property?
Yes, but they must also vacate the property if asked to do so by the property owner.
Will the court automatically dismiss the charges against me if the officer does not show up for my trial?
Not usually, you often have to make a motion to have the charges dismissed. Generally, a judge will grant your motion, but it is up to his/her discretion.
Am I entitled to at least one continuance?
No, but most courts will grant at least one continuance without seriously exploring the reason. It should be noted that requesting a continuance can eliminate the right to a speedy trial, at least in those states that have a “speedy trial” statute.
Do I have a right to a jury trial?
About half the states allow jury trials for traffic law violations. Most states allow jury trials for DUI defendants. However, the US Supreme Court has declared that the US Constitution’s clear mandate for granting jury trials, in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments, does not apply if the possible punishment is less than six months in prison.
Will errors on the ticket result in the charges being dropped?
Courts will often excuse minor errors on a ticket. A misspelled name, incorrect address, or difference in opinion on whether your car is aqua or green in color will not result in a dismissed ticket. Conversely, a major error such as citing the wrong statute, radically misidentifying your vehicle or listing the wrong highway as the site of the violation should provide justification to dismiss the ticket. However, it may be advantageous to say nothing about the errors until your trial. Let the officer use the ticket to describe the violation, location, and identification of your vehicle (they all do). After he/she has sufficiently buried him/herself with perjured testimony, you can document the errors and any legitimate court will dismiss the charges.