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  1. #1

    Question Failure to Yield, Other Driver's Headlights Were Off

    Hi expert law! I first want to thank any help in advance! Now let me tell you my story. Tonight I was driving home from my volunteer job. I was coming up to a four way intersection, as I came up to it the light was green. As usual I looked ahead of me and there were no cars I saw. I then continued to take the left turn at the 4 way intersection. Let me also note that it was completely dark outside, and it was pouring rain. As I made my turn I noticed a black SUV going straight he immediately stopped, I also noted what I saw him having no headlights on. After I made my turn I noticed a cop was sitting behind him and pulled me over right after he saw me do this. He then gave me a citation for failure to yield going left for $88 and 4 points off. I'm 17 years old, and had my drivers license for 11 months. This is also my first ticket I have ever gotten! The officer said he was also going to add a note that it was raining hard and that might of been why I was confused. Now here are my questions:
    (1)- I plan on fighting this in court because I feel like I had no way to notice the driver until I finally made the turn. What are my chances of getting this ticket dropped or receiving a lesser charge (the officer said I might be able to get the points removed)?
    (2)- Do you think my insurance rate is going to sky rocket now that I got a ticket and that I am only 17 years old?
    (3)- Do you have any other suggestions of what I should do?

    Thank you again VERY much for any help, it is greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    9,085

    Default Re: Got a Little Dilemma, Any Help is Appreciated

    Please give us your state.

    1 - I wouldn't use the "I didn't see the oncoming car" defense. It is your job to see the car coming. I realize that the combination of rain and the lack of the driver's headlights may help. Did the officer notice the lack of headlights?
    2 - Any ticket a 17 year old gets will increase car insurance premiums.
    3 - Present yourself in court like it is the most important job interview of your life. Dress professionally, get a recent haircut and treat court like church. Realize that you are going to get about 5 minutes to plead your case. Practice what you are going to say before court and keep it short, concise and clear.
    All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.
    - Mark Twain

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    CT & IL
    Posts
    5,276

    Default Re: Got a Little Dilemma, Any Help is Appreciated

    I would go to google scholar and see if any accidents caused by people driving w/o lights on were found to show that the car w/o the lights on were at fault...I would not cross the cop on this as he would likely say that the lights were on. You can ask the cop if there are any street lights on the road, if it was raining, if it was dark, the visibility on that night (how far could you see objects clearly), if he measured the speed of the other vehicle (dont ask him that the speed was, ask him if he measured it -- I doubt he did) to lay the facts down for your "I could not see him defense". What was the speed limit? If it was 20 MPH v. 60 MPH then the faster speed would be in your favor (ie less time to see an unlit vehicle).

    Dont get huffy in your cross & do not ask him questions that will hurt your case .. do not ask him if other vehicle's lights were on for instance (if he answers yes, your doomed). Once you testify, say that you agree with the officer in respect to the darkness & rainy condition then say that you saw the other vehicle w/o his lights on & you could not see him , likely due to his distance away prior to that because of his headlamps being off. You must be able to see oncoming traffic to avoid it, right? Now, the DA may have the officer take the stand to rebut your testimony and say that he saw the headlights on with the other vehicle. You can cross this with did you assess this from his tail lights? as be was braking? Then you just killed his statement of seeing his headlights on because he just saw his tail lights (brake lights) on.

    Chances of winning: ~20% really. The I cannot see it I think may be a viable defense, if you can get your testimony in w/o a good rebuttal then you may win. The judge will decide if he believes your testimony or not. And that's what it will come down to.

    Write your testimony & questions down .. you need to do this so you dont mess up...even attnys do this & for a very good reason. You should be able to give an oral closing, if you find any court cases supporting the idea that any accident would have been faulted on the other driver, list them for the judge (case name & citation of the case) - this will show the judge that you are earnest in your efforts.

    I have turned a curve on an unlit interstate to find a car parked in my lane (doing the limit 65MPH) and narrowly missed the parked car .. I would assume that someone with 1 or 2 drinks (legal, not dui) would have rear ended the car. I would dress business casual (not suit & tie) but a button down shirt and slacks vs. blue jeans. Dont get flustered if you are in court 4-5 hrs waiting for your "turn". If the cop does not show up, object to any continuance & motion for acquittal (not likely to happen but it does happen). If the judge grants a continuance, note the time & date of the next hearing & ask what courtroom ... bring a notepad & pencil or pen.

    If you lose (found guilty), you can still ask for traffic school or other minimizing avenues ...

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