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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    6

    Question Contesting Big-Town vs. Small-Town Traffic Tickets

    Long ago I had an accident in a big Texas city. I pleaded "not guilty" to "following too closely." The police officer was in court, but the prosecutor then did not prosecute. That was it-case dismissed. I've heard prosecutors in that city always declined to prosecute minor traffic offenses if the only witnesses are police officers who did not see the accident happen.

    Now I have a "failure to yield" ticket for hitting a car in a small suburb. Witnesses will unlikely go to court. I thought the case would be dismissed like last time.

    It looks like the suburb has few cases. When scheduling the case, the clerk said something like I "will visit with the judge." That plus posts here have unnerved me!

    If it's so "informal," should I just save everyone's time and plead nolo contendre? Do the judges find you guilty no matter what you say?

    Should I request dismissal as soon as prosecution indicates they will proceed, or is that stupid?

    I guess only a police officer(s) would be a witness. Should I ask them anything? (For all I know the police officer will be the prosecution.)

    After prosecution rests do I ask for dismissal? Do I give the reason, that the prosecution didn't prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?

    Should I go on the stand to say the other car's lights were off, etc.?

    Should I tell the judge I was an arbitrator in a criminal justice system? Should I bring proof?

    If I take the stand, can I use the 5th amendment not to answer questions from the judge or prosecution? (I'm guessing no.)

    Should I watch a trial there first, same day as mine?

    Thanks a big bunch for your response. Gulp.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Behind a Desk
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    98,846

    Default Re: Contesting Big-Town Vs. Small-Town Traffic Tickets

    Quote Quoting Tilly
    View Post
    If it's so "informal," should I just save everyone's time and plead nolo contendre? Do the judges find you guilty no matter what you say?
    If you plead nolo contendere" (no contest), as I told you in your other thread, the court will treat your plea as if it's a guilty plea. So saying "I plead no contest" is a pretty sure path to being treated as if you're guilty, no matter what else you say.
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    Should I request dismissal as soon as prosecution indicates they will proceed, or is that stupid?
    The grounds for dismissal would be what? (If your answer is "I dunno", well, you have already guessed how that answer might look to a judge.)
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    I guess only a police officer(s) would be a witness. Should I ask them anything? (For all I know the police officer will be the prosecution.)
    What do you hope to learn from the officers, or establish in relation to the accident? You ask them questions to elicit that information.
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    After prosecution rests do I ask for dismissal? Do I give the reason, that the prosecution didn't prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt?
    If you want. But you won't know if the prosecution has presented a prima facie case until after you hear its case.
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    Should I go on the stand to say the other car's lights were off, etc.?
    Who else is going to say that?
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    Should I tell the judge I was an arbitrator in a criminal justice system? Should I bring proof?
    How would that be relevant to the traffic case?
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    If I take the stand, can I use the 5th amendment not to answer questions from the judge or prosecution? (I'm guessing no.)
    You either stay off the stand and remain silent, or take the stand and testify. You can't give your own side of the case then "take the Fifth" to avoid cross-examination.
    Quote Quoting Tilly
    Should I watch a trial there first, same day as mine?
    Watch some trials on a date before you go to court. It will help you get an idea of how to prepare.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Posts
    6

    Unhappy Re: Contesting Big-Town Vs. Small-Town Traffic Tickets

    Big surprises.
    1. Turns out going to court just gave another opportunity to plead, not a trial. So, if you plead not guilty, as in a form sent to the court, you are stuck with going to court twice.
    Some other defendant who was pleading not guilty told the judge they had never heard of it. The judge responded that it is done this way almost everywhere. It was a surprise to me. If there is a next time I'll know to ask.

    2. Something I didn't realize, but probably should have (duh!). If you go to trial and are found guilty it is put on your driving record and can be used against you in any civil suit. According to the judge, if you plead nolo contendre it cannot be held against you in a future civil suit.

    3. People with a clean driving record who don't get any more tickets in the next while don't get the offense on their drivers license, as far as Texas is concerned, for instance for insurance.

    4. If you go to trial and are found guilty, you pay automatic court costs, in the 3 digits at least.

    So I pled nolo contendre, paid the ticket on the spot (they even take credit cards!) and was on my way, lessons learned and trying extra-hard not to get any more tickets, especially soon.

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