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Plan Ahead

PLAN AHEAD

Since we’ve now determined that you are going to take your case to court, there are a few things that you should prepare for your defense. Some of these items are:

  • Call your auto insurance agency and find out how much your premiums will be affected by being convicted on the ticket that you have received.

  • Check with Motor Vehicles and see how many points you have on your license, and how many your possible conviction may add to that.

  • Make sure that the registration is up to date, your insurance is up to date, inspections, etc. Take care of them before you walk into court. If you have any outstanding tickets, take care of them before your trial.

  • See if you’re eligible for a driving school.

  • Check your work schedule to see if you have any conflicts that may facilitate changing your court date. Once you’ve taken care of these matters, it’s time to prepare your defense.

SET THE COURT DATE

The first thing to think about is entering a plea and setting a trial date. There are three ways to enter your plea with the traffic court. The first is to go to the County Clerk’s office to request a trial date in person. The second is to stand before the Judge, enter your “not guilty” plea and then ask for a trial date. The last one is to mail a copy of your citation and request a trial date.

There’s a possibility with all three of these approaches that you will have to post bail in the amount of the citation. Check with the court in advance to find out, so that you do have the proper amount should it be needed. After you have posted bail, if it’s required, you’ve got two things that are going for you. Firstly, you’ve paid your fine already. If you lose your case, your fine’s paid and there will be no more costs. Secondly, if you can’t make it to your trial and they forfeit your bail, there will be no additional fees. But if you don’t post bail, and don’t appear for your trial, a warrant can be issued for your arrest, because you failed to appear. Now, instead of just a simple traffic citation, you’ve got a misdemeanor charge pending against you. Don’t let something simple become complicated by not showing up at your trial.

You are guaranteed a fair and fast trial by the constitution, meaning that within 45 days of the date that you entered your plea, you should be attending your trial. Watch this time very carefully. If anyone contacts you about changing the date of your trial, you are going to have to waive your right to a quick trial. The only thing in your favor is that the longer the trial date is from the actual date that you got your ticket, the better the odds are that the officer who wrote the ticket will not be able to remember the details. The disadvantages include the fact that the court can pick any date it chooses within the 45 day time frame. You might not be available on that day and you could forfeit your bail and the whole trial. You may have to prepare for your trial at a faster pace if it’s less than the 45 days that you would normally be allocated. Also, the details would be clearer in the mind of the officer than you would want them to be. If you can’t get ready for a trial in 30 days, you’re probably not going to be ready in 60 either. Your best bet is that the officer does not show up at all. The most important fact to consider is that you don’t want to waive your rights to a speedy trial.


In addition, a little trick to remember when you’re trying to set your trial date is to find out when the officer’s vacation time is due. Usually this time is extended as a courtesy to the court, but you can usually use it to your advantage. If you know the officer’s vacation time, pick a day right in the middle of his time off and try to make your court appearance to request your trial date about 40 days previous to that. Make sure that you skip over holidays and also ensure it doesn’t include a weekend. If you follow these guidelines, aim to set a day as your date to appear to enter your ‘not guilty’ plea and request a trial. This scenario depends upon two criteria; the first depends on the officer’s vacation dates, and the second is that you’re able to walk into the clerk’s office and enter your plea. At this point, it’s time for you to wait for your trial date to be established. Usually it’s approximately 40 days after you’ve entered your first plea, in most cases. You should be able to enter the courtroom just as the officer who wrote the citation is enjoying his vacation, but this doesn’t happen in most cases. Usually the courts notice the error and they try to schedule a date for you. Under no circumstances should you waive your 45 day right to speedy trial. If they reschedule your trial without your consent and it’s more than 45 days from the date you originally appeared in court, there’s a very good chance you will suffer a mistrial. Go to your local library and research the case laws. Try to find out if an officer’s vacation time is not good cause for continuance of your trial. This will give you some counter measures if the prosecutor attempts to claim that the court did have good cause to continue your trial. Just inform them about what you discovered in your research, and make a motion for a mistrial. If overruled, just go on with your case and file an appeal if you’re found guilty. Usually the case will be overturned on an appeal. Now that you’ve entered your ‘not guilty’ plea and you’ve gotten the court moving, it’s time to put all of all your facts together and build your defense.

DMV

Every state has a division of Motor Vehicles. Their job is to control all facets of your privilege to drive a motor vehicle. They are able to monitor your driving record and decide whether it is necessary to suspend your privileges. Usually they use points to determine whether or not you have committed enough violations to suspend your license. If you accumulate enough points, you may have your license suspended. You may not be unable to operate a motor vehicle during that period of time. Some states fix the violation records on your license for five years, and most leave a DUI or a DWI on for seven years. When you’re preparing the defense for your trial, check your driving record. You might also like to have a list of all the different points that can be earned on you license. Most of the DMV’s will be able to provide you with that record on your license for a nominal fee. Hopefully you will face a potential suspension of your license for this current driving infraction. However, if you do, it might be a good idea to retain an attorney. If your situation falls into the norm, you’ll probably be safe from suspension but you may still have a mark on your license for three years from the date of conviction. And that will increase your insurance premiums.

 
 

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