Time in Court
The first time you hear the
Bailiff announce ďthe people versus youĒ, it sends a small chill down
your spine. Youíre entering a weird world which you really do not have
any knowledge about, and youíre wondering to yourself why you didnít
just pay the fine and forget about the whole tribulation. Relax, breathe
deeply and believe in the fact that you have more time preparing for
this case than the prosecution has. His only advantage is that he knows
how the procedure works. Weíll try and balance that out for you in this
LOOK GOOD IN COURT
If you have had the chance to visit a courtroom before the trial,
observe how people are dressed, so that you may dress accordingly.
Normal attire will be a suit for men, and a conservative business suit
for woman. Donít wear anything loud, flashy, or attention seeking. The
judgeís first impressions of you are of paramount importance and you
want it to be long lasting and favorable. Donít let him forge a negative
opinion of you before you even get started simply because of your choice
People that you will contend with in your trial are listed below:
Defendant - thatís you!
The Prosecutor/ADA - the
guy in charge of the opposing team.
The Judge - the referee,
the one who is the final authority on anything from the final
objections, the verdicts or the fines.
The Police Officer - the
star witness for the prosecution.
The Bailiff - think of
him as the Master of Ceremonies, and heís also Sergeant of Arms for
The Court Clerk - that
is the Administrative Assistant to the Judge.
The only other person in the
situation may be another police officer who was at the scene, during the
time that your citation was written. If it turns out that one officer
worked the radar unit and another one wrote the citation, then both of
them need to be present for your case, in order for the prosecutor to
make his case. If you donít see those officers that were involved in you
case, at the time your case is called for trial, youíve got a good
chance for dismissal even before you get started.
Just remember that the Judge, who is the final ruling authority, can
postpone you case until the end of the day to see if the officer shows
up for the trial. Be prepared to wait that amount of time.
PROCEDURES AT THE TRIAL
Below youíll see a listing of typical events in the order that they will
happen during your trial:
The Bailiff calls the
The defense, thatís you,
and the Prosecution both reply with ďReady your Honor.Ē
The Prosecution will
give their opening statement.
The Defense will give
their opening statement.
The Prosecution will
present their case; they will have the police officers testimony.
There will be cross
examination by the Defense.
There will be a
re-direct by the Prosecution.
Any physical evidence
available will be revealed at this time.
Any diagrams, citations,
that sort of thing, then the Prosecution will rest.
If you have the grounds,
you will make your motion to dismiss, on non-applicable grounds at
this point in time.
The defense case will
include your witness, either you or your passengers.
Cross Examination by the
Re-direct by the
defense, and you as the defense, will rest.
Next will follow the
rebuttal of the witness by the prosecution. The closing arguments of the
prosecution, by the defense, and then the Prosecution gets another
chance to comment and respond to the defense closing. The verdict will
be issued shortly thereafter, and then you will get sentenced if guilty.
THE CASE FOR THE PROSECUTION
The job of the prosecution is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt,
through the use of testimony and evidence, that all the vehicle code
sections that youíre accused of violating, had in fact been violated.
Typically, the Prosecutor will attempt to prove that the ticketing
officer made a visual estimate of your speed and then verified that
speed with his laser detector, or by following you with his vehicle.
Make a note of the fact that the Prosecution has a case law which
supports their side of the story and that would be the State of Kentucky
versus Honeycutt which ruled that an officer does not need to be an
expert in radar operation, he only has to be competent in the use of
The purpose of your objections during the trial procedure and the
prosecutions presentation do have two purposes. First of all, you want
to break up the pace that the Prosecutor and the arresting officer or
the ticketing officer are accustomed to. Primarily you can do that
through objections. Anything that appears to be subject should be
objected to. Take a look at what follows, for some of the typical
objections that are available to you. Even if you are overruled, the
police and the Prosecution have to break up their rhythm in order to
wait for the Judge to make a ruling.
While the Prosecution is presenting their case you should be making
notes as to what was said. Make comments concerning your upcoming cross
examination so that you are prepared before you get up to speak. Keep a
record of the various points of the vehicle code in question. As the
Prosecution proves that point of your case, check it off. This will be
able to give you a record as to whether or not he has covered all of the
points in the case law. If all of the code issues are not checked off
and you know that they have not been covered by the Prosecuting
attorney, you have reason to make a motion for dismissal. Keep in mind
that the Prosecutor must prove all the points in the code beyond a
Now follows some of the typical objections that are used in a traffic
The purpose of the objections is to keep the evidence limited to
specific testimony which is specifically relevant and admissible to the
case. The only one who has authority over this is the Judge. He can say
nothing about evidence that is produced in the case unless it is
objected to. There is a balance between how many times you can object
and not be reprimanded by the Judge and also how few times you can
successfully defend your case without being run over by the Prosecuting
Here are some of the objections that you may come across in a typical
OBJECTION, INDEPENDENT RECOLLECTION
When the officer begins his testimony, it is more than likely that he is
going to read from the copy of his citation. You should immediately
object to this since the officer is required to testify from independent
recollection. You should also ask to see what the officer is referring
to even though you have received a copy of the citation through
subpoena. It is likely the Judge will allow the officer to use his notes
to refresh his memory, if the officer indicates to the court that he
requires the notes to testify properly. This starts everything for
dismissal because the sixth amendment to the Constitution guarantees you
the right to be confronted with the witnesses against you. In this case,
the officer and his testimony, not the citation, are the witnesses
against you. If the officer cannot recollect the circumstances of your
ticket, he may be considered to be incompetent to testify. You need to
prove that the officer is unable to testify without his notes to make
him an incompetent witness. If the back of the citation and the
officerís notes signifies SB 124, then all he can testify to is SB 124,
not Southbound on highway 124. As youíll soon see the notes on the back
on the officers citation can hurt the officersí testimony and help you
A situation arises when any witness testifies to something that has not
been previously established as evidence. For example, the officer states
that the speedometer on his police vehicle read 70 miles per hour. This
is inadmissible in court unless the calibration for the speedometer had
been entered prior to that point in time.
This type of objection occurs when a question is asked of a witness and
they produce evidence that they could not possibly know. For example,
they introduce the fact that you could clearly see a street sign or a
speed limit sign and thereís no way that they could know that. Only you
may have been aware of that fact.
In this case the Prosecution would ask the officer to make a conclusion
based on an insufficient amount of facts. For example, the officer may
say that you saw a stop sign and chose to ignore it. He cannot make that
decision because he does not have the facts.
The officer is allowed to testify in the form of a story rather than a
question and answer procedure. He has given a narrative. You have a
right to decide if a particular question could have an objectionable
response. If he tells the events without being questioned, you have no
opportunity to object.
OBJECTION, NOT QUALIFIED
Itís similar to the previous objection, but in this case the witness
testifies to something that they have no expertise in. If the officer
were to testify that your muffler, for example, was defective, he may
not have the expertise to make that objection since heís not a muffler
Essentially this refers to anything that is said outside the courtroom
by someone who is not a witness. The officer may not state that a
witness had told him something at the scene. The actual witness would
need to appear in order for that testimony to be included in the courts
record. If one officer wrote a speeding ticket for a radar violation for
another officer, both officers must testify, only to the extent of how
much they were involved in that particular incident.
These are events that may or may not have happened but bear no relation
to the particular law that you are accused of violating. The officer may
state that you had a hostile attitude towards him, which had no bearing
on the ticket. Your attitude has no relevance on the law.
Itís almost the same as the previous objection. It may be related to the
previous facts at hand, but itís not close enough to remain admissible.
The officer might bring up your driving record. Your prior traffic
convictions have no influence and should have no relevance to the ticket
that you were fighting. You cannot be judged on your past performances.
If that were the case and youíve had 12 speeding violations in the past
three years, they would be assuming that you would be guilty of this
THE PREEMPTIVE OBJECTION
This is when you realize before the fact that the officer is going to
drop some bit of information that could be damaging to your case. In
this case, you would object prior to the officer even mentioning it,
just to disrupt their rhythm enough so that it would throw them off. Be
advised that you are only permitted to be able to use this once or twice
during the course of the trial because you are going to aggravate the
Judge. If you abuse this type of objection, when you have a real
objection the Judge will just overrule automatically without hearing
During the cross examination phase youíre acting as your own defense
lawyer and your main purpose is to discredit the testimony of any
witness. In order to create a reasonable doubt in the eyes of the court,
remember your opponent, the prosecution has to prove that you are guilty
of the crime you are accused of. In order to succeed in this type of
examination it is essential to find the details that the police officer
canít remember adequately and focus in on them. You should always be
prepared for this type of questioning by knowing the answers to the
questions that you are going to ask. You should be prepared for any
answer that the officer gives. His best answer will be the facts that he
already knows. For example, letís say you ask the officer the color of
your car. On the back of your citation he may have it indicated that
your car is blue. Then ask what shade of blue. If he tells you the
correct shade of blue, move on to another subject. If he tells you he
doesnít know, this indicates he canít remember the facts of his case. If
he tells you itís white, he obviously has no idea and canít remember
what he wrote on the citation. This would be a great advantage for you.
Donít ever argue the case with the officer. Simply ask questions. You
will get your chance in your case later in your motion to dismiss. The
next criteria for cross examining questions is whether or not the
questions will help your case. Donít ever open up areas or details of an
investigation that could damage your defense. For example you donít want
to ask a police officer why he didnít write you a ticket for a broken
tail light and only one for speeding. It would be in your best interest
to ask specific questions such as, did you see the oil tanker truck in
lane two? You donít want to ask him whether there was any other traffic
around because it would be very easy for him to get around that
question. If you ask him specifics he has got to remember specifics.
Itís also a good idea to start all of your questions with statements
such as: ďIsnít it a fact?Ē. This is because the officer is under oath
and must tell the truth. If he canít remember, he must state, ďI canít
recallĒ. The more responses like that you get, the stronger your case
will be. If the officer canít recall the details then he certainly does
not rule out reasonable doubt. Covering the Prosecutionís examination of
the officerís testimony, note the strong points and the weak points of
the officerís testimony. If he states that he has the required 24/16
hour training in radar, leave that alone. If he does not have the
necessary training and was trained by another officer then attack that
very hard. There are a number of general questions that may be
advantageous to ask during the cross examination. Some of them should
include the location of the defendant when the officer first spotted his
vehicle. Did the officer always have the defendantís car in site with an
unobstructed view from the first contact, until the defendant stopped?
What was the distance between the officerís vehicle and the defendantís
vehicle at first contact? What was the weather like during the time of
pursuit. What kind of traffic was encountered during the entire pursuit?
In what lane was the defendantís car during the first contact? What was
the exact time of day when the offense took place? How many passengers
were there in the defendantís vehicle? What is the exact color of the
defendants vehicle? Did the defendants vehicle have any noticeable
structural differences? For example custom wheels instead of factory
hubcaps. The aim of these questions is to discredit the officers
testimony as much as possible. If he continues to say I donít remember
and I canít recall, you are building up a reasonable doubt in the
witnessí testimony. The next smart move would be to move for a
You may request a motion for
dismissal for several reasons. We are going to try to cover the
different motions for dismissal you might want to use during your trial.
If youíre lucky, this is as far as your trial will proceed.
MOTION TO DISMISS
Due to the denial of a right to a speedy trial. This should be used at
the beginning of your trial if your actual trial date was more than 45
days from the time of your original indictment. Your date of arraignment
is determined by the date you stood up in court and pleaded not guilty.
This happens rarely and would cause great embarrassment on the part of
the court and the prosecutor. If you get to invoke this motion consider
yourself very lucky.
MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO DENIED ACCESS TO EVIDENCE NECESSARY TO YOUR
Again this would be used at the start of the trial if your subpoena was
ignored by the prosecution. In most cases the judge will delay the trial
and order the prosecution to provide you with the information you
requested. You donít want to waive your right to a speedy trial, but you
may have to decide if it is worth getting your subpoena information. It
is likely that the judge will not let the speedy trial clause slip by.
MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE.
Employing this particular strategy immediately after the prosecution
rests his case. If the prosecution did not prove all of the required
elements of the vehicle code you are charged with violating, then you
may invoke this motion. For this reason we strongly suggest that you
keep a check list of all relevant points that the prosecution needs to
prove during the trial. It will be a useful reference chart when you
explain to the judge that you were never identified as the driver, what
road you were on, or any other relevant factors to the vehicle code.
MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO INCOMPETENT WITNESS.
An extensive cross examination is necessary in order to prove that the
prosecutionís witness, mainly the police officer, is not able to recall
the details of the event in question when you received your citation. If
you can get him to state numerously that he does not recall, it is up to
the judge in his infinite wisdom to decide whether or not the officer
actually remembers what happened on the day in question.
MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO INADEQUATE PROCEDURES.
This may be utilized if the officer does not follow proper procedures,
such as calibrating the radar unit before and after his shift rather
than before and after the issue of the citation. Use the case law to
back up your claim of inadequate procedures.
MOTION TO DISMISS DUE TO INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE, SPECIFICALLY A
This is used in a case where there are two police officers; one manning
the radar and the other issuing the citation after the chase. Both
officers must appear in court since one cannot testify for the other.
This would also apply if the single officer not only monitored the
radar, but was in pursuit at the same time. If he does not attend the
trial or show up you may move to dismiss. You generally wonít have to
make a motion if a primary officer is missing. The prosecution will
usually drop the case because he knows he has no case without the
officer being present.
THE LAYERED DEFENSE.
The strategies for beating a speeding ticket basically follows a layered
defense. In a layered defense you will want one of the following to
The officer or officers
do not appear.
Your right to a speedy
trial was denied, or you employed various motions to dismiss after
the prosecution rested their case.
After these strategies have
been exhausted, it is time to move to the defense presentation.
The following will serve as an example of how to introduce evidence.
Letís say that we are going to utilize the introduction of a diagram of
the scene of the crime. The clerk of the court will mark the document
with an indicator. Usually exhibit A, B, C etc. It will then be shown to
the prosecution so that they have the opportunity to object to the
presentation of the materials. You will have to identify the document as
a diagram of the intersection of X & Y streets. At this point continue
to explain how this diagram will relate to your case. After you have
done this, you must state that Exhibit A is to be introduced as
evidence, otherwise, that document or any other document does not
automatically become evidence. Once you have introduced all of your
evidence, you have a decision to make. Are you going to testify on your
own behalf or not? You do not have to testify and you are under no
obligation to do so. If you do not testify, you deny the prosecution
their right to interrogate you under oath. You also have to consider
what youíre going to testify to. If you know you were going 62 miles an
hour in a 55 mph zone you certainly cannot testify that you were doing
55 mph in that zone as you would be committing perjury, and thatís
another crime you donít want to be involved with. By doing so,
regardless of what the crime is, youíve admitted your guilt and youíre
now subject to another fine. Your only salvation when you take the stand
in your own defense is that your testimony and your witness will
outweigh the prosecutions case and cause them to lose. After you have
testified and your evidence has been presented, if you elect to take the
stand, you are ready to rest your case. Ensure that the exhibits that
you want to be brought out into the trial as evidence, are taken into
account by the court. Once all those items are introduced, you can rest
Emphasize their mistakes because they have got to prove that their case
is correct. Stay persuasive in your presentation because the prosecution
will get one more final word after you are done. Try to be brief in your
presentation. If you take too long, the judge and the jury will stop
paying attention to you. State your case, sit down and wait for the
verdict. If you find at the end of your trial, that you are found guilty
anyway, then you can begin your appeal. To begin with, an appeal is a
bit more complicated than a self represented client defending themselves
in court. Hire an attorney. Bear in mind an attorney is going to want
one thing out of you, and thatís money. Youíre going to have to give him
money up front, heís going to represent you during your case and when
the trial is over, win or lose youíre going to have to pay more money.
Court transcript will be necessary for the lawyer to go over to review
all the facts of the case. When you do go in for your appeal make sure
that there is a court reporter present in order to take a transcript of
your trial. If there isnít one, request one from the judge. He will
provide a court reporter for you. If he does not, you already have your
grounds for an appeal.