The Court Date
When your time finally comes, you will feel completely prepared to fight this battle against professionals.
Don't let the courtroom overwhelm and intimidate you.
You are ready for battle! While the prosecutor may be more familiar with these situations, you have the
benefit of actually being present at the stop and memory recall. Use it to your advantage.
Make sure that you are dressed to make a good impression. This means tasteful clothing; nothing flashy
or inappropriate. The first impression you make will be before you ever get to say anything.
Who's Who In The Court Room
Understand who everyone is, and what term may be used to refer to them. You will be known as the
Defendant. The Prosecutor will be the lawyer defending the state and the officer. The Police Officer is
of course the one who issued the ticket. The Bailiff is a uniformed officer of the court who will call each
case and keep order. The Clerk of the Court is the judge's assistant. Any others will be the Witnesses
for either the defense (your witnesses) or the prosecution (additional police officers
who were present if necessary).
There may be several to many trials going on that day, and you will have to wait your turn. It could take
all day! Be patient. Get there early and let them know when you arrive, that you would like to be placed
as early as possible on the docket for your scheduled time.
Once it is your case's turn, you will be sworn in by the Clerk of the Court to tell the truth. The
prosecution will be allowed to go first to present their case. (Remember to always refer to the judge as
Your Honor. He/she is not someone you want to start off on the wrong foot with by making a simple
mistake in showing respect). Should the officer not appear in court at this time, the judge can give
reasonable time for him to appear or throw the case out. The prosecution will be allowed to
give their opening statement first to present their case. Then you may proceed to
give your opening statement. Take notes of what they plan to prove and how, and compare it to your notes. You may have to do some
rearranging at this time.
Next, you will be allowed to make your opening statement and state how you plan to defend yourself.
Give only the basics, and keep it simple and short. You may elect not to give an opening statement. You
might choose this option if you don't want to give the prosecutor any idea what your defense is going to
be, so he can dispute it before you have a chance to defend yourself.
Once opening statements are completed, the prosecution will call his/her first witness, the officer issuing
the citation. He will ask him for details of the event. Remember, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove
you are guilty. If the officer must read from his notes, you should object and request that the officer
testify from 'independent recall'. You can also ask to see what the officer is reading from even
if it is only the citation itself. If the officer cannot testify without the use of notes,
then he should be considered incompetent to testify. If the judge allows him to use
the citation or notes to continue, make sure he refers only to the specifics on the
notes. Any abbreviations should be abbreviated in court. He must read it exactly
If you feel a question is completely irrelevant to the ticket, you may object and you certainly should if the
situation warrants so. But beware, if you object too many times without due cause, the judge will just
become annoyed with you. Now you will have a chance to cross examine the witness. This is where your list of
questions will be utilized. Ask each one precisely and with surety. Example: "Officer Smith, on the day this ticket was
issued, do you recall what the traffic pattern was ten minutes before and after this stop?". Go through
each of your questions and ask the officer to be very specific with his answer. Chances are, he
will not remember very much about minor details concerning this stop when he
has stopped many others since then. Your job is to make him lose creditability with the court. Make him appear to not remember very
much about this entire situation.
When you are through cross examining him, the prosecutor will have a chance to once again question
him. He may then request any physical evidence they have, such as a diagram, photos, the citation itself
or a police report if one was written. During this time, the officer may give a narrative, or brief statement
in his own words of what happened and why he issued the ticket. The prosecution will most
likely rest his case at this point, unless other witnesses are necessary. If so, the
same procedure will follow.
Once the prosecution has rested his case, you can make a Motion to Dismiss by Defense if you feel you
have sufficient evidence to do so. Otherwise, you will now present your side.
You will be offered the same respect and courtesies the prosecution, and may now state your side of the
story if you so chose. You do not have to testify. If you do, the prosecution will have the opportunity to
object to your testimony just as you had when the officer was testifying. The prosecution will now have
the chance to question you directly concerning the citation. Otherwise, you now present your
evidence (diagrams, photos, reports etc.) which will now be recorded as Exhibits
(A, B, C, etc.). You should give detailed statements concerning why you feel these
are pertinent to your case. You may want to rest your case now with a closing argument reiterating your innocence.
Note, the prosecution can once again call for witnesses to clarify any statements.
Once both parties have rested their case, it is now in the hands of the judge. The judge may take a few
minutes to review his notes or may respond immediately. You are looking for a verdict of Not Guilty. If this is the case, congratulations. Drive
carefully and celebrate your win!
If however, the verdict is Guilty, then know you have done your very best to defend yourself. Should you
decide to appeal this to a higher court, you will need to hire a lawyer and be prepared to pay a fee
regardless of the outcome. This could be a very expensive endeavor and you should think very seriously
about whether or not to appeal.
Take a good look at your driving habits. Do you tend to be a little heavy
footed? Are you always in a hurry? If so, consider slowing down. It not only will
save you the time and aggravation of defending another speeding ticket, it just may save
some one's life.