Every once in a while, I talk to a potential client that has been driving for 40-50 years and has never been given a traffic ticket, or for that fact, pulled over. Obviously, they are to be congratulated. However, it is a statistical reality that every driver will eventually be stopped for something (e.g., tinted windows, license plate, speeding). One of the key mistakes people make when they get pulled over is they become combative with the police officer. Instead of quietly accepting the ticket, they engage the police officer in conversation that often becomes heated and accusatory. The main problem with this is what was once a normal, common and innocuous pull-over by the police officer is now an event that will transform into a long-term memory.
Your goal is to be forgettable. You don’t want the police officer to show up at trial with the sole purpose of getting you convicted. What many people do not realize is that traffic tickets in California are handled as Criminal Proceedings. This means that you are innocent until proven “Guilty” beyond reasonable doubt. This also means that the police officer must show up at trial with a “Clear Independent Recollection of Events.” He or she must be able to testify (independent of notes) about which direction you were going, what kind of car you were driving, even, perhaps what you looked like. If someone is argumentative, then the police officer, in question, will have no problem remembering the event and testify to that effect.
We once had a semi-famous Plastic Surgeon from Beverly Hills get pulled over in Central California going 90 mph (allegedly) in his Porsche 911. After arguing with CHP officer about Radar and Radar Calibration, he then boldly asked the cop, “Do you know who I am?” Big mistake! That CHP officer showed up at trial with a vengeance, ready to testify that he not only knew who our client was but that he remembered everything about him including his car and speed. He also brought in all relevant documents and reports to substantiate his argument. We were able to prevail but it turned into a “war” that was easily avoidable. The main thing that I want you to take away from this blog posting is to be quiet and forgettable when you get pulled over by a police officer. Don’t argue with the them! Wait until you have your day in court to present your argument. Don’t give the cop a reason and a purpose to show up.