If you have been issued a traffic ticket or citation, the first thing you should do is know what are your rights in this case before you decide to pay the fine. While most people don’t make a career out of studying the Constitution, the basic concept of due process is something everyone should make an attempt to understand, because it is the most basic protection you have against over-zealous law enforcement, runaway bureaucracy and unfair accusations. Even if a driver signs a ticket stating they will appear or post bail, their basic rights still protect them throughout the case.
What is Due Process
Due process is simply the means by which a citizen may present their side of the case without interference. Citizens have the right to cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution, and to compel witnesses to testify in their defense. Citizens have the right to refuse to incriminate themselves, the right to have their case heard by a jury, and the right to counsel. It is therefore in the best interest of a person who gets a ticket to contact an experienced traffic attorney to represent their case in the court of law.
Right to a Fair Trial
First and foremost among these many institutions of American jurisprudence is the right to a fair trial, and the first priority every citizen should have when facing a traffic citation is to find out exactly what the case entails. You may consider hiring a law firm that can gather all the details on your behalf and fight your case.
- The Constitution has long since done away with the concept of secret charges, secret trials and secret evidence. In the United States of America, trials are public and on the record for anyone to review: even someone not directly involved.
- Likewise, any evidence developed against a defendant must also be on the record and available to that defendant. This is not simply a rule that can sometimes be bent or broken. This is the defendant’s right.
Right to Information
While most traffic violations do not result in an arraignment, where a court formally informs a defendant of the charges against them, even in a traffic violation case the defendant must be informed of the charge or charges. This is a detailed requirement.
The information must include who is being accused, specifically what they are being accused of, what law they are alleged to have broken and specifically when the violation is alleged to have occurred. Though it might seem that information isn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things, but these four items can be crucial to the defense. For example,
- What if the person accused wasn’t driving?
- What if the details of the accusation are contradicted by witnesses, or video evidence, or another police officer, or one of the other drivers at the scene?
- What if, at the date and time listed, the accused was playing baccarat at the Tropicana in Las Vegas with nine video cameras watching them?
Believe it or not, defenses far more outlandish than these have overturned traffic tickets before. This is why all the details are important. In court, the formal term for this process is “discovery,” and it is subject to a number of very specific rules.
Sometimes even more useful than the details of the charge are the means by which the police ascertained a violation occurred. A good example of this is a speeding ticket where a mechanism is employed to measure the defendant’s speed.
- Once again, the prosecution must make the defense aware of all the details including the ways a police officer might have erred in employing that mechanism.
- This gives the defendant a full understanding of the charges and offers them the opportunity to mount a defense.
People who are issued traffic tickets should also be aware that most police officers are not prepared to challenge a well-presented defense, especially if they find themselves under competent cross-examination by someone who knows what they are doing. In a situation like this the details of the case are even more important.
It’s been said that knowing the specifics of any situation is half the battle won. Showing up in the court is often the other half. When facing a traffic ticket, knowing your rights is the key to getting the best possible defense with the guidance of an attorney who can get everything done for you and save you a ton of time, money and effort.