Ask MC

Cali dropped me a line and asked me a question I’m actually surprised more folks haven’t asked.

I have a quick question about fighting a ticket. In court, is the burden of proof on the officer to prove that Citizen X was in violation or is the burden of proof on Citizen X to prove that he was not in violation? Is the court format for traffic violations totally different?

Excellent question, Cali! Regardless of the venue, be it criminal or traffic, the burden always lies with the State. In criminal, the State is more often than not represented by a representative of the District Attorney’s Office. In traffic, the State is represented by me and others of my ilk. The format is indeed different. Traffic judges will here a few dozen cases in the span of a couple hours. A single criminal case can drag on for ages.

If we don’t prove to the judge beyond a reasonable doubt that the violation we alleged actually happened, the defendant needn’t say a word. The trick is that most defendants are not adequately educated to realize that and will, on occasion, talk themselves into a guilty verdict by admitting the violation in their statement.

A little bit of homework in the vehicle code, a quick mind, and a basic understanding of law can sometimes get a defendant found not guilty. If, however, they show up unprepared, they will more often than not leave with their tail between their legs.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

5 thoughts on “Ask MC

  1. Come on MC, you should know that the burden of proof in traffic court essentially rests on the defendant. First off, there's the strong perception that the defendant must have done SOMETHING to land them in the defendant's chair. Also, keep in mind that fact that nearly the entire fine amount goes to the court's coffers when the defendant is found guilty. Besides, I assume that most of your citations are for VC22350, and VC22351(b) explicitly shifts the burden of proof at the defendant when their speed is over the P/F limit.

  2. Thanks for the insight MC! I really enjoy reading your blog; keep up the good work!


  3. Ah, Antelope, you cynical bastard, you. (Takes one to know one).

    The burden of proof absolutely lies on our shoulders. The trick is we have to properly articulate the violation and the elements of the crime.

    If we fail to do that, the judge has no choice but to find the defendant not guilty.

    But, as always, your opinion is appreciated and valued.

  4. Hahaha, I'm totally flattered by your comment, MC!

    With a record like mine (1 traffic school, 1 conviction, and 4 acquittals from 10+ stops), I like to think that I know what I'm talking about when it comes to CA traffic cases 🙂

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