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.