Harry here, We’ve partnered up with GetDismissed.com to help drivers fight traffic tickets in California. Today, senior RSG contributor Christian Perea covers a basic strategy for fighting tickets in CA. If you would like to sign up for their service using our link, you can save $10 by using the code RSG10.
Traffic tickets suck, but I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that. It always seems that I spend an entire day on the road watching other people break traffic laws: speeding, texting, stopping in the red zone, swerving in lanes while checking their Facebook status and all with no interference from the cops!
In fact, I once tried to let a cop into traffic as he was trying to exit a Shell station. Traffic was bumper to bumper and nobody would let him in. I waved for him to go since I’m a nice guy (and prefer that he be in front of me). He then waved for me to go first and once I did, the cop pulled me over for having an “illegal light” which just so happened to by my Lyft Glowstache. It took him 45 minutes to write the ticket, and my passengers and I watched Dodgeball in my car while he tried to figure out what law I broke.
(FYI, Lyft may pay this ticket for you if you call their Trust and Safety Line and it’s not a moving violation.)
You Get Two Chances To Contest A Ticket: Trial By Mail and Trial De Novo
In California (and many other states), you effectively get two chances to contest a traffic ticket if you play the system right. You can first attempt to contest the ticket via a Trial by Mail, which is formally known as a Trial by Written Declaration (TBD) and it’s available on the back of every traffic ticket in California.
Trial By Written Declaration
Basically, you put all of your evidence and your arguments together along with any photos and send it off to the courthouse hoping your ticket gets dismissed. But for most drivers, this is a lengthy and time-intensive process since it’s not something they do very often.
From there, the courthouse will review what you sent and ask the police officer to make a declaration regarding your citation. If the officer fails to do this on time, your case is generally dismissed.
The whole Trial by Written Declaration process usually takes between 30 and 90 days, and you will have to pay the amount of the ticket upfront. If you win, the court refunds 100% of your bail and no points will be added to your driving record.
Fighting From Your Couch
We just launched a partnership with GetDismissed. It’s a service that will help you prepare an argument and defense in your Trial By Written Declaration. It’s their thing. GetDismissed will ask you a series of questions around the circumstances of your ticket, generate a defense, and send you everything you need to send into the courts.
With GetDismissed, you’re paying for a Legal Document Assistant that has developed a system to prepare your defense properly so you don’t have to. It’s similar to paying someone to write an essay for you.
GetDismissed offers a membership plan for $59/year that allows you to contest an unlimited number of tickets. With our partnership, you can get a membership for $49/year here.
If your case is not dismissed, then you are right back where you started and you can still opt for an in-court trial (Trial De Novo) or traffic school if you’re eligible. And the GetDismissed membership includes FREE traffic school if the ticket is not dismissed.
Trial De Novo: A New Hope (In Person)
In the event that a Trial by Written Declaration does not work out, you can request a new trial IN PERSON (Trial de novo) This obviously is not much fun and will require spending a few hours in a very miserable and often crowded place.
In my experience, I had to make a trip down to San Francisco’s “Hall of Justice”.
Make no mistake, Traffic Court has been custom tailored to suck as much as possible so they can maximize the number of people who will give up, shut up, and pay up.
If you are a driver that relies on this as a full-time job, I recommend looking for a good traffic attorney at this point to fight anything that could count as a “point” on your record. I know that it’s expensive (and terrible) but it’s worth the cost to ensure that you can still drive – especially if you already have a point or two on your license.
Arraignment: Requesting Your Day In Court
If you don’t get a lawyer and decide to fight solo, you will have to go to arraignment and enter a “plea” of guilty, not guilty, or no contest but this is NOT a trial.
In my experience, two things seemed obvious at my arraignment:
- The judge seems to do everything to get you to accept a lower fine/lesser charge, traffic school, etc before you have your day in court.
- The judge cannot provide legal advice, but it will seem like they do anyways!
Your Day In Court
Suit up, have your documents prepared. Be respectful of the judge. NEVER interrupt the judge. Address them as “Your Honor” and yes, it’s true that if the officer does not show up, then your case will generally be dismissed without a fight.
If the officer does shows up, do your best to argue on your behalf. In this instance, you need to remember that the judge is there to apply THE LAW and that you need to argue in a clear and concise manner.
My Day In Court
I didn’t need to go to court to get my ticket dismissed but I was curious about the process, so I went anyway. If you are a driver who depends on this as a source of income it may be worth hiring an attorney to fight tooth and nail to prevent you from accruing points on your license and losing your ability to drive.
Even if it is more expensive than the ticket, you should do it as a strategic move to protect your ability to earn income while preventing an increase in the cost of your car insurance. I already know several drivers who have ended up getting deactivated after racking up too many moving violations.
Rideshare Drivers Need To Fight Tooth and Nail
Remember that “Trial by Written Declaration” thing I mentioned above? It is really worth getting that right and maximizing your chances for dismissal at that stage because it will save you a ton of time and money when compared to going to the courthouse or having to hire a lawyer.
Overall, I ended up spending two days and around 8 hours at the San Francisco Court House, and I never even took my ticket to trial! I also spent a few more hours personally researching what I should do when I got there. It was a HUGE time sink.
The GetDismissed system has been optimized to maximize your chances of getting your ticket dismissed during this stage by generating well-written and prepared defenses for a Trial by Written Declaration. You can get the whole process handled from you couch by answering a series of questions and sending them information around the circumstances of your ticket.
They offer a yearly subscription service for $59/year but our code will bring it down to $49/year.
If you already got a ticket though and still want to sign up, you can pay $99 for a one time charge.
Disclaimer: The author of this article is not a lawyer and this writing reflects his personal experience and opinions.
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