Cell Phone Ticket? Prepare for Problems With the “Map” Defense

Cell phone ticket? A well prepared Defendant might want to cross examine the officer, and tell the judge what the law is, and how it applies to the facts Continue reading

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7 Questions You Should Ask Your Public Defender Before Deciding on a Plea

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After 14 years of real criminal courtroom work, I’ve started to realize that there is a common pattern with Defendants who get pissed off at their Public Defenders and who feel they got robbed by the system themselves.

The pattern is this – the public defender is so busy that they are unable to give a client super detailed personal attention, and the public defender makes the decision on what is best for the client on their own.

Then, the public defender subtly forces the client to go along with the plan that is good for the client, but not fully explained.

Because the Defendant does not understand what is happening, or why it is happening, they feel screwed.

My experience shows that a truly hard working public defender is going to do the right thing for the client, even if the client does not understand it. At times, they may have to get things done fast, and routine cases may get very little personal attention. Some public defenders can resolve 20, 30 cases in one morning. They are probably all done right, but they are done fast, without personal attention.

But here are a few real questions that you should ask your public defender to more fully understand what is going on in your case, even if you only get 5 minutes in the courtroom hallway. It’s not uncommon to talk to an attorney in the hallway, so dont be afraid to do it.

With these questions, if you can get good answers, you can make informed decisions in seconds:

1) What is the evidence against me?

You need to know what the evidence in court would be if you had a jury trial. Many defendants do not understand what evidence there really is, and as a result, some have a false impression of how bad things really are.

2) What is the normal sentence for the case as it is now?

In many criminal cases, the original charges are changed before the case ends. Sometimes the charges get reduced, sometimes new charges are added. You need to know what most people get if nothing changes, and you plead Guilty to everything on the complaint (called “Pleading to the ‘Sheet’”).

3) What are my chances at a trial?

You need to know what an experienced, licensed, Attorney personally thinks about whether or not you can win a trial. After all, they are there everyday, and you are not.

4) Has the prosecutor made any offers?

Usually, a prosecutor will make an offer to end a criminal case at the first court date, called the “arraignment”. This offer sometimes changes. But many cases are resolved at teh first court date based on the initial offer from the prosecutor.

5) What are my options, and what is your recommendation?

You want to know what the Attorney thinks you should do. Even if you disagree, it is valuable knowledge.

6) Why can’t you talk the prosecutor into something better?

Inspire the Public Defender to try harder! Or at the very least get a detailed description as to what the problem or obstacle maybe.

7) Is There Any Evidence I Can Help You Find or Understand?

A Defendant should not interfere with the Attorney’s decisions about what evidence is important and what is not. But the Defendant should definitely seek to start a conversation about the types of evidence that may help you.

There maybe types of helpful evidence that you know about but that your public defender does not know. For example, if there is another friend you saw at the club that night who can verify your drinking pattern before you left, your public defender will not have that info if you do not discuss it. You may have to help jump start the conversation by asking if you can help.

Asking if you can help find evidence may also prompt the Attorney to think of other items or evidence he/she may need, such as a letter from an employer that would help your request

There you have it. Free Legal Self Help info. With these few questions, you can get enough understanding on your case to make informed decisions with out wasting time.

Questions? Leave a reply below.

More Info:

The San Francisco County Public Defenders Office provides a great deal of info and resources.

Posted in Felony, Going to Court, Public Defenders | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What is the Best Evidence for Your Small Claims Court Case?

A common mistake in small claims court cases is a failure to bring the right evidence. Here are some tips to get you focused on what evidence may best help your case, Continue reading

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Tips for Dealing with Traffic Ticket and Misdemeanor Warrants. 2014 Update

California courts are still issuing warrants from their Traffic Court and Criminal divisions for defendants who fail to appear for routine court appearances. Defendants who let warrants go without addressing them risk arrest and vehicle impound.

Here are some quick tips that may help people who have just discovered they have a warrant from a court due to a missed court date or failure to pay a fine.

1. Get the Case Details.

Warrants in criminal and traffic courts are usually issued as a result of a problem in a case. To solve the problem, it is helpful to a defendant to get the Case Number, the Charges in the Case, and the Contact Info and Address of the Courthouse Where the Case is Pending. In some courts, this information can be found on line at the court’s web site. In other courts, a personal visit or telephone call may be required to get case details.

2. Figure Out What Kind of Warrant It Is. Mandatory Appearance or Not?

Most traffic court and criminal misdemeanor warrants require a court appearance to resolve. Sometimes, a payment of bail to secure future court appearances or a jail visit is also required.

But many minor offense warrants, such as a warrant issued for a failure to appear on a traffic ticket, can be resolved by making a payment to the court that ends the case. When a warrant can be cleared, and its case closed, by payment in person court appearances may not be necessary.

To figure out if your warrant requires a court appearance, contact the court clerk’s office once you have your case details and ask. Ask the court clerk if your warrant can be cleared and case closed by a fine payment.

Many minor traffic court warrant problems can be solved in one day with a credit or debit card payment to the court. Don’t be afraid to contact the court clerk to see if a warrant can be cleared by fine payment.

If you discover that your case cannot be resolved by payment alone, and the court requires a court appearance and/or bail posting, read on.

3. Determine How to Get the Case on the Court’s Schedule Again.

In cases where a warrant requires posting of bail or a personal court appearance, it is usually up to the Defendant to get the case on the court’s schedule for action. In many minor warrant cases, an Attorney hired by the Defendant can make the required court appearance or take the Defendant’s bail posting to the court.

Most defendants with warrants will need to ask the court to recall the warrant in order to stay out of jail. This may be done by Defendant alone or by an Attorney for the Defendant. But to make the request, a court date must be scheduled on the case.

The procedure for getting a traffic or misdemeanor warrant case on a court calendar will vary from court to court. IN some courts, walk in appearances are allowed on minor warrant cases so that a defendant can ask for recall of the warrant right away. In other courts, the Defendant will have to fill out a calendar request form.

The court clerks office at the specific courthouse where the case is pending can tell you how to get a case “back on calendar for a warrant recall request.”

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help.

Defendants with warrants can hire a private defense attorney to represent them and appear in court for them. In many cases, an attorney can get a minor warrant recalled without a defendant having to appear in person. Even in probation violation cases, when the facts are right and the defendant takes voluntary action, court appearances can be avoided with an attorney’s help. Shop around, get different opinions all in one day. Free Attorney Case Review

If you previously had a public defender assigned to your case that now has a warrant, contact the public defender’s office right away. It is very likely that your former public defender was updated on the status of your case and can give you clear instructions on what to do to resolve a warrant problem.

OK – there you go. Some tips that may help you solve a warrant problem. They won’t solve it for you though! Taking action yourself right now is the best course.

More Help:

Free Warrant Search Resources

Posted in Probation Violations, Warrant Information, Warrant Searches | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What is a Vehicle Code 40508a Warrant? Big Trouble That is Easily Fixed.

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Many people dealing with traffic ticket problems in California have searched court web sites and/or Department of Motor Vehicle driver history reports to discover that they have a “Veh Code 40508a Warrant” on their driving record(s).

Here is an explanation of what “40508a warrants” are, and how to take care of them.

“Veh Code 40508a” is an abbreviation for California Vehicle Code section 40508(a).

California Vehicle Code section 40508(a) makes it a misdemeanor crime to fail to appear in court on a written promise to do so. The “written promise” is generally a signed citation or traffic ticket. In the real word, every day people come in to contact with this “40508a” law when they miss a deadline to take care of a traffic ticket.

Generally, it happens like this: Driver gets pulled over by police; the officer writes up a citation listing one or more alleged vehicle code violations and a court date; the officer requires the driver to sign the ticket, and thereby formally accept legal notice of the court date. By signing a traffic ticket, a driver is making a legal promise to appear in court on the date listed, in exchange for not being taken to jail.

So long as the traffic ticket is paid, or the driver makes a court appearance by the deadline on the signed ticket, there is no problem with Vehicle Code section 40508a. However, everything changes if the deadline is missed and there is a Failure to Appear (FTA) by the driver.

Generally, when a defendant fails to appear in court on time, or pay the bail on a traffic ticket citation on time, the court adds a new charge to the case – a misdemeanor violation of California Vehicle Code 40508a.

A failure to appear charge under Vehicle Code 40508(a) always starts out as a misdemeanor, but can be reduced by the court to an infraction. Infractions are not technically crimes, but misdemeanors are crimes.

Because the deadline to appear in court is listed on the signed traffic ticket, this FTA charge is added when the date is missed, regardless of whether or not the court has sent anything to the driver. California courts are not required to send Courtesy Notices to drivers before adding a failure to appear charge to a case.

Once the Failure to Appear charge is added, most courts will then also issue an administrative court order for the arrest of the defendant. This order for arrest is called a “Warrant”, and when a warrant is issued after a FTA, it is called a VC 40508a warrant, and is listed as such on DMV records and many court web sites.

On most 40508a warrant cases, a court appearance is necessary to get the warrant recalled. In some cases, the court will require the defendant to post a bail as deposit before a warrant is recalled. In most traffic court and misdemeanor cases, an attorney can appear in court for a defendant, even when there is a warrant.

Thus to get a 40508a warrant cleared – the solution is to make a personal court appearance and in some cases, post or pay bail. Of course the warrant can also be cleared by the arrest of the defendant, and that is how many people end up dealing with their warrant. Some people with 40508a warrants will have to do some jail time. But that is not the best way to take care of the problem.

If you get arrested on the side of the road for a Veh Code 40508a warrant, your vehicle will be impounded also, greatly increasing the cost and pain of the experience. This is especially true of you end up losing your girlfriend’s car on the way to work. Don’t let this happen to you.

Voluntary action can help you avoid the worst consequences.

Since a Vehicle Code 40508a warrant is issued because of the addition of a FTA misdemeanor charge, getting the warrant recalled is only part of the solution. A Defendant with a 40508a warrant must take care of the warrant, the underlying case, and the failure to appear charge to resolve the problem completely. In most cases, this can all be done at once, often in a single court appearance.

A conviction of a 40508a FTA charge can result in jail time, increased fines, and derogatory listings on DMV and background records. It is a crime, unless reduced to an infraction by the court prior to conviction. When a defendant takes care of a 40508a warrant correctly, a reduction of the failure to appear charge to a less serious infraction, or even dismissal of the FTA charge is common.

If you have a Vehicle Code section 40508(a) warrant and are interested in dealing with it without going to court yourself, or just want to know your options, request a Free Attorney Case Review from www.TrafficCourtPros.com. Do not delay. Some 40508a warrant problems can be cured in one day. Sometimes in a couple of hours. But even if it takes longer, starting now is a good idea.

More info:

How to Get a Copy of Your California Driving Record

Posted in Going to Court, Missed Court Dates, Suspended Drivers License, Warrant Information | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Auto Accident Without Insurance? Can an Uninsured Driver Still Sue for Damages?

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Although Sam has a large claim, as an uninsured driver, he may not be able to recover for pain and suffering, loss of employment opportunity. Continue reading

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Can You Negotiate a Sentence on a Misdemeanor? Plea Agreements Explained.

Most misdemeanor criminal cases end by settlement between the Defendant and Prosecutor called a “Plea Agreement”. In exchange for a guilty plea without the work of a trial, the Defendant gets a negotiated sentence. Continue reading

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Tips for Effective Cross Examination of Traffic Ticket Police Officers

Defendants in a Traffic Ticket Trial do have the right to Cross Examination of the prosecuting police officer. Here are some free Defense Attorney Tips to help you. Continue reading

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Does Having a Misdemeanor Warrant Mean You Must Go to Jail? Maybe Not.

Taking action on a misdemeanor warrant may reduce the chances of jail time for most people Continue reading

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Lack of Auto Insurance Does Not Make You Liable for Auto Accident Damages

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California Auto accident, but no auto insurance? That is a bad fact. There are consequences to getting into a car accident without liability insurance.

A driver in an accident without insurance can expect the Department of Motor Vehicles to suspend their driving privileges for many months. A citation and summons to court for violating California’s Financial Responsibility Law with fines of about $1200 can also be expected. It gets worse if you get sued for an accident without liability insurance coverage.

A defendant being sued for an auto accident without insurance coverage does not have an insurance company adjuster to pay their defense attorney fees. And without insurance coverage, a defendant who suffers a judgement for damages will have to pay out of his/her own pocket (or wages).

However, “Liability” is not a consequence of not having insurance coverage.

“Liability” for the damages arising out of an auto accident is a completely different issue. The term “liability” refers to the person who is legally required to pay damages after a car accident.

Liability for damages does not attach to a person automatically simply because they are uninsured. Simply put, an accident without insurance does not make you liable for damages by itself.

In order for liability to apply to one driver or another, that person must have been “negligent”. Usually, it is the person who caused the collision in the first place that is “negligent” and therefore also liable for damages.

A more detailed answer is that evidence about insurance coverage is not admissible in court to establish liability for an accident. A lack of insurnace coverage cannot be used against a person to establish liability.

This is because the existence of insurance coverage is not relevant to the question of who was “negligent” and thereby caused the accident and resulting damages, such as repair bills.

Here is an explanation of why insurance coverage is usually not admissible in court, and tips on how to avoid getting screwed in court if you get sued without insurance.

The Basic Required Elements for a Negligence Cause of Action for Damages.

Generally, the cause of action for “Negligence” in court has 4 main elements that must be proven up to establish liability for car accident damages. The required elements are:

1) Defendant owed a legal duty to plaintiff;
2) Defendant breached that legal duty;
3) the breach of duty was a substantial legal cause of;
4) actual damages to plaintiff.

(See California Civil Jury Instruction #400 for more info and examples of negligence)

If a person sues in a California civil or small claims court for auto accident damages, they must present evidence to meet these 4 required elements of negligence by the defendant to establish the defendant’s liability. If the plaintiff cannot establish the elements of negligence, the defendant if not liable for damages, even if they never had insurance as the law requires.

A lack of auto insurance does not shed light on or tend to prove to any of the 4 elements of negligence. Because of this fact, the evidence of auto insurance coverage is not legally “Relevant” to the question of liability.

More specifically, only “Relevant” evidence is admissible in court. California Evidence Code section 210 defines “Relevant Evidence” as follows:

“Relevant evidence” means evidence, including evidence
relevant to the credibility of a witness or hearsay declarant, having
any tendency in reason to prove or disprove any disputed fact that
is of consequence to the determination of the action.”
(California Evidence Code section 210)

If the offered evidence does not meet this definition listed in Evidence Code section 210, it is not admissible in a typical car crash civil case.

What if a plaintiff in a small claims court case over a car accident tries to introduce evidence that the defendant did not have auto insurance?

Most auto accident claims that end up in court fall into “small claims court” because they involve $10,000 or less in damages. In small claims court, the parties usually have to represent themselves without an attorney. Most of the people in small claims court do not understand the details of the law of negligence or the rules of evidence.

Because of this characteristic of small claims court, it is pretty common for a plaintiff in a small claims case to TRY to use evidence of a lack of insurance to prove the defendant was negligent. It may even may a little bit of sense – after all if the defendant was not driving without insurance, there would have been no accident, right?

What if this happens to you as a defendant in a small claim court trial over an auto accident? What if the plaintiff tries to use a lack of insurance to prove you are liable?


When one party to a court case tries to use evidence that is not relevant, nor admissible, an objection can be made. In small claims court, and most civil cases, a party make make an objection to evidence in writing or orally.

For example, a party may say:

“Your Honor, I object to the use of evidence about insurance coverage. The existence of insurance coverage is no relevant to the issue of who caused the accident, or who was negligent, or who is liable for damages. I ask that all references to insurance coverage be stricken from this trial.”

Don’t be afraid to make an objection yourself in a small claims court trial if you feel it is proper. There is nothing wrong with asking a judge for a ruling on an objection.

There is no harm in making an objection that the judge over rules if you are wrong. But there is a danger in not objection when you should. If you fail to object to evidence that may be inadmissible, you may lose out on the opportunity to challenge that point by “waiving” the problem.

Questions, Discussion? Leave a comment below.

More Info:

Rules for Reporting Accidents to California Department of Motor Vehicles

California Civil Jury Instruction #400 for more info and examples of negligence

California Evidence Code online

Posted in Arguing in Court, Auto Accidents, Auto Liability Insurance, California Legal Help, Settlements, Small Claims, Traffic Court Trials | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Dash Cam Evidence Becoming More Common in Traffic Ticket Trials; Be Ready

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If you dont object to dash cam evidence in a traffic ticket trial, you might be giving up your right to challenge it. Continue reading

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What to Do If Your Employer Says You Have a Warrant for Your Arrest.

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Sometimes it’s your boss that has to tell you there is a warrant for your arrest. It actually happens a lot. Here are some tips for solving a warrant problem at work. Continue reading

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