If you are really serious about doing all you can to fight a traffic ticket, a Trial by Declaration is a good way to start. It is a way to have a judge rule on your case after reviewing written statements from both sides. And no court appearance is necessary, so it requires less effort than a court trial in person.
|A defendant can win a trial by declaration if they have a real defense, and there is no harm in trying – because a defendant who loses a trial by declaration can still have a court trial in person. |
To set your case for a Trial by Declaration you must request one in writing from the court clerk. Generally, it must be requested before the deadline on your citation – or before your first court date if the court changes the court date on you.
You can also ask for a trial by declaration at your Arraignment (first court date) but the judge may deny the request and send you to a live court trial instead if the request is too late. But generally, the courts prefer a trial by declaration because it prevents the officers from coming in to court, and limits the amount of resources the court must spend on the trial.
In general, Defendants who want a Trial by Declaration must post “bail” with the court as a deposit on their sentence if found guilty. However, a Defendant who goes to court for an in person arraignment and asks for a trial by declaration may request TBD without posting of bail.
Some courts, such as the Santa Cruz Superior recently, will receive the request for a trial by declaration over the phone, and send you instructions for posting bail by mail. It is probably best to make the request in writing using the Judicial Council Form described below. Some, but not all courts have their own local “TBD” Request Form which is optional. Check your court’s web site under “Local Forms”.
After a Request for Trial By Declaration is made, the court has 15 days to set a deadline for the defendant and officer(s) to submit written statements for review.
After requesting a Trial by Declaration and getting a date, you must submit (file) your statement to the court clerk with all of your evidence on a standardized form. You can find the Form at www/courtinfo.ca.gov. (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/tr205.pdf.) Official Trial By Declaration Instructions are available at the San Diego County Superior Court’s Web Site – Traffic Court Forms Section.
Once you submit your statement and evidence, the officer who issued you the citation must submit a response. Once the officers response is in, the court reviews the statements and evidence, and makes a ruling without the parties being present in court.
Some defenses are ideally raised in a Trial by Declaration. For example, in a case where an officer makes a mistake you can prove, such as there was a “Yield” sign where the officer thought there was a “Stop” sign. A picture of the intersection and a sworn, signed, Trial by Declaration from is a good way to present that defense without wasting time and effort.
If you lose a Trial by Declaration, you can request a live in person court trial, and start over. When the court sends you the decision that you lost, it will also include information on how to request a “Trial De Novo”, or a new live court trial. Basically, you must fill out the Request for Trial De Novo Form (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/forms/fillable/tr220.pdf) and submit it to the court – within a very tight time line (probably 20 days). So do not delay in filing the Request for Trial De Novo.
“De Novo” is Latin for “of new”. Just like “El Nino” is Spanish for “the Nino”. Moving on . .
Beginning Tips For Winning a Trial By Declaration:
1. Present a Defense. You cant just say the cop is lying. That will not work, because the cop has a legal duty to document and tell the truth in the court’s eyes, and you are just some gronk off the street wasting court time. You must have some defense to present.
2. Realize there is Evidence Against You, and Address It. The police officer has submitted a citation to the court signed by him or her under penalty of perjury which (probably) states the officer SAW YOU VIOLATE THE LAW. This citation, signed by the officer in the course and scope of his/her public duty is a “Verified Complaint” and is competent evidence against you. You must have something to counter this evidence to win.
3. Stick to Relevant Facts. It does not matter where you were going or why you were going there. It does not matter who was in the car with you. It does not matter where you work or where you went to school. Your future plans for your kids do not matter, etc.
4. KISS your case. No, this is a real tip. KISS= Keep It Simple Stupid.
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