How to Object to Evidence in Traffic Court (Correctly)

You can object to any evidence that comes in to a traffic court trial where you are representing yourself.  After all, you have the right to cross examine witnesses against you and that includes the legality of the evidence offered against you in court (5th Amendment to the US Constitution).

In traffic court, generally, the prosecutor is the police officer who cited the Defendant (you).  And if you demand a trial, the officer appears and offers evidence against you consisting of:  1) a citation signed by the officer;  2) testimony in court about what he or she saw, and 3) testimony about other things the police officer wants to throw in (such as opinion as to speed, opinion as to safety, opinion as to distance, etc.)

You can object to any evidence you feel should be excluded at the time it is offered, or when it is your time to speak.

In a jury trial, it is important to interrupt the prosecutor before inadmissible evidence is presented to the jury.  After all, you cannot unscramble an egg.  But in a traffic court trial – that’s not as important, because the judge is trained to be fair and impartial. Ahhh, ahh, ahh bulpchittz. … ..

Excuse me.  had to sneeze.

You can object whenever you want to.

By objecting, you are really telling the judge the evidence offered is not legally admissible for some reason, and that you want a ruling on the objection.  Here are the steps to a correct objection to accomplish that goal.


2. State the Basis of your Objection (such as “Your honor that is inadmissible hearsay.”);

3. Tell the judge why it is inadmissible (“It is an out of court statement by a person who is not here in court, and there it can not be cross examined by me.”);

4. Ask for a ruling:  (“I ask for a ruling on that point”);

5. Ask the court for a remedy to cure the problem (“I ask the court to exclude the officer’s testimony about what someone else said”)


1. Hearsay.  Hearsay is inadmissible as a general rule.  Good for objections.

Any out of court statement by someone who is not present is subject to hearsay objection – such as a letter written by a witness who is not in court;

2. The Evidence Lacks a Proper Foundation.

If the officer is testifying to some conclusion without stating how that conclusion was made, then there is a foundation problem.  The Officer has failed to lay a foundation that would tell us how he came to that conclusion.

How did he know I was “speeding”? Did she measure my speed?  With what device?  How does she know that device works?  Is she trained to use that device? – Those questions demand foundational facts to demonstrate that the offered conclusion is reliable.

3. Officer Not Qualified as an Expert and Cannot Give Expert Opinion.

Police officers often try to give “Opinion” evidence in court that would require expert knowledge.  If that officer has not shown why he is an expert in that field, he is trying to give expert testimony without being a court qualified expert.

Example: “At that time of year, the sun sets in such an angles that drivers can not see the entire road.”  WHAT?? WTF? Expert opinion without expert.

You can also object to evidence on the grounds that: 1) it was not produced to you prior to trial and you have not seen it (police notes); 2) it was not properly authenticated in court (engineering study book); etc.


1. Statements by machines, such as radar guns and speedometers are hearsay.  They are out of court statements and not admissible unless a foundation is laid to establish they are reliable statements.  Government has the burden to prove reliability of an out of court statement by a machine – (did that blow your mind?);

2. All paperwork is hearsay and cannot be admitted without a Foundation that makes it reliable;

3. You are entitled to “Discovery” of all evidence against you, including a police officer’s notes if they ise them in court.  If those notes are not disclosed to you, you have been denied the right to cross examine the witness against you – because the notes are testifying, not the cop.


1. Things you think are wrong or false (that’s a factual problem, not a legal admissibility problem);

2. Cops being rude

Questions?  Leave a Comment.  We try to answer them all.

This free legal self help article written by a licensed criminal defense attorney and supported by Google Ads.

About Attorney Christopher Dort

Public Interest Attorney. CA State Bar #196832. Licensed to practice law in California 1998, and then the US Federal District Court in 2000. Civil Litigation Trial Attorney (Insurance Defense Firms) 2000-2003. Private practice 2003 - present. First Solo Criminal Jury Trial 1998 (Santa Cruz County). First Civil Jury Trial 2002 (Orange County). Santa Cruz County Public Defenders Office 1996-1999 (law clerk). BA in Politics from UC Santa Cruz, 1995. JD, University of California, Hastings, 1998.
This entry was posted in Defense Attorney Tactics, Going to Court, Traffic Court Trials and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to How to Object to Evidence in Traffic Court (Correctly)

  1. Jim Kozlovich says:

    You have made one major misstatement! The police officer is NOT the prosecutor in a traffic infraction; he is just a prosecutor’s witness and as such has no authority to initiate criminal proceedings (People v. Case, (1980) 105 Cal.App.3d 826). In California, infractions are criminal in nature (Cal Pen Code sec. 16) and all provisions of law relating to misdemeanors shall apply to infractions (Cal Pen Code 19.7), which raises an interesting question: How does the trial court in a criminal traffic infraction case acquire jurisdiction in personam if there is no complaint filed by the District Attorney? I do have the answer if you are interested.

    • Hum…..maybe you are right and all traffic tickets are a fraud! Or…maybe you are wrong and traffic infractions are not crimes and your argument is a fraud? By statute in CA, Judicial Counsel form Promise to Appear citations, signed under penalty of perjury, are in fact legal, “verified complaints”.

      So I have a question- What is your solution to a person who failed to appear on a signed promise to appear and then had their drivers license suspended by the DMV? Then one day (a Monday), the poor, and very poor driver, gets the car impounded in front of little Jonny’s school bus stop on her way to work? How does your wingnut idea help that person? Can you get her a ride to work on the school bus for a few days?

      • Jim Kozlovich says:

        I thought that you might take this seriously. I never said that traffic tickets were a fraud. It’s also obvious that you haven’t read Cal. Pen. Code sec. 16 which states: “Crimes and public offenses include: 1. Felonies; 2. Misdemeanors; and 3. Infractions”; So infractions are crimes. You also state that “By statute in CA, Judicial Counsel form Promise to Appear citations, signed under penalty of perjury, are in fact legal, ‘verified complaints’”. Can you provide reference to this statute?
        My “wingnut idea” would not help anyone who failed to appear as agreed. I have no idea where you came up with this issue about a “very poor driver” getting his vehicle towed as a result of a failure to appear. I would NEVER advocate a person not showing up for a hearing. Unless it’s just a cover up for your not knowing the facts regarding this issue.
        The issue here isn’t even whether or not the “Notice to Appear” on a form approved by the Judicial Counsel constitutes a verified complaint. The court in HELDT vs. MUNICIPAL COURT, (1985) 163 Cal. App. 3d 532, which is the controlling case on this issue, stated: “…the Notice to Appear in this case…properly served as a complaint to initiate the prosecution and confer jurisdiction on the court…” [Emphasis added]. In Heldt, the Notice to Appear was filed by the District Attorney. The real issue is who is authorized to initiate criminal proceedings on behalf of the People of the State of California. Cal. Gov. Code sec. 100 states: “The style of all process shall be ‘The People of the State of California’, and all prosecutions shall be conducted in their name and by their authority. Section 26500 goes on further to state: “The district attorney is the public prosecutor. He shall attend the courts, and conduct on behalf of the people all prosecutions for public offenses”.
        The notice to appear filed by the police officer is not a complaint which grants jurisdiction to the court. The court in PEOPLE vs. MUNICIPAL COURT (1972) 27 Cal. App. 3d 193, in analyzing the functions of the police officer and the District Attorney, explained the limitations the police officer has in initiating criminal proceedings, stating: “The power to transmute an arrest into a full blown criminal prosecution, whereby the person arrested may be required to stand trial, is significantly greater power and does not flow automatically from the power to arrest.” The court in PEOPLE vs. CASE, (1980) 105 Cal. App. 3d 826, states more specifically that a police officer does not have the authority to initiate criminal prosecutions: “…there is no requirement that an officer, in making an arrest, either with or without a warrant, subjectively intended to initiate formal criminal proceedings against the arrestee. The fact is that an officer has no authority to initiate such proceedings as that authority rests with the appropriate prosecuting official”. The appropriate prosecuting official is the District Attorney.
        When you sign the citation (Notice to Appear) you are required to appear in court and when you do, that ends the authority of the Notice to Appear. What happens next determines whether or not the court can acquire jurisdiction in personam.
        If you can understand the issues up to this point, than we can move forward and discuss types of appearances and the consequences of entering a plea.
        I would hope that you might be more professional in your next response and also cite references to all cases and codes.

        • Jim,

          People fall into this trap all the time. You are making a logical error when you state:

          ” It’s also obvious that you haven’t read Cal. Pen. Code sec. 16 which states: “Crimes and public offenses include: 1. Felonies; 2. Misdemeanors; and 3. Infractions”; So infractions are crimes. ”

          That is classic “non sequitur” which means does not follow.

          What does not follow?

          Penal Code 16 as quoted by you states: “crime and public offenses” include: 1) felonies 2) misdemeanors and 3) infractions.



          All your quote means is that infractions must be either: 1) crimes OR 2) public offenses.


          Your quote does not mean infractions are crimes. They can be public offenses without being crimes. How?

          For example, disturbing the peace is a “public offense”. Letting your dog run free in the middle of a little league game is also a public offense. However, both public offenses can be crimes OR infractions, depending on the person’s state of mind.

          But crimes and infractions are not the same thing. Penal Code section 16 does not say they are the same thing.

          Here is what you need to read:

          CA Vehicle Code 41601 which defines a legal California Traffic Citation;

          CA Vehicle Code 40513(a) which states:

          40513. (a) Whenever written notice to appear has been prepared, delivered, and filed with the court, an exact and legible duplicate copy of the notice when filed with the magistrate, in lieu of a verified complaint, shall constitute a complaint to which the defendant may plead “guilty” or “nolo contendere.”

          I’d include the hyper links, but I really have to stoping spending time on this very, very dead issue unless someone is paying me by the hour.

          Related Article:

          The simplest way to explain the difference between an infraction and a crime is this – crimes can lead to the loss of liberty in the form of personal seizure by the government. Crimes require a “mens rea” or criminal state of mind. Crimes can lead to jail or prison time, and other restrictions on your liberty such as being subject to search by law enforcement during probation at any time.

          Infractions cannot lead to the loss of liberty following conviction. There is no possibility of jail time in an infraction. No “mens era”, or criminal intent, is required for infraction prosecutions. The maximum penalty for an infraction in CA is a fine.

          Because there is no possibility of loss of liberty on an infraction, defendants do not enjoy the same due process rights of a criminal defendant. Infractions do not bring a right to jury trial. They do not carry a right to a public defender. The same rules of evidence do not apply in infractions as in criminal cases. For example, in traffic court trials, some hearsay is admissible that would not be admissible in a criminal case.

          At any rate, I wish you luck. let me know if it works.

          • You should read both Vehicle code 40513 and People v. Barron 37 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1 (1995):


          • Jim Kozlovich says:

            Mr. Dort,
            For some reason my first response no longer shows up, so I’m posting it again.

            Again, I have to disagree with you; Infractions are crimes in California!!! HELLO! The court in BURKS v. U.S. (C.A. 9 1961) 287 F.2d 117, 122) noted that “In California ‘a public offense’ is synonymous with ‘a crime’”. More recently, the court in PEOPLE v. SIMPSON (Cal.Super.A.D.,2014) 223 Cal.App.4th Supp. 6, 9, 167 Cal.Rptr.3d 396, 398 – 399 stated “an infraction is a criminal matter subject generally to the provisions applicable to misdemeanors, except for the right to a jury trial, the possibility of confinement as a punishment, and the right to court-appointed counsel if indigent”. The provisions of Cal. Penal Code sec 19.7 states: “… all provisions of law relating to misdemeanors shall apply to infractions including, but not limited to, powers of peace officers, jurisdiction of courts, periods for commencing action and for bringing a case to trial and burden of proof”.
            The issue isn’t dead! I have been to court on more than one occasion and have refused to enter a plea to the Notice to Appear and requested a formal complaint from the DA and I got it. These judges understand the issue. The mistake the defendant made in People v. Barron is that he entered a not guilty plea which constituted a general (voluntary) appearance thus giving the court the authority to assume jurisdiction.
            Again, the issue isn’t so much whether the Notice to Appear constitutes a complaint but who can initiate criminal proceedings on behalf of the People of the State of California.
            I won’t bother you anymore, I know you don’t work for free and besides I don’t think that you’re going to be convinced that maybe you are wrong.

          • There must be something wrong with my eyes, because I can’t see it.

            I did pass the CA bar exam, but I have a hard time believing anyone could read my writing. And I used blue ink all three days even though they told us to use black ink only. I’m not completely sure anyone even looked at my test answers.

            They did cash my checks.

          • If infractions are crimes, I say there must be a right to jury trial.

            And does that mean a president can be impeached due to an infraction?

          • That Fed case you mentioned is not law in CA.

            Should people with infractions have the right to a public defender? Should they have the right to an interpreter at the court’s expense?

        • Jim Kozlovich says:


          There may be two problems at work here; 1) you may need new glasses, and 2) you have a problem understanding instructions (using blue ink rather than the required black ink). You did admit though that “They did cash my checks”. My understanding of that statement tells me that they are more interested in your money rather than what you know (I wouldn’t brag about this). You do seem to dance around the issues a lot.

          You seem to have a lot of opinions regarding this issue; however, you never provide any supporting authority. Why is that?

          You said “That Fed case you mentioned is not law in CA”. I would have to disagree with you on that point; however, we don’t need to discuss that at this time. I did notice that you had no comment on PEOPLE v. SIMPSON which states specifically “an infraction is a criminal matter…” How do you explain that?

          Your last question, “Should people with infractions have the right to… an interpreter at the court’s expense? My answer is YES, people who are charged with a crime in California are entitled to a court appointed interpreter by way of Article I, section 14 of the California Constitution which states “A person unable to understand English who is charged with a crime has a right to an interpreter throughout the proceedings” (supported by PEOPLE v. AGUILAR, (1984) 35 Cal.3d 785). I would think, because, as you stated, “I did pass the CA bar exam”, that you would know this.

          If infractions are crimes, should people charged with a traffic infraction have the right to court appointed counsel and a jury trial? I can’t answer that because it has numerous pros and cons arguments. This is an issue the legislature has addressed and they determined that “An infraction is not punishable by imprisonment. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to a trial by jury. A person charged with an infraction shall not be entitled to have the public defender or other counsel appointed at public expense to represent him…” This does not mean that an infraction is not a “crime”.

          • Licensed Defense Attorney Opinion: People who think they can get out of a traffic ticket because they did not have a “verified complaint” filed against them will not have good results. If you sign a citation, you need to appear in court on or before the date listed on the citation, next to your signature.

            If you refuse to sign a citation from a law enforcement officer, you should follow the instructions of the person with the gun.

            Does anyone have Wesley Snipes email address?

  2. Kevin says:

    The prosecuting officer made a mistake writing down the violation code. Because of this he dismissed the case in court and is now refiling it with the correct code. Can I object to the refiling? Is there anything I can do to prevent this case from restarting and carrying on for 3 more months? I was prepared to defend my actual violation or his error in court and now I have to do this all over again. Is there anything I can do?

  3. Derek says:

    If a police officer testifies that he saw me driving while speaking on a cell phone, could a proper objection be that he is “testifying to facts not in evidence” since there is no way at the moment he saw me driving he could have discerned that the device I was holding to my ear was indeed a cell phone?

    • Derek,

      That is sort of a good idea.

      But if an officer testifies that he saw a cell phone, then the evidence is that he saw a cell phone.

      • Derek says:

        Right, but my point was to object immediately when he uses the words “cell phone” since there is no way at his vantage point he could have known that a device he saw held to my ear was indeed a cell phone. Thereby, I hope to keep that evidence out of the case.

        Well, I’ll let you know how it goes this week.

        • Derek,

          I guess you could object on the grounds that “assumes facts not in evidence”, but it will not go anywhere. If the officer says he saw a cell phone, and recognized it as a cell phone, you’re screwed.

          What you have here is the class “Officer could not have seen what he says he saw” defense.

          This reminds me of one of my early cases. The first time I got a gang member his knife back actually. The prosecutor gave us back the knife in court, believe it or not. The way we got it back was this:

          Cop said he saw a “bright flash” in the back seat of a car he decided to follow. He said he thought it was a knife. He knew they were gang members, going into gang infected apartments. He stopped the car, found a knife in the Defendant’s pocket, and a paid of mirrored sunglasses on the backseat.

          During cross examination on the motion to suppress, I got the cop to admit he did not know if the flash he saw was a knife or a pair of sunglasses. He admitted he could not tell – and that lead to a ruling that he did not have probable cause to stop the vehicle.

          For you to win with your idea, you are going to have to get the officer to admit he did not know for sure whether the object you were holding was a cell phone, or a pocket breathalyzer. And using a pocket breathalyzer in a car is not a violation.

          Maybe you can go something like this:

          My car attracted your attention?
          You saw me driving?
          Did I hit anyone?
          Did I run any stop signs?
          I had valid registration stickers, right?
          You did not cite me for speeding right?
          I was not speeding was I?
          Was I using my GPS device?
          I dont know
          You dont know because you did not see it, right?
          You saw me holding something?
          Was it red?
          Was it blue?
          Was it dark grey?
          Dark grey or black.
          Was it black?
          Dark grey or black
          You’re not sure which color?
          Was it an electronic device?
          I believe so
          What model was it?
          I dont know.
          Was it a touch screen or non touch screen?
          I dont know

          Oh . . . . . Derek, I am trying here, but it’s not working. The cop is going to say he saw a cell phone and you’re screwed.

          You are way better off focusing on the idea that you were driving safely and obeying the statute, which you should read and see if any of the exceptions apply to your facts.

          • Derek says:

            Thank you for taking the time to respond in such detail. I’ll review as you suggest.

          • Derek says:

            Well, I just got a dismissal but not in the way I expected to. I forgot to mention that the People and the officer not responded to my discovery request within the specified time period so I filed a motion to compel along with a proposed order for $250 in sanctions for the DA and the Officer. The officer showed up today in court wearing a suit instead of his uniform. My case went first. The officer moved to dismiss. I thanked him and he said “You’re welcome”

  4. John R. says:

    Can I object to a ruling of traffic court about the video being inadmissible ?

    Thank You,

    • John,

      Videos are hearsay. In order to be admissible (in most courts) the party trying to get it in must establish a foundation to authenticate it.

      Anytime the other side wants to introduce a video, (assuming it is bad evidence) you want to object on hearsay grounds.

      How do we know it was not photoshopped?
      How do we know it was not edited or cut?
      How do we know the time it was supposedly created was accurate?
      How do we know it really shows what it purports to show?

      These are all foundational questions that can only be answered by the person or thing that created the camera. I mean video. Wait, I mean both. We need both, everyone who had anything to do with making this video. Who does maintains the maintenance records on this thing?

      And that person or thing is a witness against you. You have the right to cross examine the witnesses against you on these foundational factual issues. And if that person or thing is not in court to answer your questions, that video is unreliable hearsay.

      OK – that is how the argument goes. You have to object prior to the judge’s ruling that it is admissible, or you waiver (give up) the objection.

      If the judge rules the video is admissible over your objection, that is an issue you can challenge on appeal.

      There are lots of exceptions to the hearsay rule that may apply for a video. I cannot give you a lesson on that for free. I dont even know why I am giving you a lesson on this for free. But just keep in mind there are exceptions to the hearsay rule, like for public records, exceptions for red light cameras that are codified (listed in a specific statute or law), videos that have already been authenticated in the world somehow to the extent that a judge can take “Judicial Notice” of the authenticity and foundational facts for a video (like maybe the video of Obama being sworn in) etc.

      And to make it really complicated, a video is not really hearsay if is it not offered to prove the truth of that show within the video. How’s that for a mind blower?

      What that really means is that a video is not hearsay if it is only admitted to prove that the video player machine works. Get it? The video is not offered to prove the truth of the data on video recording, rather it is offered to prove the operation of the machine.

      Make the objection anyway.

    • John,

      I edited some of my response to clear typos that may have confused you. Sorry, I type fast, and dont proof read these things because I actually have to work also. Please forgive me for all my typos, everyone, everywhere.

  5. joe says:

    Hi. Can you tell me if a birth certificate is hearsay? Can anyone use a birth certificate to identify me? If they can’t use a birth certificate, can they use a dmv picture i.d. that is created after the presentation of a birth certificate to the dmv? What documentation can be used to prove that I am a person with a name? Also, what documentation can be used to prove that I own anything? Is a certificate of title for the car that I use actually hearsay? Thank you in advance for an answer. Joe

    • Joe,

      This is an interesting question. Kind of a good one, because it shows you are thinking the right way.

      A birth certificate is in fact Hearsay. It is an 1) “out of court statement” by a 2) “person or machine not in court to testify”; that is 3) offered to prove the truth of what is stated therein – namely that you were born in that place at that time to those people.

      BUT > > >> BUT

      There is an exception to the hearsay rule in all states for official government records that bear signatures or seals (in general) that indicate its authenticity.

      So it is hearsay, but hearsay that falls into an exception.

      Can you get a birth certificate excluded? Try, but probably no if it is a certified version of the record.

      • joe says:

        ok, but do the exceptions only apply after jurisdiction has been established? If they need to prove who I am to gain jurisdiction over me, how can they attach the birth certificate to me without me consenting? For example, I believe they will ask me if this is my birth certificate, if this is my driver’s license, if this is my social security number, if this is my signature verifying that these are my fingerprints. What other than my saying that the birth certificate is mine at the social security office makes the birth certificate mine? What other than my testimony saying that the birth certificate is mine at the dmv makes the birth certificate mine at the dmv? If I say that I believe that there may have been mistakes made in the volunteering and acceptance of the birth certificate as mine, who could demand that I continue to volunteer to claim that birth certificate as mine? If they say that it is a fact that the birth certificate refers to me because it is on record at the dmv and the ss office that I volunteered to claim the birth certificate as mine in the past could I say that perhaps mistakes have been made and if it is all a mistake how could the records be correct? If they say it is mine and if he who avers has the burden of proof, how could they prove it is mine other than asking me if it is mine? If they ask me to prove that it is not mine, might I ask ,”when did I claim that it is not mine, I am just asking you to provide evidence to your claim that it IS mine, ok?” What foundation to evidence could they provide other than paper work from the past that had me signing something that says that I voluntarily provided testimony that the birth certificate was mine. In which case they would have to ask me if that was my signature on those documents, right? At that point I could ask them if they had any evidence that that was my signature or I could say that allegedly it is my signature, but does that make it my signature?
        Or I could say that at the time that I signed the document I may have thought it was my birth certificate, but at this time I believe that that may have been a mistake. What mistake they may ask and I might say well, “How could I have first hand knowledge that that is my birth certificate when the only reason that I may have believed that is because people told me so and the people who told me didn’t have first hand knowledge either as they were just telling me what other people told them and so on. If I said it was mine, would I be providing you with hearsay and claiming hearsay to be first hand knowledge? If I claim hearsay to be firsthand knowledge could I be perjuring myself? Are you asking me to perjure myself? So like I said- when I signed those documents, if I did sign them at all, I may have made a mistake at the time, ok?”
        I imagine this might be a confusing question, but I thank you in advance for putting some thought into it and getting back.

        • Joe,

          You have to pay me to read that pile of words. I’m sorry. But you are on the right track by thinking about it.

          • Joe says:

            I would be happy to pay you. How can I pay you? Can you tell me what the lawful money of account in the so called United States is? Would you take an IOU for discharge of any imagined debts?

      • Joe says:

        Hi. In this last reply where you it seems you said ” 3) offered to prove the truth of what is stated therein – namely that you were born in that place at that time to those people.” it seems you stated that the birth certificate states within it that “I” was born at a place and time. I wonder if the birth certificate states anything about “me” or if it even purports to. I believe it simply reads that a child was born at a time and place. What in that document even attempts to attach that supposed child to me, I wonder. Is it only my volunteering to be that child that makes that document have anything to do with me?

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