By Barbara Fortin
Your time in the courtroom will be swift. Things will be happening very fast.
Traffic court cases cost cities valuable time and money. When you add the judge's fee, the prosecutor's fee, the police officer's overtime, the courtroom fees, paperwork, secretaries, and case filers -- the costs quickly skyrocket.
It is in the court's best interest to speed things up as much as possible. Every minute in that courtroom is costing the money.
The faster they can get people in, the faster they can find them guilty and impose their harsh (and ridiculous) fines. I like to refer it to assembly line procession, much like you see in a factory.
But don't let this fast process scare you. This is exactly how you will manipulate the system.
There are basically two traffic court proceedings you may have to attend.
The first one is called the arraignment where you will make your plea (guilty or not guilty) and the second one is your actual trial date where you will get a chance to defend yourself if you choose to plead not guilty.
Actual procedures vary greatly throughout the country. Check the back of your ticket or contact the court clerk for more details.
The arraignment date is often times written right on your traffic ticket. It is usually within a couple of weeks to a month from the date you received your speeding ticket.
At the arraignment, it is only you and the judge. Neither the prosecutor nor police officer will be present. (This may change with some jurisdictions.)
It is at the arraignment where you will make your plea and set a trial date.
You have only a few pleas to choose from:
1. Guilty -
By pleading guilty, you are relinquishing your right to contest the ticket in court. You are stating that the accusations against you are correct and you are willing to pay the price.
2. Nolo Contendere -
Also known as No Contest. This plea basically states that you do not completely disagree with the charges against you, but that you have an explanation as to why you committed the infraction. You are placing your fate in the hands of the judge.
3. Not Guilty -
The not guilty plea might sound self explanatory, but you're not necessarily saying that you did not commit the crime. What you are really saying is that the prosecutor can not prove you're guilty (by a certain standard of proof). This is what you are going to plead when it comes time for your turn.
When you plead Not Guilty, the judge will set a date and time for you to reappear in court and will subpoena the officer who gave you the speeding ticket to also appear.
This next court date will be the actual trial.
Once you've set a court date, you'll usually have about 2 to 4 weeks to prepare your case. In reality, your defense strategy is really simple; it will only take you a couple of hours to learn!
And by the way, first impressions are vital during your visit.
Since you will be in a court of law, it only makes sense to arrive clean and well presentable in appearance. You don't have to necessarily wear a suit and tie, but first impressions are vital to winning your case.
In a situation where things can go either way, the judge may rely heavily on your appearance and manner to render his decision.
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