By Barbara Fortin
The traffic court system has a few people that are involved throughout the whole process. Not every state will have all the same people.
The exact people present in court can also change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state also. But the following should give you a general idea of who to expect.
The judge is the one who will decide the outcome of the case. In some instances a judge may appoint a magistrate to preside over the trial. A magistrate isn't a judge, so to speak, but functions like one in the courtroom.
No matter whom it is, his job remains the same. He is in court as a NEUTRAL party - meaning he is not to take sides and is to give his unbiased decision. He is there to hear both sides speak and render his judgement based on the evidence presented.
The prosecutor is the state's lawyer hired to represent its' case. Often times, the prosecutor is a recent law school graduate who is only in traffic court until they get a higher position and better paying job.
With their inexperience, mediocre pay, and desire to be somewhere else, you are at a great advantage over the prosecutor.
Also bear in mind that if you are going to court in a state where speeding tickets are considered a civil offense (as opposed to a criminal offense), there more than likely will not be a prosecutor present.
In this case it will only be the officer who will be representing the state.
The police officer is the prosecution's witness against you. He is considered an eye witness to the alleged violation. As such, his testimony is given a great deal of credibility.
In civil cases, where there is not a prosecutor present, the police officer is called the plaintiff.
The police officer is no stranger to the court system. He's probably been there hundreds of times before to testify against motorists. He knows what to say and how to say it. He will give his testimony very convincingly.
The court clerk under general supervision performs a variety of legal procedures relating to the preparation and processing of court cases. The clerk also files court documents and receipts fines, fees and bond payments. If you should ever have a question about your case - before it starts - then this is the person to see.
The court bailiff serves two purposes. He is the judge's helper and is responsible for keeping order in the courtroom.
It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with who will be in the courtroom before you actually go. A good way to do this is to visit the courtroom a day or two before your actual trial and sit in on a couple of traffic court cases. This will make you a bit more comfortable when it comes time for your trial.
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