Traffic Violations & Court Appearance

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by Gryffindorian, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Today I received my first traffic ticket in seven years. The first one I got was back in January 2006 when I got stopped by a sheriff's deputy for not stopping "all the way" while making a right turn against a red light. I ended up going to traffic school afterwards.

    This afternoon I was driving on my way home, and traffic was at a standstill, so I was stuck on a railroad track. I couldn't back up; there was no space for me to go forward. As luck would have it, there was an Oakland PD patrol car nearby that signaled me to pull over. The officer said I was not supposed to be blocking the railroad track. (Tell me something I don't know.) He asked for my driver's license, registration, proof of insurance, and shortly thereafter, he gave me a ticket.

    Anyway, I'm thinking about contesting the ticket in court. I'm a bit unclear at the moment as to the proper procedure. The citation states that I need to send a written request to the court (via certified or registered mail), and yet I've heard of ticketed motorists who were able to appear in court (walk-ins) and asked the judge for a dismissal or a lower fine. BTW, I live in the SF Bay Area in Alameda County. Has anyone here ever gotten a traffic ticket?

    Considering how sad and frustrating this situation is, I'm holding up pretty well. What say you?
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
  2. Kestra

    Kestra Admiral Premium Member

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    Okay Drone, brace yourself for a lack of sympathy. I'm not saying any of this to be mean.

    On what grounds are you contesting this? You knew you weren't supposed to block the tracks so it's not like you weren't aware of the law or disagree with it even. Pay the ticket and next time be more careful and don't pull forward unless there's enough room for your car to clear the tracks. It's for your safety, the safety of everyone around you, and those on the train. Just don't block train tracks ever again.
     
  3. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    I agree with Kestra, Gryff. When you come to train tracks, don't begin to cross them until there is enough clearance for your vehicle. As much as it sucks, you clearly violated that law. Just count your lucky stars, because what would you have done if a train had come along? The trains on the tracks a hundred yards from our house move at about 65 mph.
     
  4. Robert Maxwell

    Robert Maxwell so far this is a dumb future Premium Member

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    Yeah, what you did is illegal and dangerous, and you even knew better, so I don't know what you'd say in court to get out of it. Just pay the fine.
     
  5. Timby

    Timby LIKE LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING Administrator

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    It is your responsibility as a driver to gauge the traffic ahead of you prior to attempting to traverse a railroad crossing. Pay the fine; you have no grounds to contest the ticket.
     
  6. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Thanks, guys, and no offense taken. The officer did say that it was unsafe for me to do that, but I hardly had any choice. What I'm sort of hoping to accomplish is that maybe I could get a lower fine? At this point, I don't even know how much it is because I'm supposed to wait for a notification from the courthouse to arrive by mail.

    I believe I may have found the answer to my question(s).

    http://www.alameda.courts.ca.gov/Pages.aspx/Oakland-WWM-Traffic-Court

    There are "walk-in" court sessions during the workweek in which people can plead their case to the judge (as I mentioned - dismiss the charge or lower the fine). My sister, who once got a traffic ticket, was able to do this one time and got off the hook! Lucky for her.

    I don't mind going to traffic school, but in any case, this is going to be expensive (bail + admin fees + traffic school cost).
     
  7. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    "Who are you?"
    I'll just reiterate every other person who's responded.

    If you learn anything from this experience, it should include that "but I hardly had any choice" is a mistaken belief.

    Everyone else above me already explained the situation perfectly.

    I'll just add that any impatient drivers who were behind you won't be paying for your ticket, so in case you felt like there was some pressure on you to move forward, let me underscore that you did not need to somehow accommodate them by doing something unsafe. And more crucially, they wouldn't have been taking the hit on the train tracks either, if, God forbid, a train had suddenly appeared.
     
  8. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    I've gone to court a couple of times over traffic tickets. In one case, because the fine was so high, I spent money to attend a one-day "driver education" course recommended by the state in question (Virginia). In each case I pleaded guilty but asked for a reduced charge. In one case (Baltimore) they dismissed the ticket and the other they threw out the points and reduced the fine a lot (again, the speeding ticket in Virginia). It still cost me, but the reduced charge kept the thing off my insurance record.

    Basically, it was entirely at the judge's discretion because I didn't have a leg to stand on other than that I was taking the matters seriously. Apparently showing up and being respectful can accomplish a lot just by itself.
     
  9. Gryffindorian

    Gryffindorian Vice Admiral Admiral

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    ^ Did you ever have to schedule a court appearance when you saw the judge, or were you able to go to the walk-in traffic court? Just curious. In my sister's case it was the latter, and since it was a minor infraction, the judge dismissed the ticket, so she didn't pay anything. This is what confused me: contest the ticket or appear in court, both of which would involve going to court anyway. Appearing in court means going to the walk-in traffic court, but the citation was not very specific about the process. The website made it clear for me.
     
  10. Collingwood Nick

    Collingwood Nick Vice Admiral Admiral

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    We do things differently in Australia. No court appearance, just a fine and loss of points and an almost zero possibility of getting the fine reversed.

    Lots of people get hit by trains in this city. Too many level crossings.

    Anyway I think there's an episode of the Big Bang Theory that can help you. Season 3 somewhere. Sheldon goes to traffic court. Track that episode down, watch it, don't do what Sheldon does, and you should be fine.
     
  11. B.J.

    B.J. Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    But where is Alameda?!?


    Sorry, had to do it! :D
     
  12. RobertVA

    RobertVA Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    It's where they keep the nuclear wessels.

    It's also one of the plaves where myths are busted.
     
  13. RevDMV

    RevDMV Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Funny thing just got a ticket from Alameda myself a few weeks back.

    First thing though, you haven't leg to stand on. You were on the track it's illegal, you got popped.

    Your only hope by showing up is that the citing officer isn't there. If they don't show up you win by default. Although that doesn't happen too often now as the police are paid for their time in court.

    As I am, I would take the available traffic school option. You still have to pay the fine and the school cost but the ticket is off your record. Plus now you can do the school on the internet so no wasted nights or weekends.

    Sadly in the budget crunch world tickets have gone way up. My little 15 over the limit, is going to run about 450 after it's all done.
     
  14. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    I agree with everyone else, but I'll answer your question.

    I live in Kern County, so this is how it works here (meaning, YMMV in Alameda County):
    1) Wait for your ticket in the mail. It will have further instructions (likely everything I'm about to spell out).
    2) You go to the Traffic Courthouse (separate from the Superior Court) and wait in line with the Court Clerk for a desk appearance. You get a court date.
    3) Return for your court date (yes, it's a different day), in which you sit in a room and watch a bunch of other losers try to plead their case to the judge about why they feel they don't deserve a ticket. When it's your turn, he may ask you some questions about it and just answer honestly. He'll either reduce it or ask you if you did it. By the way, this is just like an arraignment, you're essentially making a plea, not trying your case.
    4) If you want to plead not guilty, congratulations! You now have to come back for a third time in front of a different judge and try to prove you're innocent. But you're not, so I would take the deal offered in step 3.

    Usually, the judge will be lenient with you just for getting off your ass and actually showing up to court instead of mailing in whatever the citation says. Unless you are disrespectful or obviously not remorseful (some of those people are).

    I'm curious how you accomplished this feat if you couldn't pull forward or if you couldn't back up.
     
  15. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    Really? Last ticket I got was about 4-5 years ago, and I was going 81 in a 55 (desert highway). Fine on the ticket came out to $400, plus no traffic school. Since its 25+ over the speed limit, traffic school is not an option unless you appear and a judge offers it to you. So that's what I did. (Awful convenient that I was going 26 over the speed limit, I thought).

    After appearing, the judge dropped my fine to $250-ish. He then asked if I wanted traffic school, I said yes. I plead no contest and took his deal. Traffic school was something like $20, and I did it online. After court fees, probably around $350.
     
  16. Trekker4747

    Trekker4747 Boldly going... Premium Member

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    As said above it's going to vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but where I live this is how it goes:

    You show up at traffic court on the date on the ticket, this more or less serves as an arraignment where you either plea guilty/no contest and pay the fine. If you plea not guilty you get a court date and show up then, (usually a week or two away). There when it's your turn you offer your case against a DA and the ticketing officer and the judge will then determine what to do. When making your case you're welcome to bring in any "witnesses" or anything like that. Only you are serving as your own lawyer so only you can ask questions of witnesses/the officer.

    Afterwards the judge will make a ruling. From all of the traffic court cases I've seen the judge is usually not one to give much leniency to the defense. You broke a law, you were caught. The cop is going to say he witnessed you stopped over the railroad tracks and violation of traffic laws. You're going to say... "Well, umm...."

    You could argue that you weren't expecting to get stopped there due to traffic moving along at one point and then coming to a stop (some up ahead stopped short on a yellow light causing everyone behind him to stop forcing you onto the tracks) or whatever your claim is, but the deck is heavily going to be stacked against you. You're better off saving yourself the time and trouble and just paying the ticket. If its a moving violation and you're worried about points on your license/increased insurance then when you go in on the date on the ticket ask to "amend" the ticket. It'll double the fine but makes the ticket, basically, a parking ticket meaning no points go on your license and it doesn't count against you for insurance purposes.

    (Though I doubt the ticket you got was a moving violation.)

    If you're going to fight this it's going to suck two nights or afternoons out of your life and in both cases you're more than likely going to pay the fine anyway. Consider it lesson learned and pay it. You can pay it now by mailing it in or just going down to the courthouse and paying it in person. Unless you've got a REALLY good excuse and even witnesses to back it up you're not going to have a prayer in traffic court.
     
  17. tighr

    tighr Commodore Commodore

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    We don't have this option in California. If we have the option for traffic school, it's an additional fee + the class (can be online) + cost of the class. Traffic school avoids the points and insurance hit (doesn't show up on your record) but you can only do it once every 18 months.
     
  18. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If there is an option to "plead down" to a lesser charge, do it. If not, pay the ticket and thank God you were not in the path of an oncoming train.

    The "I had no choice" claim is not true. Unless the car behind you physically pushed you onto the train tracks (in which case they would have been ticketed, or even arrested, by the observing officer), you had a choice not to move onto the tracks.

    Take your punishment like a man. If you are a moral person, do the right thing: admit your guilt and pay your fine.
     
  19. Captain Ice

    Captain Ice Cookie Constructor Moderator

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    Count your lucky stars, pay the fine (or do traffic school), and don't ever do it again.

    Did the officer explain to you that, even if the engineer did see you, that it takes him more than a mile to stop?
     
  20. the 4th hanson bro

    the 4th hanson bro No one can resist my Schweddy balls! Moderator

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    I'd rather say " it takes a locomotive 10 seconds to go through a grade crossing whether your car is in it or not".