“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” — Abraham Lincoln
Although Abe was never in traffic court, his advice is still solid.
Defending a traffic citation in New York is not easy. A successful defense requires legal knowledge and skill. It isn’t easy, and it’s more than merely “going to court.” There is value in what traffic attorneys do even with speeding tickets.
A qualified defense attorney brings years of training and experience to what appears to be a ‘simple’ process. The layman that believes traffic tickets are mere nuisances is sadly mistaken.
Don’t have the regrets Jerry did when he failed to hire a traffic lawyer:
“I should have retained you. I defended myself and lost. I made many procedural errors and came off as a clown.
I couldn’t believe all this would happen when I moved into a center-lane and turned left. A cop pulled me over and asked what I was doing. A car which had been in front of me was having engine trouble and was moving at about seven miles-per-hour. Stupid me. I passed the car.
I told the cop the center-lane can be used for passing and I got a ticket.
At the trial I questioned the cop — who was a witness, I was able to get him to admit that I moved into the center lane and turned left. The judge still found me guilty of ‘illegal passing.’ I am probably the worst attorney in the world.
I asked the judge to explain the reasoning for finding me guilty, and she said, “I’m not going to because not obligated to do it.”
There isn’t anything simple about a courtroom. From communicating during a hearing, preparing a defense and throughout discovery, there are specific practices which are acceptable. Knowing these can give a tactical advantage as well as leverage. If you do decide to ignore Abe’s advice and represent yourself, keep in mind these six pointers:
Good textbooks about the law are costly, and armchair attorneys don’t give good advice. Read government sites about the law and research advice on criminal processes.
Talking like you grasp what you’re speaking about is at least 30% of a true attorney’s job. You’ll not only irritate everybody by not grasping anything but using the proper forms of addressing the court room, and it’s players, but using property terminology can cover a multitude of failings.
Remain calm and act patiently. If you’re unjustly put on the hook for anything, odds are there is not a conspiracy against you — someone just made a mistake. Ask for the evidence and look for cracks in the case. Ask for records and information.
Plea bargaining doesn’t formally subsist — at least in English law on which America’s jurisprudence is based, but often prosecutors will reconsider taking a plea to a secondary charge if you’re reasonable.
Even if something isn’t in your favor, tell the truth. Once you start lying, you’re toast. Keeping a lie going when faced with evidence is tough and sustaining multiple lies is impossible. While the facts may not be on your side, kneading them to fit your case is disastrous.