Adventures in Traffic Court

Hey, did you hear the one about the criminal defense attorney who had to go to traffic court?

Yeah, the story goes like this. She shows up in traffic court, and I guess she figures, "Hey, I'm a PD, I'm friends with some court officers where I appear in court, maybe I can get myself out of here quick..." She approaches a court officer and says, "Hey, I'm a PD, I'm missing court, do you think you could get me out of here quick?"

"Ha!" The court officer laughs. "A P.D.? You'll wait till the end of the day." And, with that, the court officer took her ticket and put it at the bottom of the pile.

The attorney, not easily deterred, then stood up and addressed everyone who was waiting in the courtroom. "Can I have your attention please? I'm a defense attorney and I've just been informed that I will be here all day. Therefore, if anyone wants a free attorney today, please follow me into the hall and give me your information." The attorney proceeded to gum up the works by helping each person and standing up on every case, citing rules and laws that were unheard of in lowly traffic court. The court, which usually closed in the morning, remained open all day. Tickets that were routinely paid had to be dismissed.

And that, my friends, was the last time any defense attorney had to wait in traffic court in that city.

18 comments:

  1. Please tell me this is a true story.

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  2. That is great! ABSOLUTELY GREAT!

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  3. It's a little bit of a legend in these parts, but from what I hear it is a true story.

    More on MY adventures in traffic court soon - probably tonight.

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  4. Awesome. They say the only reason they can write so many tickets is because no one goes to court. If even some of us did it would be too expensive for them to hand out all these bs tickets.

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  5. If it's not true, it should be.

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  6. Can you even be represented by counsel in traffic court?

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  7. I've represented a guy in traffic court. They arrested him for loitering in his car in order to pick up prostitutes. The fact that he had his sick kid in the back and was looking for a parking space, did not deter them.

    Given his job, he fought the ticket, and since he had the ER bills, etc., they dismissed, though they would not look he or I in the eye.

    Also had a guy who decided not to fight the same ticket. Real reason he pulled over, he realized he was too drunk to drive. Way too drunk. Decided the ticket he got would go over better than a DUI would.

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  8. Well, in CA anyways, you may appear through an attorney (see Cal. Veh. Code Sec. 40507), but you have no right to a PD unless you are arrested and not released (Cal. Pen. Code Sec. 19.6.)

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  9. Well, in CA anyways, you may appear through an attorney (see Cal. Veh. Code Sec. 40507), but you have no right to a PD unless you are arrested and not released (Cal. Pen. Code Sec. 19.6.)

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  10. I assume there's no law in California that prohibits anyone from taking advantage of a PD giving out freebies on their own time, "right" or no "right."

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  11. I agree that in most juridictions, you don't get a PD in traffic court. But, there is probably nothing keeping the guy from working pro bono, and, hey, why not?

    But the poster was right who suggested that the reason that traffic court works in the first place is that almost no one really fights tickets.

    I, unfortunately, do. I am not a trial attorney, but have tried some cases, even some traffic cases, and represent myself pro se in traffic court. And the setup tends to piss me off, so I fight, maybe even when I shouldn't. But it is fun - I get court time, without the pressure of a client.

    So, a couple of months ago, I got a ticket for bad backing. No cops on the scene, so all they have to testify is based on statements by witnesses - which won't show at the hearing (hearsay anyone?) Went to the preliminary hearing, where almost all cases are disposed of, typically by some deal. I was offered a reduction from two to one points. Not worth the deal. I told the atty. zero points or trial. Got trial on Valentine's day (after waiving CO speedy trial).

    Ultimately beat tickets a number of times in AZ by fighting them in court, then appealing. Justice Court magistrates don't have to be, and thus typically are not, attys. Result is that they ignore the law, but that leaves them open to appeal. But then, the county attys. don't show up for the appeals (and I do), and that pisses off the Superior Ct. judges, who end up dismissing.

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  12. Excellent story. Based on my experience as a municipal court (mostly traffic and misdemeanors) clerk in Oklahoma it is either true or could be true if an attorney offered to do the same. In our state defendants are allowed to have counsel in traffic court and occasionally there is one even for a small speeding violation. Cases with attorneys always get heard first, so if you have a friend who is a PD and can go to court with you it might save time for you to buy him/her coffee. There is, however, not an established right to a PD for minor violations, at least in this state.

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  13. I agree that in most juridictions, you don't get a PD in traffic court. But, there is probably nothing keeping the guy from working pro bono, and, hey, why not?I have my doubts whether a PD can work pro bono without running it by supervisors for approval. If nothing else, it theoretically raises malpractice insurance claims -- if someone sued the PD for malpractice, the gov's E&O (errors and omission for the non-attys reading along) insurer is at least potentially on the hook.

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  14. This is a good way for a law student clinic or a new associate who wants some trial practice to get experience. Taking the cases at "$50 contingency if you win" can make some spare change quick. Ask for jury trials, if there's a state constitutional right to one.
    It's especially fun if five lawyers get together to each cover one day of the week. On the other hand, judges can fight back, handing out maximum sentences. One lawyer can make a routine case take an hour, or a month, while a roomful of cops sits and waits. It also makes everybody else wait, which annoys them until they catch on that their case is likely to get dismissed.

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  15. In my state a person can apply for a public defender for any offense which carries the possibility of jail time, so many magistrate level traffic offenses qualify.

    Also, a word of caution in response to the previous post, charging a contingincy fee in a criminal matter is a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

    SC PD

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  16. "Taking the cases at '$50 contingency if you win'"? Are you nuts? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    GT, you can't take a criminal matter for a contingent fee. You probably wouldn't get disbarred for it, but if a law student (who can't practice on his own anyway ... the third-year practice acts in some states require a present supervising attorney) tried to pull something like that, he'd never get a card.

    Great story, though. Traffic Court is the one place where The People are on the defendant's side. We've all been pulled over.

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