One of the cornerstones of the U.S. criminal justice system is the principle that people who are accused of crimes have the right to trial by jury. However, this principle does not apply to many traffic offenses. Many traffic offenses are considered infractions, and in Tulare County, infractions do not merit the right to jury trial.
In most traffic violation cases, a police officer gives the driver a citation, and the driver then pays the ticket. Paying the ticket is essentially the same as pleading guilty to the offense.
Contesting a traffic citation
Still, there are many cases where pleading guilty and paying the ticket is not a good option for the driver. For instance, the driver may not be able to afford the ticket. In some cases, pleading guilty to a speeding charge or other traffic violation can endanger the person’s driver’s license, or even their job. In some cases, the driver was not guilty and just doesn’t want to plead guilty to something they didn’t do.
In these cases, the driver can plead not guilty. Their case can then be heard by a judicial officer, who is a judge, a judge pro tem (a temporary judge) or a commissioner. The police officer who issued the citation is ordered to appear at this hearing, and the driver has a chance to tell their side of the story with the help of witnesses and a skilled lawyer.
An experienced lawyer can advise clients on their rights and legal options. A lawyer can also represent the client at hearings, protecting their rights and helping them to reach the best resolution to their case.