A measure intended to streamline the procedural process in traffic ticket
appeals may have the opposite effect.
Currently, if you lose a trial by written declaration, you have the right
to a trial
de novo: an entirely new trial at which the government must introduce evidence
to prove that you are guilty.
Assembly Bill 2487 would eliminate that right. The idea is that the defendant should only
get "one bite at the apple," or one chance to disprove the government's
case. That's the general rule in many cases, which is why it's
so important to hire an attorney practicing in Lamont or Shafter right
away to defend you.
But, although the purpose of the bill makes sense, many people ask for a trial
de novo just so they request traffic school at their court date. These requests
do not unreasonably jam up the courts; they simply allow defendants to
become more knowledgeable drivers, which should be the entire point of
the traffic school law. Furthermore, the bill does not present any evidence
that a trial
de novo is a burden on the court. In other words, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!
The legislature originally allowed trial by declarations as a way for motorists
to get a chance to defend themselves without having to attend trial at
the expense of work or a long trip. There are several complaints about
how courts treat trial by declarations. For instance, some courts render
a guilty verdict based on the ticket or a declaration by the officer even
when it does not meet all of the legal requirements of the law. There
are also concerns that the court skims the information just to make sure
that the officer covered all of the bases without considering closely
the words of the defendant. Either way, the trial de novo is an important
right that should assure the motoring public that they are getting a fair
shake. Removing this right from California's would be a mistake.