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Motorist Wins Double Jeopardy Argument in Federal Court

A Dana Motorist Wins Double Jeopardy Argument in Federal CourtPoint man who stood trial twice for the same speeding ticket is now free.

The controversy began in January 2007, when California Highway Patrol officer Mark Magrann issued a super-speeding ticket to a driver on the 405 in Irvine who had a United Kingdom drivers' license. At the trial, Officer Magrann identified James Wilkinson as the driver. When Mr. Wilkinson produced a Nevada drivers' license with a different name and date of birth than the information on the ticket, and also produced a credible alibi, the judge found Mr. Wilkinson not guilty.

But Officer Magrann was still convinced of Mr. Wilkinson's guilt. At Officer Magrann's insistence, the CHP conducted a background check on Mr. Wilkinson that uncovered three prior traffic tickets in California. Prosecutors alleged that he had lied about his identity at the earlier trial and charged Mr. Wilkinson with perjury. The judge found Mr. Wilkinson guilty, based on Officer Magrann's testimony that he was positive that Mr. Wilkinson was the driver, and sentenced him to 45 days in jail.

When Mr. Wilkinson challenged the perjury conviction based on the 5 th Amendment's prohibition against double jeopardy, an appeals court affirmed the perjury conviction, stating that Mr. Wilkerson had failed to show that the speeding ticket trial and the perjury trial both concerned the issue of his identity. A federal judge subsequently disagreed in November 2013 and overturned the perjury conviction, while harshly criticizing the appeals court judges for their "pro-police opinion" that "was an unreasonable application of clearly-established federal law."

Cases such as this, that feature overly-aggressive officers, are extremely rare. Generally speaking, if you receive a speeding ticket in Kern County, the state will present a very effective case against you, and you need an aggressive attorney practicing in the Central Valley to defend you.

Please be respectful and honest with police officers, while remembering that you do have a Fifth Amendment right to not talk about anything that would incriminate you on your speeding ticket.