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Don't Try This At Home

An erstwhile DMV investigator was arrested and charged with offering false documentary evidence. Prosecutors allege that he falsified an officer's signature to get out of a traffic ticket.

According to court documents, an officer stopped 51-year-old Dennis Svet because his Civic had false registration tags. Mr. Svet apparently tried to use a DMV identification card to the officer. When the officer wrote a ticket anyway, he forged the officer's signature on the back of the ticket and mailed it to the court as proof of correction. The judge dismissed the case, but the DMV subsequently launched an investigation.

Mr. Svet is currently being held in lieu of $20,000 bond.

There are a number of effective defenses to a traffic ticket that do not involve felonious conduct. A good advocate makes these defenses even more effective.

In most instances, the state has the burden of proof. The prosecutor must convince the judge that the defendant was guilty beyond any reasonable doubt. Often, there may be evidence of guilt, but it is insufficient to meet the legal burden of proof. If the defense attorney can offer a reasonable alternative theory - for example, a car may stop so briefly that the officer didn't see the wheels stop moving - a Kern County judge typically finds the defendant not guilty.

There may also be missing evidence. Many violations in Bakersfield require the state to prove facts A, B and C. If the state proves A and C but not B, the defendant is not guilty. Other times, there may be an excuse. For example, a traffic control sign may be obscured by a tree branch or other object, or the speed limit may not be clearly marked. If the excuse is a legal justification, the defendant is not guilty.

Even if the defense is not strong enough to get the case thrown out, it may very well be strong enough to convince the prosecutor to reduce the charges and/or the proposed fine.