One writer recently wrote a scathing piece about traffic court. The lesson is clear for motorists passing through Central California on 395 who end up in other courts as well: if you want to fight your traffic ticket in a small town like Mammoth Lakes or Bridgeport, you need an experienced attorney who practices in that court.
First, a bit of history. In 1968, the California Legislature created a new category of crimes called "infractions." A person charged with an infraction does not have the right to a jury trial and does not have certain other Fifth Amendment rights that apply in criminal cases. Today, nearly all Vehicle Code violations, except DUI, reckless driving and a handful of others, are infractions.
Robert Miller wrote that he watched 37 trials in Santa Clara, and all but three resulted in a guilty verdict, including a woman who claimed she was unable to get out of the carpool lane due to heavy traffic and a man who said he was confused by excessive signage.
The Judges and CHP officers in Mammoth Lakes and Bridgeport see each other almost every week. It's only human that that the Judges there would be more inclined to believe a CHP officer that a person defending themselves on a traffic ticket.
Mr. Miller concluded by saying that the traffic ticket system is designed to raise revenue and system is so heavily weighted in favor of police officers that there is no point in contesting a Mono County traffic ticket. While the first conclusion is probably spot-on, his second one is flat-out wrong.
If you challenge LeBron James to a game of one-on-one, you will lose. For that matter, if you challenge Julius Randle to a similar contest, you will also lose. In a similar vein, if you appear in court without an experienced advocate, you will probably lose.
An attorney can identify defenses you may have missed and can effectively negotiate to get the fine and/or points reduced, saving you money.