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  1. #1
    TCD
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    CVC 24250 Driving at night with lights off

    What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? California

    Hi everyone,
    What happened to me is I got a ticket (CVC 24250) for driving about "two blocks" according to the officer with my lights off at around 10:45 PM (the two blocks consisted of the shopping center and the turn out of the shopping center in which I was immediately pulled over). My argument against the charge is that my 1987 Honda Civic is being repaired by a mechanic, and I borrowed my mom's 2004 Lexus RX330 to go to work. My mom's car has automatic lights and I have driven her car many times over the years never needing to turn the headlights on until this incident. What probably happened is because my parents left to go to a missionary trip in Africa, the friend that took their car to drop them off at the airport must have mistakenly turned the lights off automatic mode. At approximately 10:40 PM I left work which is a Best Buy located in a heavily lit shopping center. The car itself lights up the dash when the key is turned making the dash light up during the day and night (unlike my car where you cannot see anything at night when the lights are not turned on). Anyways after being disorientated by the lit up dash, the heavily lit area, as well as oncoming traffic I turned out of the shopping center and immediately got pulled over (the cop asked if I was intoxicated even though I was in my Best Buy uniform). Because it was late at night I was not putting anyone immediately in danger as there were not many people on the road and I think because of the context of the situation the charge should have been a warning or a fix-it-ticket. I would like to do a trial by declaration, but do not know how to say "Yea, I am guilty but I think the charge is excessive and would like it to be changed to a warning” without shooting myself in the foot. It is not like I dive around all the time with my lights off, it is not my car, and I have a clean record. All it is is a simple one time mistake caused by a distracting and confusing environment involving a car that was not owned by the driver. If my trial by declaration fails, I would do a trial de novo, but would like to know if what I said in the trial by declaration can still be used against me. I think at the point of an actual court case I would request a lower fine and traffic school if all else failed. What are your opinions on what I should do? I am an 18 year old college student (living in a dorm 90 miles away from where this happened) and cannot afford paying for the ticket and driving school but also cannot afford the point on my record.

    Key Points:
    • I just got off work and was driving a car that was not my own
    • The lighted dashboard, the heavily lit area, and the oncoming traffic were confusing and disorientating causing me to believe that the night time lights were in fact turned on
    • Minor things on the ticket appear to be wrong such as "Time" appears to state 2245 AM

    Key Questions:
    • What are your opinions on what I should do and how I can win?
    • What do I say in my TBD to make it effective?
    • Can my TBD be used against me if I do trial de novo?
    • Since the court is over 90 miles away from where I live and go to school (but close to my actual house) what do I do especially since I will be in school on the Dec court date?

    Thanks!
  2. #2
    CourtClerk is offline Senior Member
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    You're going to lose miserably. The law says nothing about, it's ok to drive in the dark with no headlights for just a couple of blocks, or it's ok if you're in someone else's car and didn't check to see if the headlights are on or if you're disoriented and/or confused it's ok. The law is quite clear on the matter you must have your headlights on during times of darkness and at 10pm, we'll all assume it was dark.

    Oh, and as for this:
    (the cop asked if I was intoxicated even though I was in my Best Buy uniform).
    What? People don't drink when they're in their Best Buy uniform? I'm sure there have been more than a few of your coworkers that get themselves drunk on their lunch break.
  3. #3
    I_Got_Banned is offline Senior Member
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    CVC 24250. During darkness, a vehicle shall be equipped with lighted lighting equipment as required for the vehicle by this chapter.

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    Because it was late at night I was not putting anyone immediately in danger as there were not many people on the road
    24250 does not specify how many people should be on the road nor does it declare a number of people you may have endangered. If you drive a vehicle without lighted headlights you are in violation.
    Fact is, there was one more person besides you on that road; he happened to be an officer & he happened to feel that you endangered his well being so he did his job!
    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    I think because of the context of the situation the charge should have been a warning or a fix-it-ticket.
    There is nothing in the California vehicle code that dictates that an officer shall, should, can, may or need to issue a "warning". If you violate a CVC section, the officer has the jurisdiction to issue a citation.
    Also, a fix it ticket is not an option here since the headlights work fine. You simply acted irresponsibly by assuming that because the headlights on your Mom's car were on the many times you drove it, that they would be on this time.
    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    It is not like I dive around all the time with my lights off
    I don't drive around speeding all the time but the few times I got caught, I got cited!

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    and I have a clean record.
    If every person whose had no driving convictions/had a clean record got to have their citation dismissed, then no one would ever have to pay for a citation, no one would have any citations on their driving record!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •I just got off work and was driving a car that was not my own
    Any time you get in the driver's seat of anyone's car, it is your responsibility to ensure that it is mechanically sound & that it meets all the legal requirements. Just like you glance at the gas gauge to make sure you have enough gas, you must check to ensure that your headlights are on.

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •The lighted dashboard, the heavily lit area, and the oncoming traffic were confusing and disorientating causing me to believe that the night time lights were in fact turned on
    Confusion, disorientation or ignorance for that matter, is no excuse for breaking the law. If you felt confused and disoriented, you should not be driving!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •Minor things on the ticket appear to be wrong such as "Time" appears to state 2245 AM
    > Could it be the way you're reading that?
    > Either way, the officer will testify that he pulled you over & cited you on or about 22:45. Can you dispute or argue that? No!
    > Besides, why would he cite you for no headlights at 10:45am.
    > 2245 is military time for 10:45 PM. So saying 2245 pm would be redundant.
    > Saying 2245 am would be an error that can be overlooked as it does not deprive you of any of your rghts to a fair trial.

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •What are your opinions on what I should do?
    My opinion is you should (1) admit guilt, (2) avoid clogging the court with cases that have no legal basis or valid argument. (3) Pay the citation. (4) Go to traffic school if you are eligible.

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    • how I can win?
    It used to be that some officers do not respond to a TBD therefore giving the defendant a free chance at winning.
    It also used to be that some officers do not show up in court for a regular trial or a trial de novo.
    Neither of those are the case these days. Most law enforcement agencies consider replying to a TBD & appearing in court as an integral part of an officer's job thereby counting his frequency of filing his version if a TBD as well as showing up in court as part of the annual rating review that the officer will receive which will undoubtedly affect their chances of getting promoted (notice I didn't say "how many citations they write" as that is forbidden in California pursuant to the CVC). Most officers out there are motivated enough to wanna get promoted or wanna get out of "traffic" at some point in their career. So more often than not, they will reply to TBD's and they will show up in court.
    Since you have no legal basis for arguing that you did not deserve the citation and if you still insist that you wanna win, you should pray for a miracle..

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •What do I say in my TBD to make it effective?
    There is nothing that you can say that will effectively make a valid argument for a "not guilty" verdict.
    So, say "Guilty as charged". But if you're gonna plead guilty, there's no need to do a TBD. Just mail in a check and be done!

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •Can my TBD be used against me if I do trial de novo?
    Why would that be of any concern to you? Are you gonna lie in your TBD but tell the truth if you got to trial?

    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    •Since the court is over 90 miles away from where I live and go to school (but close to my actual house) what do I do especially since I will be in school on the Dec court date?
    If you do a TBD & are found guilty & then choose to go the trial de novo path, then you have to be in court on the date that your trial is scheduled for. You have no choice or input as to when that date will be. Show up and defend yourself or lose! No extensions and no continuances will be given for trial de novo's.
    Lastly, keep in mind that if you do a TBD, you are required to post bail at the time you select that option. So if you had planned on going the TBD route because you don't have the money to pay the fine, it won't work!!!
  4. #4
    TCD
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    Exclamation

    I would admit that I was guilty because obviously I was driving with my lights off. I guess what I was meaning to say is how can I get the violation changed and/or reduced. I know that in some situations the judge will either lower the fine or change the violation to a lesser one. What can I say to do that effectively? Also about the "Can my TBD be used against me if I do trial de novo?" question, I was asking if I plead guilty in my TBD along with my story written in a professional tone and do not get the response I wanted to hear, can I do a trial de novo and start fresh or will they use what I said in the TBD against me and automatically drop my new case?

    Further into my story the setting was late at night and there were no cars around. I was turning right out of the shopping center on a red light (legally of course) on a four way intersection and the cop was on the opposite side of the intersection in the left turn lane. I turned and his light turned green just after my successful turn in which he then pulled me over when he caught up. What I meant by confusion and being disorientated was not literately, but the car's features made it look like the lights were on. As an example while being pulled over, when I turned my car off and removed my key it looked like my lights headlights had turned off (the dash lights turned off) so I put the key in to turn them back on. I did not even know that the dash lights were just an illusion until the officer told me I was driving with the lights off. (Maybe I can sue Lexus for making the dash light up when the lights are not on and claim that it is unsafe and not idiot-proof j/k)

    Just curious CVC 40610 (a fix-it violation) states that it can be considered a fix-it violation if the violation does not present an immediate safety hazard (if I am reading it correctly). My situation was not a hazard to my safety because the area was well lit, and was not a hazard to any other drivers including the officer because they were all in the turn lane far behind me. Can I argue that in court?

    Anyways I know my case is hopeless against pleading not guilty, but hopefully I can get help on reducing the fine and/or changing the charge.

    If all else fails,
    Is it worth wasting driving school on this low of a charge?
    If I do not take driving school how long will the point stay on my record?
    And lastly, will my insurance most likely go up for this small violation? Does insurance go up based on the size of your violation or just the fact that you got a point?
  5. #5
    JIMinCA is offline Member
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    Geez!! How long did it take you to write that post?!?!?!
  6. #6
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    I was asking if I plead guilty in my TBD along with my story written in a professional tone and do not get the response I wanted to hear, can I do a trial de novo and start fresh or will they use what I said in the TBD against me and automatically drop my new case?
    Yes, your previous statements can be brought up. I am not certain how often this occurs, but it could. So, I would recommend you not write anything that you do not intend to say at trial ... at least nothing incriminating.

    I did not even know that the dash lights were just an illusion until the officer told me I was driving with the lights off.
    You can certainly make the explanation, but it is essentially a plea of guilty "with an explanation". You will be at the mercy of the court.
    Just curious CVC 40610 (a fix-it violation) states that it can be considered a fix-it violation if the violation does not present an immediate safety hazard (if I am reading it correctly).
    Not quite. It can only be used if the violation involves a "registration, license, all-terrain vehicle safety certificate, or mechanical requirement" ... CVC 22450 is not a mechanical issue where something is to be repaired (if that were the case, then all one would have to do would be turn on their lights). CVC 22452 would be (as that has to do with the working o fthe lighting equipment).

    My situation was not a hazard to my safety because the area was well lit, and was not a hazard to any other drivers including the officer because they were all in the turn lane far behind me. Can I argue that in court?
    You can argue anything. But, again, you will be arguing "guilty ... with an explanation".

    Anyways I know my case is hopeless against pleading not guilty, but hopefully I can get help on reducing the fine and/or changing the charge.
    Maybe.

    According to the CA bail and fee schedule the recommended bail and fee total will come to about $146 and will include a point assessed against your license.

    If all else fails,
    Is it worth wasting driving school on this low of a charge?
    Probably. It has one point attached, just like speeding, And traffic school doesn't get rid of the fine, only the point.

    If I do not take driving school how long will the point stay on my record?
    3 years.

    And lastly, will my insurance most likely go up for this small violation? Does insurance go up based on the size of your violation or just the fact that you got a point?
    Different companies have different rules. Most will probably go up.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  7. #7
    I_Got_Banned is offline Senior Member
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    Thank you CdwJava... I do have a few questions for TCD about what he/she said here:
    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    Also about the "Can my TBD be used against me if I do trial de novo?" question, I was asking if I plead guilty in my TBD along with my story written in a professional tone and do not get the response I wanted to hear, can I do a trial de novo and start fresh or will they use what I said in the TBD against me and automatically drop my new case?
    You say you know you are guilty, and I hope that you do also know that when you violate the law, there usually there is some sort of punishment that you deserve & that with a traffic infraction, that punishment is typically served in the form of a monetary fine. We have also established that from a legal stand point, none of the excuses that you stated could in any way justify anything other than a guilty verdict and that carries with it a certain fine that you and every other person who violates that same law should have to pay eaually without bias, discrimination or favoritism... Yet you still think that if you don't get "the response that you wanted to hear", that you should be entitled to keep taping the system until you get the answer that you wanna hear?
    Also, CdwJava has astablished that the fine is $146. How much of it would you like to pay and how much of it should be written off? And what do you base your assumption that you should only pay that part that you wanna pay? Lastly, do you realize how rediculous you are sounding when you say: I'm guilty but I don't think I should pay the same fine amount like everybody else. No reason for me to think that, I just do?


    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    (Maybe I can sue Lexus for making the dash light up when the lights are not on and claim that it is unsafe and not idiot-proof j/k)
    Well, I don't know about the unsafe part... As for it being "not-idiot-proof", I think if you would argue the points you mentioned here might prompt their attorney to jump up and scream "We are guilty. . . But we have an explanation"!!!!
    I'm J/K too. . .
    Last edited by I_Got_Banned; 10-09-2008 at 08:11 AM.
  8. #8
    TCD
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    Question

    I know you are trying to give me a hard time (for a good reason too, because I bet that is what court is going to be like) but I will try and justify myself again anyways. I can understand someone purposely driving at night with their lights off (maybe trying to race, maybe dangerously sneaking around, there could be a thousand different situations as to why a person would purposely drive with their lights off), or like the officer said usually intoxicated people drive with their lights off (hence the reason he asked if I was intoxicated). But you see in the context of my situation the officer obviously saw that I was not intoxicated, and that I was not trying to do anything other than make my way home from a long day at work (which was obvious because he asked about and saw my uniform). He then went on and wrote the ticket anyway ignoring that my situation was not controllable on my part (I know you are going to say it was controllable, but come on… I DID NOT KNOW) I will redundantly mention again that the dash was lit up making me believe the lights were on, the area was well lit making my assumption appear to be true, and other factors backed up my assumptions as well. I know that still does not completely justify myself but it is all leading up to the fact that it was a minor accident that anyone can and probably everyone has made. I bet you anyone put in my situation: knowing the car well enough to know what it is supposed to do but rarely drive it, having the dash lit up, and having the environment lit up as well while coming home late at night from a long day at work would check and see if their lights were on KNOWING that the car is supposed to have automatic headlights and never needing to tamper with the lighting before then.

    Hopefully you understood that because now I will try and un-justify the punishment. Relating it to a criminal case, a guilty person can plead insane if they were not in control of the situation and receive a lesser sentence (I know there is more to it than that but you know what I mean). Mirroring that back to my case a person who knew the car extremely well and drives it almost every day/night but decided to turn his lights off because he was drunk and did not want to have cops see him swerve around would be a controllable situation. He could not plead “insanity”, however I would imagine that I could because I was ignorant about the situation and did not purposely do it (I can see where this might go so please in your reply tell me how my defense is rather than telling me how “insane” I am [I also know I am at the mercy of the court at this point but I guess I am asking how merciful are they, and how do I present my case in a way to make them most merciful?]). Why does a person unintentionally doing something that they would not normally do in their own car have to get a point on their record, and take traffic school essentially relearning how to drive when it was a simple correctable mistake that even the officer has or in my situation would have made before. I believe that yes I was driving with the lights off but no do not deserve the punishment because of the context of my situation that made me ignorant to the fact that my lights were actually turned off. Obviously if I knew they were off I would turn them on. Because of that fact why should I be punished for the unknown (besides the fact of accidentally breaking the law, and the fact that "that is just the way the system works")?
    Last edited by TCD; 10-09-2008 at 12:59 AM.
  9. #9
    CourtClerk is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by CdwJava View Post
    You can argue anything. But, again, you will be arguing "guilty ... with an explanation".
    When I clerked in traffic, my judge used to tell people that guilty with an explanation meant "I'm guilty, but I want to waste the court's time trying to talk my way out of this." Probably my favorite line of all times from him...

    You've got to understand where he was coming from, we often had 200 arraignments on calendar per session with usually a 65% appearance rate.
  10. #10
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    He then went on and wrote the ticket anyway ignoring that my situation was not controllable on my part (I know you are going to say it was controllable, but come on… I DID NOT KNOW) I will redundantly mention again that the dash was lit up making me believe the lights were on, the area was well lit making my assumption appear to be true, and other factors backed up my assumptions as well.
    And, I agree. These are all reasonable explanations that can be made to the court. The officer does not have to abide by them, nor does the court. They CAN, they just do not HAVE to.

    There is no way to predict how understanding the court might be. If you get a sympathetic judge, you might find the matter dismissed ... heck, if the officer doesn't show, you can also get it dismissed. On the other hand, the judge may have heard the same thing ten times the last week so he doesn't care; it would be: "Did you do it? Yeah? Guilty!"

    So, while I understand what you are saying and I understand there was no malicious intent on your part, you have to understand that under the law they do not NEED that intent to find you guilty.

    Good luck.

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  11. #11
    TCD
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    One more thing based on the 65% show up rate below, I have to reschedule the date because I will be in school (finals week actually) during the DEC 3rd court date. Does the rescheduling make my chances better of not having the cop show up (especially if it is more near Christmas)?

    Also,
    When I clerked in traffic, my judge used to tell people that guilty with an explanation meant "I'm guilty, but I want to waste the court's time trying to talk my way out of this." Probably my favorite line of all times from him...

    You've got to understand where he was coming from, we often had 200 arraignments on calendar per session with usually a 65% appearance rate.
    and, I agree. These are all reasonable explanations that can be made to the court. The officer does not have to abide by them, nor does the court. They CAN, they just do not HAVE to.
    I understand, but shouldn't the judge and clerks understand that their decision is more than a job (that they signed up for) and that their decisions affect the outcome of the defendant? (I mean these all sound like excuses to make their day go by quicker) I mean I get your point but shouldn't they understand where I am coming from as well especially since my explanation for being guilty is a valid point not intentionally wasting their time but saving myself and that they would have a lot less guilty people with explanations if cops actually helped people out of innocent mistakes instead of being out to get them all the time? (not saying that they don't help but in my situation you get what I mean)

    If I do not get a sympathetic judge, can I call an unfair trial and start new or is it over and done? I don't want to waste the courts time, but as I said above I think over all it was the cop who enabled me to waste the courts time in the first place... I would like to do what I can to win even if it takes 2 tries.
    Last edited by TCD; 10-09-2008 at 01:04 AM.
  12. #12
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    One more thing based on the 65% show up rate below, I have to reschedule the date because I will be in school (finals week actually) during the DEC 3rd court date. Does the rescheduling make my chances better of not having the cop show up (especially if it is more near Christmas)?
    No way to say. Different agencies and counties have different attendance rates. When I was in San Diego, officers got spanked for not showing so we had an officer attendance rate of about 80%+ ... defendants at about the same rate - maybe slightly lower. In my current county, it's nearly 100% ... and, I hear that in L.A. County it's about 65% or so.

    Rescheduling may or may not make a difference. The officer gets a subpoena, he is supposed to show or notify the court.

    I understand, but shouldn't the judge and clerks understand that their decision is more than a job (that they signed up for) and that their decisions affect the outcome of the defendant?
    They do. That's why judges are paid well and why they are judges. But, the CLERK is not involved in the decision making process - he or she is a functionary with a particular function and no decision making ability.

    shouldn't they understand where I am coming from as well especially since my explanation for being guilty is a valid point
    Understand that EVERYONE has an excuse ... some are more valid and believable than others. They can understand and still find you guilty.

    If I do not get a sympathetic judge, can I call an unfair trial and start new or is it over and done?
    You do not get a new trial because you do no like the ruling. If you contest the citation and lose, you can appeal, but you better have grounds that are better than, "I don't like being found guilty."

    I don't want to waste the courts time, but as I said above I think over all it was the cop who enabled me to waste the courts time in the first place... I would like to do what I can to win even if it takes 2 tries.
    You can only win if the cop doesn't show up, or if the judge has sympathy for your situation and chooses to dismiss. You committed the offense - that is no even in question. So, that leaves only sympathy or a lack of a witness for the state (the officer).

    - Carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  13. #13
    TCD
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    sorry for persisting... I know talking on a forum is not going to persuade the judge to let my case go if the officer does show up (this is in Oceanside btw so it is San Diego County) but doesn't my example make sense that (hopefully I am getting this right) a person who commits manslaughter gets a lesser sentence than someone who purposefully commits premeditated murder (1st degree). It is the same legal system so why shouldn't the same apply to me? I didn't premeditate driving with my lights off etc... I appreciate all your advice, thanks for helping me out!

    Also I have not been in court before,
    How exactly do I give my explanation without the judge say guilty before I can speak type of thing? How does the whole trial process work in my situation?
    Last edited by TCD; 10-09-2008 at 01:32 AM.
  14. #14
    CdwJava is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TCD View Post
    sorry for persisting... I know talking on a forum is not going to persuade the judge to let my case go if the officer does show up (this is in Oceanside btw so it is San Diego County)
    I know it well! I worked there for 8 years!

    but doesn't my example make sense that (hopefully I am getting this right) a person who commits manslaughter gets a lesser sentence than someone who purposefully commits premeditated murder (1st degree). It is the same legal system so why shouldn't the same apply to me? I didn't premeditate driving with my lights off etc... I appreciate all your advice, thanks for helping me out!
    Murder and manslaughter are covered under different statutes and have different elements to the offenses ... not quite the same thing.

    But, again, you rely on one of two hopes: the officer doesn't show, or, the judge has sympathy.

    How exactly do I give my explanation without the judge say guilty before I can speak type of thing? How does the whole trial process work in my situation?
    Prior to trial you should be granted an opportunity to plead guilty and take traffic school if you wish. After that, you will have to take the stand. Now, you can always ask the clerk beforehand how you can plead guilty with an explanation, or you can simply explain yourself after the officer's testimony and your cross-examination (if you choose to do so).

    The judge can then render a decision or defer the decision to notify you by mail.

    - carl
    A Nor Cal Cop Sergeant

    "Make mine a double mocha ...
    And a croissant!"

    Seek justice,
    Love mercy,
    Walk humbly with your God

    -- Courageous, by Casting Crowns ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkM-gDcmJeM
  15. #15
    TCD
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    Prior to trial you should be granted an opportunity to plead guilty and take traffic school if you wish. After that, you will have to take the stand. Now, you can always ask the clerk beforehand how you can plead guilty with an explanation, or you can simply explain yourself after the officer's testimony and your cross-examination (if you choose to do so).
    Does that mean if I choose to do the actual trial I loose the ability to request traffic school and remove the point off of my record? Also how many times per year can one attend traffic school? By the fact that you worked there for 8 years, did your comment
    When I was in San Diego, officers got spanked for not showing so we had an officer attendance rate of about 80%+
    apply to the Oceanside court or a different one in San Diego itself?

    Thanks again for helping!

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