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Beat Your Ticket, Get Your Day in Court

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This OLR blog post has been updated: see Sept. 18th, 2008, post: Traffic Law: How to Beat (or Transcend) Your Ticket

“I got this here traffic ticket …” Law library staff hear this a lot and our patrons have some success with the following strategy, as apparently did this bicyclist who posts this message to Bike Portland dot org. (I saw the story first on Orblogs.)

1) Research the law (your ticket should tell you what the statute or ordinance you were charged under). Most of these laws are online, whether it is an Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) or a local ordinance.

2) Read Nolo Press’s “Beat Your Ticket” (smart, practical, humbling, honest). Your local law library may also have a couple other documents for you to read.

3) Sit in on traffic court (where you will have to appear – not some other jurisdiction’s) BEFORE you have to appear, listen to what goes on, and prepare yourself accordingly

4) Be humble. You’re not the first innocent person the judge has ever had appear in front of the bench and you won’t be the last. Remember the old joke about the King walking through the prison and one prisoner after another pleads not guilty. One doesn’t and the King asks why. “Because I did the deed and I’m guilty,” the prisoner admits. “Free this man!” the King cries. “He’s the only honest man in here and shouldn’t be corrupted by the others.”

5) Don’t argue with the judge, or with the fairness of the system, or of law librarian’s King jokes, and be contrite, but don’t be smarmy and don’t cry. The judge has seen and heard it all, as have the law librarians. Be direct, make your case, listen, and be courteous. Life’s not fair, but sometimes it can be unfair in your favor.

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3 responses to “Beat Your Ticket, Get Your Day in Court”

  1. Jill A says:

    Hello, tipmra.com has been around for a long time. It helps people think about defending themselves in court about speeding tickets. I have no affiliation with tipmra nor have I seen it used in court.
    Jill Adams

  2. Anonymous says:

    can anyone comment on the law requiring a judge to sign a judgement in a traffic case? I was found guilty for a traffic violation (I didn't show to court) and received a notice of my fine from the court. The thing is the judgement was not “signed” by a judge, but stamped with his name by a clerk. A friend tells me that this is technically not lawful and therefore if I want to go thru the process of appeal I stand a good chance in an appeals court of winning such a ruling. Is this possible? Question 2. Since this ticket has already been sent to collection, and I missed my chance in court, can I still appeal them? I haven't made one payment to the agency yet, knowing if I do I have entered into a contract with them. Thanks! writestuffpdx@yahoo.com

  3. Hi writestuffpdx:

    Interesting research question. I recommend:

    1) Check with the court. They have probably been asked this question before and may be able to explain to your satisfaction. If they say, “the law says,” it is ok for you to ask “what law?” and get the names of, or citations to, specific cases, statutes, or regulations.

    2) Visit a law library and research the law on judgments and signed orders. Judges, and other government officials, are authorized to delegate some of their judicial functions, though not all. It is up to citizens to keep an eye on it all. But do your research first.

    3) Contact a lawyer and ask.

    I'm sure you can start this research with some of the free, online legal research resources, but you will need a law library to search the subject thoroughly.

    Good luck!

    Laura the Law Lib

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