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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.