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The Opening Brief

This is where you get to make your argument as to why you believe the judge was wrong in finding you guilty. Your argument(s) will be based on a point or number of points.

The only way to convince the higher court that your judge was wrong is to show precedent(s) which support(s) your side of the argument. You do this by citing case law.

If you are not familiar with case law, I have a number of cases at http://helpigotaticket.com/cases/. At the top of each of them you will see the case name and the "cite". As you read through a case you will see other cases cited using this same format. This is simply a way of telling anyone reading the case where they can look it up (the first number is the volume within the series, CA or CalApps would be in the California Appellate Reports, CalRptr would be the California Reporter, 2d would be the second series, 3d would be the third series, the last number is the page within the volume where you would find the case). Use this format when you quote another case in support of your argument.

How do you find the precedents to quote?

  • You may be able to find enough just by looking through http://helpigotaticket.com/cases/.
  • If you need more, go to a library that has the Annotated Codes (either West's or Deering's). Look up the section of the code you want a cite for. You will find the cites for that section following the text of the code. Each cite will have a brief paragrah or two giving the gist of the decision. Write down the cites for the cases you wish to read more fully.
  • Once you have a list of case cites you can read the cases either in a law library, or (for California case law from 1934 to the present) on line at FindLaw (FindLaw requires a registration, but it is free).

Once you have your precedents, put your arguments into points. Points generally have headings such as:

  • Judicial Error
  • Procedural Error
  • Insufficient Evidence

Judicial Error can add a great deal of weight to your brief. If you show where the judge's decision runs counter to precedent, you have a fair chance of having his decision overturned. For an excellent example, see The Iggy Award for Judge Gary K. Barrett.

Procedural Error also has serious potential to help in your case. Judge Glen M. Reiser won his Iggy for a case overturned on procedure. You would also use this argument when the DA or City Attorney failed to comply with a Discovery Request provided you had raised the point at trial.

While Insufficient Evidence does not carry much weight in most criminal cases, it has gained some credibility in traffic appeals thanks to People v Behjat. As a variation on this I used the heading False Testimony when I was able to prove the officer lied under oath.

As for the format of your brief, down load a Word97 or RTF version here.

Once you have filed your opening brief in a timely manner, you get to wait for the Response Brief.

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