Argue the Law
40500. (a) Whenever a person is arrested for any violation of this code not declared to be a felony, or for a violation of an ordinance of a city or county relating to traffic offenses and he is not immediately taken before a magistrate, as provided in this chapter, the arresting officer shall prepare in triplicate a written notice to appear in court or before a person authorized to receive a deposit of bail, containing the name and address of the person, the license number of his or her vehicle, if any, the name and address, when available, of the registered owner or lessee of the vehicle, the offense charged and the time and place when and where he shall appear.
As you can see from the section of the Vehicle Code quoted above, the ticket must have certain things on it:
- your name
If the name is not spelled exactly as it appears on your driver's license, you are not the person being charged. You have grounds for a request for dismissal at arraignment.
- your address
If the address on the ticket does not match the address you gave the officer (on your driver's license or registration or otherwise), then the charge is not being made against you, but against the other (your/their name here) at (incorrect address here). You have grounds for a request for dismissal at arraignment.
- the offense charged
In addition to the section(s) of the Vehicle Code which you allegedly violated, the ticket must give the date, time and location of the alleged violation. An error in any one of these will give you grounds for your defense, but you will need to plead not guilty first, without mentioning the error.
The ticket serves as the complaint against you. All you will need to do at your trial is prove that you were not at the stated location at the time and date on the ticket. (You may also need to object to an amendment to the citation changing the incorrect data.)
INTERESTING NOTE: A ticket for running a red light (Vehicle Code section 21453) is almost impossible to win as it comes down to the defendant's word against the cop's. The only defense that really stands a chance is if the officer gets one of these points wrong. Most often the error will be the location. The location will be shown as Street1 @ Street2. You are charged with being on Street1 when you ran the light. If you were on Street2 at the intersection with Street 1, you cannot be guilty as charged. There is no guarantee that this will work, but it is worth a try.
- the time and place where you shall appear
This will almost always be preprinted on the ticket. If the officer does write an incorrect address, go there at the proper time with a witness. You will have not violated your promise to appear. It would be interesting to have the Appellate Division decide if the Traffic Division even had jurisdiction of the case in these circumstances.
It pays to read the fine print.