how to get out of traffic and parking tickets

My brother, a non lawyer, has been sqwaking at me to help him fight two parking tickets he received in new york city.  I spent approximately 6 times the cost of the tickets in my time today helping him.  I report this only because he actually had a defense that I found very amusing.  We all have had clients who point out total minor immaterial mistakes in the police report and then question whether we are good attorneys because we do not think the mistake matters.  For example, the date or time is slightly off, someone’s name or birthday is not right, or the street name is spelled wrong.  Well, luckily for my brother, the State of New York has a little rule that there are certain things that must be on a parking ticket and if any of those things involve a “misdescription” you are entitled to a dismissal.  The officer in this case wrote the address where my brother’s car was parked as 332 when, in fact, it was 334.  The houses are 30 feet apart.  In a criminal case, I’d say this is immaterial.  Especially because it did not matter in terms of his offense. Due to this lil NYC rule, though, materiality is irrelevant. A misdescription is a misdescription and the citation must include the correct address.  My brother has photos. Bam. A defense.

Helping him inspired this post. He came to me not because I’m a lawyer, but because he knows I have gotten out of MANY parking and/or traffic infractions.

Without admitting or denying whether I am a good driver, I can proudly report that since going to law school, I have been acquitted of the following traffic infractions, and was reimbursed for the following parking violation including the cost of the tow:

  • illegal u turn in front of a cop;
  • speeding in the speed trap known as all of kings county;
  • running a red light;
  • blocking a driveway in San Francisco.
Currently, I am fighting a texting and driving ticket where the officer has not submitted his declaration (see below) and it has been 56 days. I do not know how much time they gave him but I’m sending a follow up letter tomorrow.
If I can do it, you can too! Here is how to fight traffic infractions, red light tickets and parking tickets in this order:
Traffic infractions (non red light camera)
Dos and Don’ts when stopped
DO pull over–I am no expert on getting out of 2800s;
DO NOT do anything remarkable or memorable;
DO NOT argue with to cop or deny alleged conduct even if he is lying or wrong;
DO NOT make furtive gestures;
The goal of the interaction when you are stopped is to be run of the mill and forgettable. Of course, the cop will want you to admit liability. I generally answer with the shrug of a shoulders.  How fast were you going? should shrug. You can’t make a u turn there! shoulder shrug.  Were you texting and driving? shoulder shrug. 
Dos and Don’ts after you are cited
Write the clerk of the court in advance of your court day respectfully requesting a trial by written declaration.  You must include the “bail” i.e. the cost of the infraction.  Call the court to find out the cost or google it. Doing this in advance of the court date will usually result in the clerk sending you a letter that you do not have to go to court. Here is the form to submit with your letter and bail.  What to write is below.
What to write in your declaration
Infractions are criminal offenses. You are entitled to the presumption of innocence.  This is why it comes in handy to be completely forgettable in your interaction with the officer.  In your declaration you simply state: “I respectfully assert my right to be innocent until proven guilty.  I reserve the right to file a supplemental declaration after reviewing any declaration submitted by a peace officer in this matter.”
That is all.  Then just wait and get ready to laugh all the way to the bank.
What happens next
After the clerk gets your declaration, they mail the officer a form for him to fill out and provide the court with his declaration.  If he provides a declaration you are probably fucked. If he does not, the court reviews your assertion of your legal right to the presumption of innocence, nothing from the cop, and waaalah, the beautiful thing we call the criminal justice system results in your “bail” sent back to you. I call it my savings account.
What are the odds the cop will submit a declaration? The truth is, an officer is just not going to remember a random texting and driving ticket he gave 2 months ago.  It is possible he will remember it. It is possible he is willing to lie under oath.  That possibility is much more likely if he sees you in court, vaguely remembers you face, prepares before court by looking up what kind of car you had and checking notes he had.  In my experience, officers are just too lazy or don’t care to write declarations and mail them back to the court. It requires some effort.  Thus, trial by written declaration where you provide absolutely no information in your declaration is the way to go.  It also does not require that you waste your time waiting in court to see if he shows.
How to fight red light camera ticket
go to and use any and every defense available to you.  I was lucky, neither the cop or redflex machine person showed the day of my red light ticket trial. Thus, I was acquitted without having to resort to some farkakta argument about my 6th amendment rights in a red light ticket case. That ticket was almost $500. I took the refund and laughed all the way to the mobile deposit bank.
How to fight parking tickets

Parking tickets suck because they are not criminal infractions.  There is a rule that the information the ticket itself establishes a prima facie case and it is your burden to rebut that.  I have won more than I should, but not enough, parking tickets in my life.  The tow ticket was pure luck. The officer wrote the wrong address on the ticket where my car was allegedly parked blocking a driveway. (In my defense, I was only partially blocking the driveway, the person could have gotten out, asshole).  Anyway, my car was towed and it was something like $400 to pay for everything.  Luckily, I got it all back when I noticed that the address the officer wrote on the ticket did not exist.  I was honest–of course-in my appeal and did not deny blocking a driveway partially. I simply said that the ticket said I was parked at x address and x address does not exist. I won. And laughed all the way to the bank app on my iphone.
Happy fighting!

Published by Jenny Brandt

About Me: sociology, african american studies, chicano/a studies, critical race studies, and criminal law scholar. public school kid from kindergarten-J.D. Former public defender. I am a post-conviction guru. Appeals. Sentencing. Withdraw Pleas. Habeas. Published author in the Criminal Law Bulletin and California Defender. "I do it for the joy it brings, because I'm a joyful girl, because the world owes me nothing, and we owe each other the world." Why I started JJC: My PD buddy suggested it. What and who JJC is inspired by: public defenders I have worked for, with, and next to. my clients who have battled things no one should and are still here. innocence and guilt and everything in between. My coworkers, who fight just as hard as the PDs I love, for many of the same reasons. My husband who was once voted "most Christ like" (every Jewish girl's dream). My Corgi who loves everyone. The constitution. Tabloids. My mom, for giving me a voice. My dad, for teaching me what to say. My brother, for teaching me how to say it.

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