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As you know California is different. In 1969 speeding tickets were decriminalized to keep the hippies from clogging up the court system by demanding jury trials. You can't ask for a jury trial for a speeding ticket anymore. When they decriminalized speeding the kept the evidence required as beyond a reasonable doubt and did not allow it to be lowered to preponderance of the evidence as they did in Washington and Oregon.


They also came up with something called Trial by Declaration. That is where you send in a statement and the officer sends in a statement and some commissionaire decides. The nice part is that if you are unhappy with the commissionaires decision you can ask to go to trial and are guaranteed a trial.


About 30% of the time the officer fails to send in his testimony on a trial by declaration. When that happens you have an automatic win. You would think more officers would send in their written affidavit but they don't. 98% of all people just pay their ticket and for the 2% that fight the officer has to do extra work. The Officer is not paid for writing up that affidavit. Needless to say 30% of them just ignore it, it isn't worth the bother.


On the other hand he is paid when he goes to court to testify.


My recommendation is to always go for a trial by declaration first. You have just picked up a free 30% chance of having your case dismissed for just filling out a very short form. If you loose, you go to trial just like you would have had you not chosen the trial by declaration.


One mistake people make is that in the trial by declaration they actually try to prove that they were innocent. Anything you put on paper can and will come back to haunt you if you got to trial. No matter what you put on paper, if the officer sends in his affidavit the commissionaire will find you guilty. Don't bother putting up a defense. Just rely on the officer being lazy.


For your defense write nothing else then:


"I was not driving at the speed charged. I was driving at the posted speed limit and not one mile per hour more."


It is worth the cost of a stamp. Note: I have heard that in some communities they are now asking for extra money in addition to the deposit that is equal to the fine. The California Law does not allow them to do that. If you are squeezed for an additional fee, ask for a written statement to that effect and send it to the States Attorney General. In that event don't try the trial by declaration, just go to court to beat your ticket.


Remember: You send in the deposit, it the officer does not send in his statement, you win and get the deposit back. If you are unhappy with the decision and then ask for a court trial you are guaranteed a new trial. If you win at that trial, you get the deposit back. If the trial is by a magistrate or commissionaire you can ask for a new trial by a real judge. Generally they ask for a deposit that is equal to the fine, but the already have the deposit so no new deposit is necessary. If you win at that trial, you get your deposit back. If you lose at that trial, you don't have to pay a fine because they will now take your deposit as the amount of the fine.


Section 40902(d) of the Vehicle Code states: If a defendant is dissatisfied with a decision of the court in a proceeding pursuant to this section, the defendant shall be granted a trial de novo."


The forms and the laws relating to the trial by declaration are all in the California Case Law section.


TRIAL BY WRITTEN DECLARATION (the law)     THE FORM ( it is in adobe acrobat format and will open in a new window)


THE FORM - HTML PRINTABLE     You should also review the free information available at   (a tipmra recommended site, a donation is not necessary however karma suggests that if you use the information, you should donate)