If you want to fight your traffic ticket , you can do so in writing by filing a Request for a Trial by Declaration with the court.
The sweet thing about filing a Trial by Declaration, or “TBD,” is that you never have to make a personal appearance in court. Vehicle Code section 40902 allows a TBD for California Vehicle Code infractions. So don’t skip court because you filed a TBD for your drug possession charge or your DUI. That would be bad. (A warrant for your arrest would be issued because you failed to appear in court.)
Below are the 4 simple steps for filing a TBD:
1. Download a Request for Trial by Written Declaration (form TR-205). You can find that document by clicking here. Fill it out completely. This includes your complete description of what happened, for example, “The cop was a jerk…there was no way I was driving that fast because (*insert excuse here*)…I came to a complete stop…the cop was a jerk…there were no pedestrians in the crosswalk when I crossed it…the cop was a jerk…” etc., etc., etc. (By the way, “the cop was a jerk” isn’t really relevant or appropriate to put in your description of what happened. I wouldn’t be telling you this if I didn’t have clients who tell me this time and time again thinking it will help their case.)
You can also attach any other evidence to the form TR-205, like photographic evidence, drawings, etc. Make sure to list in your written statement all of the documents you are attaching to the request.
2. Mail form TR-205 and your evidence to the court, along with the required bail amount. This is the downside of contesting your ticket by TBD: you have to post bail while the results of your case are pending. If you fight a ticket by going to court in person, or by hiring an attorney to go for you, in many courts you can be released on your own recognizance.
3. Wait patiently (I know it’s hard) for your results. The clerk of the court will review your paperwork and allow the officer who issued the citation to you an opportunity to respond to your statement in written form. The judge will review both sides and make a ruling. You’ll be notified by mail of the results.
4. If you lost your case, you can file a “Request for a Trial De Novo (“Trial De Novo” is fancy for “New Trial”). This document is form TR-220 and can be found by clicking here. An upside to requesting the New Trial is that you essentially get a second chance at winning your case, although you do have to show up in person for your new trial.
If you request a TBD in the first place because you want to work the system and get a second shot at winning your case, just remember that the downside to this strategy is that once you have lost your TBD, you have to live with that conviction on your record until your Request for a New Trial has been filed, granted, you’ve seen the judge, and he rules in your favor.
In certain circumstances, like for commercial drivers, a conviction of a moving violation means the loss of a job! In cases like these, where a conviction has greater consequences than the payment of a fine, the better strategy is to hire a lawyer to go to court for you to fight the ticket.