I. What is a Trial by Written Declaration?
Were you recently cited for a traffic violation in California? Don’t despair! Before you resign yourself to paying the fine and accepting those pesky points on your license, consider the Trial by Written Declaration (TBWD) – your secret weapon for fighting minor tickets without ever setting foot in a courtroom.
Think of a trial by written declaration as a paper courtroom. Instead of facing the judge in person, you and the officer duke it out on paper, submitting written statements and evidence like witness affidavits or photos. The judge reads your arguments, weighs the evidence, and delivers a verdict – all through the mail. Sounds pretty sweet, right?
If your ticket qualifies, you always have the option to do a trial by written declaration, but keep in mind that if you lose, you may end up needing an attorney to fight your ticket after all. In some cases, hiring an experience traffic ticket attorney right away will be your best option. Remember that every case is different and thus, the best approach may vary. It’s best to consult an attorney to see what your options are.
Before you grab your pen and paper, let’s weigh the pros and cons:
- Convenience: Forget taking time off work or navigating the courthouse maze on your trial date. Craft your case from the comfort of your couch.
- Do-over opportunity: Even if you lose the trial by written declaration, you can still request a traditional in-person trial and hire an attorney to fight your ticket. To request a new trial, you must fill out form TR-220 – Trial de novo within 20 days of the TBWD decision.
- Potential cost savings and no points (if you win): Win your case, and you get your bail money back (plus, no points on your license!)
- No pressure: Ditch the intimidating judge and officer stare-down. Take your time to build a strong case.
- Lower probability of success: An in-person trial, particularly with an attorney, has a higher probability of success than a TBWD.
- Limited scope: TBWDs only work for minor traffic violations like speeding or stop signs. DUIs and major offenses require an in-person showdown.
- One-sided duel: You can’t cross-examine the officer or poke holes in their testimony. It’s a one-way street.
- Evidence burden: Gathering proof falls on you, which can be tricky for some violations.
- Judgement day: Leaving your fate solely in the judge’s hands based on written statements can be nerve-wracking.
- Time and energy: The process is convenient, but requires you to do everything. If you lose, you have to request a new trial in the allotted time and essentially start the process over. In the end, it may mean more time and energy for you than it would if you hired an attorney to help you fight the ticket from the beginning.
IV. Is a Trial by Written Declaration right for you?
It depends. If you have a strong case, the convenience and potential savings might make it worth a shot. But if you’re facing a serious violation or prefer a live battle, a traditional trial might be your best bet. If you value your time and energy, it might be worth it to hire a top criminal defense attorney to handle the whole case for you in person.
V. Here’s your roadmap to Trial by Written Declaration victory:
Step 1: Check your eligibility. Not all tickets qualify. Check your citation or consult the court website.
Step 2: Request the fight. Fill out the “Request for Trial by Written Declaration” (Form TR-205) at the courthouse or online. Be sure to do it before the deadline. Check your citation or call the court to find out your deadline.
Step 3: Post bail. You’ll have to put up a deposit, usually the amount of your fine. If you win, you will get it back.
Step 4: Craft your argument. Write a clear, concise statement explaining why you shouldn’t be ticketed. Stick to the facts, and include any evidence like witness names or photos.
Step 5: Submit your case. Make sure you hit the deadline and send everything to the court.
Step 6: Verdict time. Wait (patiently) for the judge’s decision, which will arrive by mail. Fingers crossed!
Remember, a trial by written declaration is a great alternative to a tradition traffic trial, but it’s not a guaranteed win. Fight smart, gather evidence, and consider legal help for complex cases.
VI. We Can Help
Depending on your type of ticket and your circumstances, a TBWD might not the best option. If you prefer to hire an attorney and let them handle your ticket from start to finish without having to worry about deadlines, paperwork, or court dates, the Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher has your back. With over 20 years of experience, the Law Offices of Mark A. Gallagher has successfully handled countless traffic tickets around Southern California. Call us today at 800-797-8406 for a free consultation or visit https://www.socaldefenselawyers.com/ for more information.
VII. Bonus resources:
- California Courts website: https://www.courts.ca.gov/
- Sample TBWD forms: https://selfhelp.courts.ca.gov/traffic/trial-declaration
- DMV appointments: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/appointments/
- Tr-220 form to request new trial: https://selfhelp.courts.ca.gov/jcc-form/TR-220