First and foremost, cyclists should never ignore a police officer when ordered to stop. It does not matter if a cyclist was aware he was breaking the law, it is necessary to stop when directed. When an officer asks questions, it is also important cyclists remember not to incriminate themselves. If the ticket goes to trial, the officer will be the witness who tells a jury everything you said and did. It is reasonable to simply answer "I do not know why you stopped me officer." An officer is going to explain his motives for stopping a cyclist.
The officer may indicate where he was positioned when a cyclists allegedly broke the law. This information may be useful later in court. If it can be demonstrated the officer was in a position without a clear view, there may be just enough doubt about whether the officer actually saw the cyclist do what he was accused of doing. Similarly, if the officer indicates uncertainty about the violation, this information can be used against him during trial. Or if the officer alleges he saw a cyclist but could not say whether it was the one arrested, this could create doubt at trial. In order to prove someone violated the law, an officer is required to be able to positively identify both a violation and the culprit.
A cyclist may be able to demonstrate exculpatory evidence. He should make note of everything that might be used as evidence at trial, including photographs of the scene if a defense is based on physical evidence. If a traffic light is not working properly, a cyclist can contact the local government responsible for maintaining the traffic light and ask for copies of maintenance reports.
It may be possible to avoid this altogether by simply being polite to the police officer when stopped. Perhaps the officer is not planning on writing a ticket, but simply wanted to talk. Alternatively, perhaps the officer planned on writing a ticket, but changed his mind when the cyclist presented with respect. There is no reason to be rude in this scenario. A cyclist should also try asking for a warning instead of a ticket. That being said, it is important to be careful about what is said because that information may be used against him in court. Even if the officer writes a ticket, remain police. Police write a lot of tickets. A cyclist does not want to be the person that stands out in the officer's mind. You do not want to give the officer incentive to show up to court and testify.
The actions a cyclist takes after receiving a ticket will depend on a number of factors. (1) Did the cyclist break the law? (2) Were there any extenuating circumstances a judge would understand? (3) Did the officer make a mistake? A cyclist should also consider the effects a ticket has. It does not mean he is guilty. It is a summons to appear in court and answer charges filed against him. If found guilty, he will likely be required to pay a fine. Additionally, the ticket could affect insurance rates and even driving privileges. Moreover, some employers ask to see the driving record of job applicants. All of these factors must be weighed in deciding how to proceed.
If a cyclist pays the ticket, it is equivalent to a guilty plea and conviction. If he decides to fight the ticket, however, the cyclist will be required to enter a plea of not guilty and appear in court. As discussed above, the trial will essentially boil down to police v. cyclist. If the cyclist can demonstrate to the court the officer is wrong on the law or facts, there is a chance he can win. If the ticket was the result of a traffic collision and the cyclist does not beat the ticket, he will likely not be compensated for his injuries. Accordingly, if compensation for injuries is in order, fighting one of these tickets is necessary.
As previously mentioned, a ticket does not equal guilty. Officers sometimes make mistakes. Cyclists should remember they are innocent until proven guilty. This mean the prosecution must prove a crime was committed. Cyclists do not have to prove their innocence. Their only job is to poke holes in the prosecution's case. During the trial, the police officer will testify about the facts. The cyclist will be given the opportunity to question the officer, introduce evidence, and argue why the officer is wrong. After all evidence is presented, a judge will make a ruling.
The information provided herein is a simplified version of what happens when a cyclist is ticketed. The fact is this: even if a cyclist is riding lawfully, there is no guarantee he will not be ticketed. Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing to remember is to stay calm and handle the situation. It may help to consult anattorney experienced in dealing with tickets.
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