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Key West DUI

The Dangers of Representing Yourself in Traffic Court

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The Dangers of Representing Yourself in Traffic Court

I attended traffic court this afternoon in front of a county court judge in the Keys. While I was waiting for my case to be called, an individual appeared before the judge pro se. “Pro se” means that he was representing himself without an attorney. Ordinarily, this can be fairly harmless in traffic court, but there are certain circumstances where it is worth the financial commitment to hire an attorney. In this case, the pro se defendant was charged with a careless driving infraction. The ticketing officer did not witness the crash so he could not competently testify as to the ultimate facts. However, there was a witness who appeared for the hearing. He was actually the purported  victim of the crash.

The defendant plead guilty to the infraction although he had several defenses available. If he would’ve hired an attorney, he would have been able to cross-examine the alleged victim to determine whether the victim ever actually witnessed the crash. Here, similar in criminal matters, the defendant does not have to prove his innocence. Instead, the testimony of the police officer and/or crash witness’ testimony is necessary to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this case, the pro se defendant was adjudicated guilty of the infraction (he received points on his driver’s license), ordered to attend 8 hours of traffic school and pay fines and court costs. Had he retained a lawyer, he may have been able to obtain a dismissal of the infraction, or eliminate points on his driver’s license and driver improvement school. Again, the defendant could have asked a series of questions to the crash victim that may have shown he did not witness the incident, thereby failing to establish the level of evidence necessary to convict him of the offense.

If you or a friend, or family member have been charged with a criminal or traffic infraction, please do not hesitate to call the lawyers at Hutchison & Tubiana.