A common misperception is that, when it comes to New Jersey traffic tickets, there’s no point challenging the citation, as it’s your word against the police officer’s testimony, and the court usually sides with law enforcement. But that’s not necessarily true. You can always challenge a traffic ticket, and one of the best ways to do that is to use the officer’s own notes and other documentation to establish reasonable doubt.
In New Jersey, as in other states, the legal concept of “discovery” allows you to access relevant evidence pertaining to your case, including anything a police officer writes down about your case. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can often find inconsistencies between written reports and oral statements, and may be able to effectively cross-examine the ticketing officer to bring about acquittal.
The rules of discovery can vary from location to location. If you want copies of the police officer’s report, the first step is typically to consult with the local court clerk to confirm discovery rules. Once you’ve done that, make a written request to the police department, referencing your citation number, the date and time the ticket was issued, the issuing officer, and the specific items you request. It’s a good idea to include a catch-all phrase, such as “and all other documents and evidence relevant to the traffic citation.” Send copies to the court clerk and the prosecutor’s office.
Don’t be surprised if you don’t get a response. It’s fairly uncommon for a defendant in a traffic matter to seek discovery of police records. If you don’t get a timely response, send a follow-up request to the same parties. If that still produces no response, you will need to file a motion with the court, asking the judge to compel discovery. If your trial date arrives and you’ve still received nothing, you can ask the court to dismiss your ticket.
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