Traffic Ticket Trial - Can Your Roadside Statements Be Used Against You?

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Our NY Traffic Court Lawyersat Palumbo & Associates, PC, have extensive experience representing NY drivers at traffic ticket trials. Often times a motorist has a defeatist attitude regarding defending his or her speeding ticket because they made statements to the police officer confessing their guilt. Other times people believe that their case will be dismissed because the officer did not “read them their rights.” As is often the case in the practice of law, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Trial Process

The purpose of a trial is to resolve a dispute. In order to do this the parties put facts before a court so the court (jury or judge) can to make an ultimate “finding of fact.” For example, suppose the issue in a trial is whether a traffic light was red or yellow. The proponent of the light being red would put facts before the court indicating the light was red, and the proponent of the light being yellow would put facts before the court indicating the light was yellow. Once all the evidence was in the finder of fact weighs the evidence and determines whether the light was red or yellow.

These facts are referred to in the legal system as “evidence.” Evidence can be oral testimony, physical things, photographs, displays, and the like. Every court has rules of procedure for getting facts in evidence before the court so that the finder of fact can consider it in their deliberations. These rules are in place to protect the integrity of the system and maintain fundamental fairness. Before any fact gets entered into evidence to be seen, heard, and considered by the court, the proponent of the evidence must lay the foundation that is required for acceptance into evidence under the rules.

Foundation For Out Of Court Statements Made By A Defendant

The foundation the prosecutor must establish in a criminal or traffic ticket case for the police officer to testify as to the statements a defendant made to them before, during, and after the arrest or the ticket being issued varies. The more intrusive the stop or police encounter the more procedural safeguards there are to ensure that the statements are voluntarily and not made in contradiction to a person’s constitutional rights.

Contrary to popular belief a person does not have to be read their Miranda rights in order for an arrest or a ticket to be valid. Rather, Miranda is only required when the police are conducting a custodial interrogation. The definitions of “custody” and “interrogation” have specific legal meanings too detailed to get into here. Suffice to say though that when you are pulled over for speeding, even though you are being detained, not free to leave, and being questioned, that is not a custodial interrogation triggering the Miranda requirement. Like you the police have rights too, and one of their rights is the right to stop and detain you against your consent when they believe that criminal activity is afoot and conduct an investigation including questioning you. This is known in the law as the “common law right of inquiry,” and while you are nonetheless under no obligation to answer their questions, they do not have to advise you of your right to remain silent during that less intrusive encounter.

Other Protections Afforded Under NY State Law

Despite the fact that the police do not have to read you your Miranda rights on a traffic stop, New York still affords those accused before its courts other procedural and due process safeguards. Under NY CLP § 710.30, as a condition precedent to offering into evidence statements of a defendant, the prosecution must serve written notice upon the defendant no later than 15 days after arraignment. Service of statement disclosure gives rise to the right of the defendant to move to suppress. Failure to timely serve notice of intention to offer statement evidence of the defendant requires exclusion of the statements from evidence: “In the absence of service of notice upon a defendant as prescribed in this section, no evidence of a kind…may be received against him…”

In a speeding or traffic ticket trial it is rare that a prosecutor had properly served CLP § 710.30 disclosure. Consequently, the defendant’s inculpatory statements will be precluded from being entered into evidence at the time of trial.

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