Traffic Ticket Trial – The Burden of Proof

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Our NY Speeding Ticket Lawyers at Palumbo & Associates, PC, have been representing defendants before courts of law in New York charged with traffic crimes, misdemeanors, and infractions since 2006. Many motorists believe that they cannot win in traffic court because it is just the cop’s word against yours and the judge always takes the word of the cop. This could not be further from the truth. because it just comes down to their word against that of the officer. Admittedly an officer’s word holds a quantum of significance. This is why severely limiting or precluding the officer’s testimony is such a powerful defense, and in this page we will discuss one of the ways we achieve that goal.

The Burden of Proof

Court proceedings and trials are not done in a vacuum and without adherence to rules. Whenever a person is hauled before a court of law on a criminal or quasi-criminal matter they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is a foundational bedrock principal of which our country was founded upon and is a right granted to all persons in the United States in our charter document, the United States Constitution.

Inasmuch as a speeding ticket defendant is presumed innocent what then must occur to be found guilty. The due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution require that the state prove the case against a defendant accused with a crime. In other words, the burden of proof is on the state.

However, it is even more involved than just proving the allegation. The state must prove every fact, or element, necessary to constitute the crime with which the defendant was charged. For example, on the case when a defendant is charged with prohibited cell phone use one of the elements is that the phone must be at or in the immediate proximity of the ear. Consequently, it is not enough to prove that the accused was holding a phone, but the state must prove that the phone was being held at or near the ear.

Moreover, all of the elements not only have to be proven, but must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That means that if there are 4 elements to prove for a finding of guilt, and the state proves 3 of them beyond a reasonable doubt, but 1 the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt. then your case must be dismissed.

However, the right to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not just under the federal constitution. Under New York State Law “No conviction…is valid unless based on trial evidence…which…establishes beyond a reasonable doubt every element of such offense…” NY CPL § 70.20.

What Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Means

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is the highest standard of proof used in court. What is means is that if a judge or jury has a doubt that is reasonable about any element of the state’s case they must find the defendant not guilty. This highest standard of proof is grounded in the fundamental determination of our society that it is far worse to convict an innocent man then let a guilty one go free.

With the presumption of innocence and the requirement that the state prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, you can see that it is not simply a matter of taking the police officer’s word over that of the defendant. In fact, the defendant does not even have to testify. The defendant’s entire case can be made by undermining the state’s case by impeachment on cross examination.

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