Defenses to Traffic Tickets

Rhode Island statutes place the burden of proof on the police to provide “clear and convincing” evidence that a motorist committed an alleged traffic violation in court.  This is a heavy burden of proof imposed on the police, and there is a good reason unwarranted tickets should be contested -- and that is the effect these tickets have on insurance rates.  Some people think that it’s cheaper to pay a fine, rather than contest it.  However, that changes when they receive a huge increase in their insurance premium.  There are many defenses to traffic tickets, but most are unknown to the average person.  For example, does the ticket fit the definition of the offense as defined by Rhode Island’s General Laws.  If you are cited for a missing or broken passenger mirror on your automobile, the case must be dismissed because Rhode Island statutes do not require a mirror on the passenger side of an automobile.

What about defending a red light violation?  What was the position of your vehicle the moment the light turned red?  If the light turns red and you are already in the intersection, then there is no red light violation.  If a police officer was at a right angle, you may be able to show that he could not see the traffic light change, at the instant that it changed.  Was the police officers view obstructed by fences, trees, hedges, buildings, or a passing truck.  Blocked visibility could result in the dismissal of a ticket.  
You may have a “necessity” defense.  This defense allows you to admit that you went through the red light, but that forces beyond your control caused you to do so.  This occurs where you attempt to stop at a red light, but  ice or water causes you to slide and you are forced to go through the red light rather than slide into another automobile.  You would argue that you were exercising due care, as going through the red light was safer than sliding uncontrollably into traffic and injuring people.

A similar defense is the “obstructed view” defense.  If your view is obstructed by a large vehicle in front of you blocking the traffic light, such as a trailer truck, ambulance, bus, or large truck, you may wind up in the middle of an intersection by the time you are able to see the light, and you have to make a choice – continue cautiously with “due care” through the intersection, or stop in the middle of the intersection.  This has happened to almost everyone on the road at one time or another.  Of course, you are left with no choice but to proceed cautiously through the intersection.  If you can obtain pictures showing that your view was completely obstructed and that you could not see the traffic light until it was too late, then you have established the “obstructed view” defense.

These brief examples of defenses to a red light violation demonstrate that there are many defenses to traffic offenses.

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