March 17, 2014
Written By: Michael Harris

“I’m going to fight this ticket!” You’ve probably heard your friends say this. You’ve probably said it after getting a speeding ticket or a red light camera ticket. But how do you “fight” it? You can’t just walk into the courtroom and tell the judge you weren’t speeding.

We want to give you the tools to fight your ticket. This article will you give you the basic foundation of criminal defense work. In order to beat any charge, you need to attack one or more of the “required elements” for a conviction. So before you go into the courtroom, you need to know what the required elements are for the offense you were cited for and you need to decide which elements you are going to attack. Get prepared!

So what are required elements? In California and the United States you are presumed innocent of any criminal charge, this include charges in traffic court. Until the prosecution proves an allegation in court, a charge is merely an unproven allegation, not a conviction.

Every charge comes from a state statute – in other words, a law. Each statute that outlines criminal and traffic court violations, lists a number of requirements that must be present in order for you to be found guilty. For example, to be guilty of speeding, the government must prove that it was you who was driving the car that was caught speeding. Thus “driving” is a required element of speeding. If they can’t prove you were driving, you were not speeding.

In law school, lawyers are taught how to extract required elements out of statutes. You can do this too by carefully reading the statute. It’s all right there in the text of the statute.

But lawyers also know of a better place to go to get the required elements for a misdemeanor criminal charge, like a DUI: the criminal jury instructions that are used in court during trials to tell the jury what the state must prove and what the defendant must prove to establish a defense. You can access these too. The California Judicial Council publishes jury instructions online for free. You can learn a lot about defending yourself from simply browsing them.

Lets look at one, driving under the influence:

The defendant is charged [in Count] with driving under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug] [in violation of Vehicle Code section 23152(a)].

To prove that the defendant is guilty of this crime, the People must prove that:
1. The defendant drove a vehicle; AND
2. When (he/she) drove, the defendant was under the influence of (an alcoholic beverage/ [or] a drug) [or under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and a drug].

The jury instruction goes on to give a definition of “under the influence” and “alcoholic beverage.”

As you can see, the jury instruction lists the required elements of this offense. If any of them are missing or the state cannot prove, you cannot be found guilty. We are experts in the traffic field and have years of experience, feel free to contact us at anytime to begin the dismissal process.