JP Trial Question
August 10, 2005, 19:26Trooper
JP Trial Question
If an officer cannot positively identify a person in JP court as being the person they stopped (often more than a year prior to the trial) and issued a ticket to, do you still prosecute the case?
August 10, 2005, 20:28mhartman
I always ask prior to trial. If the Trooper does not remeber and there is no video to help, I will not put the trooper in that position on the stand. However, often the troopers will attend the pretrial hearing and observe as the defendant confirms his ID to the judge....then they can testify that he is the person to whom the ticket was written....more often than not though, if they can't id the defendant, the case is not pursued.
Hope that helps....not sure what others do.
August 10, 2005, 20:42DPB
Why not refer to your offense report/ticket, which would contain the defendant's identifiers. Then pull the drivers license with picture and that should refresh your memory for identification purposes.
The hearsay rules permit a prosecutor to introduce evidence of things that can no longer be remembered but were recorded at the time. If a trooper stops a person, checks their license, compared it at the time, it matched the person who got the ticket and can say that's what he does on every traffic stop, then he should be able to offer into evidence the ticket with the DL number and a DPS record of the DL photo for ID purposes.
August 11, 2005, 07:34Lisa Peterson
Without the trooper's recollection or a video (which normally helps with the former), I won't try it to a jury. Most of my JP court defendants who demand a trial 1) want a jury 2) have no counsel and 3) want to compare their version of the facts to the recollection of the trooper. Since the trooper has written more tickets than the defendant has received, the trooper normally has more trouble remembering the episode - unless the defendant makes it memorable!
I have tried one with the argument that John suggests; the NG verdict was back in under 5 minutes and I took a beating in public opinion for trying the case.
August 11, 2005, 08:46Tim Cole
This is interesting. So the guy gets a walk. I would make a suggestion to the individual officer who REALLY wants his cases to stick. Buy yourself a cheap digital camera and ask the guy you are ticketing to smile for the camera. Then look at the photo before you go to court and take it with you. Then if you can't remember the guy at least you can say that you cared enough about your case to make sure that the person you ticketed could be identified in court months or years later. I know, I know. Who wants to take the time to do all this for a ticket. I guess the officer would if it means his case gets prosecuted.
[This message was edited by Tim Cole on 08-11-05 at .]
August 11, 2005, 09:19Trooper
Our DA doesn't ask us prior to the case if we remember the person. Instead, he goes through all of the time-consuming formalities, gets us on the stand and then asks us if we remember stopping the person. If we say "no," then he moves for dismissal.
My take on the situation is simple: if the person sitting at the defense table 1) identifies him/herself as the person to whom I issued the citation, and 2) is there to contest the ticket, then let's have the trial.
Oh well, we all get paid the same regardless of what happens in court.
August 11, 2005, 12:50MWS
When you know a ticket is set for trial, and you have no recollection of it, why not tell the DA beforehand? That might keep him or her from going through all of the "time-consuming formalities" just to then move for dismissal when you say, during examination, that you don't recall anything.
Ok, if you have defendants who make such challenges, perhaps we should start requiring the defendant to be booked into jail on tickets. That way, we can use the booking card with prints to verify the identity at trial. This is ridiculous.
Handwriting is another way to ID. Defendant has to sign the ticket. Compare it to his DL signature.
Have D put his thumbprint on the ticket.
Put a list of all passeners in the car on the ticket and subpoena them. That should make them happy.
Digital photo is good, too.
Don't start dismissing a bunch of cases. That only encourages this sort of behavior.
August 11, 2005, 16:03Lisa Peterson
In all fairness, most of my troopers can remember these little turkeys, especially those officers with a few years under their belts.
We set all JP cases for a pretrial, where the trooper doesn't have to appear, but the defendant does. Most settle there (all they wanted was for someone to listen). Those that don't generally have an axe to grind - and they had the same one on the roadside. They are told to check with the judge in a week, I call the trooper who pulls the ticket and we talk. Most of the time, especially after I explain the attitude and argument of the defendant, the trooper has a very clear recollection of the whole scene, including language.
If you can get them set fast enough, all these are videotaped, which helps, too.
August 11, 2005, 16:15Tim Cole
Couldn't pass up one comment you made, Trooper. You said, "if the person sitting at the table identifies himself as the person who got the ticket". This is a criminal case. You can't make the person say anything. They don't have to do anything except plead not guilty and sit back and wait for you to prove it. I think you are forgetting who has the burden here. Sounds like you may be at odds with your DA. I detect that a bit in your post. So what's wrong with taking a little picture and showing up with it? Would be a little hard not to prosecute if you produce something like that. Is your interest in proving the case, or proving your prosecutor wrong? If you want to prove the case, snap the picture and bring it along.
August 11, 2005, 16:20Ray
So it has been about 20 years since I tried a speeding case in JP court. However, usually the folks who want to plead not guilty were memorable, to quote Lisa P.
August 11, 2005, 16:30JMH
couple of our troopers make notations on the back of the orig. ticket. Sort of jars their memories a bit. Have also found it to be of assistance when we discuss a possible plea with the def. We explain how the jury trial process goes and what we will do and how the Trooper will come in and how we expect him to testify and that he cared enough to make notes for himself for just such an occassion.
Many of the cases that are set for trial are because they are under the misconception that officers and troopers don't mess around with showing up for a mere speeding ticket. Have even had a couple of def.s ask me if it wasn't true that Trooper and Officers don't usually show. "My buddy told me to set if for trial because....". I explain that that is a possibility but if he or she does then the fine offer will go up and we'll take def.adj. off the table. (that is if they aren't CDL's who are going to keep trying them since they really don't have alot to lose),
August 12, 2005, 00:14Trooper
Misti Weeks wrote:
"When you know a ticket is set for trial, and you have no recollection of it, why not tell the DA beforehand? That might keep him or her from going through all of the "time-consuming formalities" just to then move for dismissal when you say, during examination, that you don't recall anything."
Without a video (we only keep them for three months and then they go back into the rotation) I have no way of seeing the defendant until the day of the trial, and when court convenes and the DA is trying to keep fifteen cases straight in his head, I don't feel it's an opportune time to pat him on the shoulder and tell him whether I remember the defendant. At that point, it's time to play ball.
Lisa Peterson wrote:
"In all fairness, most of my troopers can remember these little turkeys, especially those officers with a few years under their belts..."
I write almost 2000 tickets per year, and contrary to popular belief, (apparently by DAs also) the people who raise the most cain on the side of the road are not the ones who plead not guilty. Most of the not guilties are the folks who didn't say anything but "yes sir" and "no sir" during the stop.
Tim Cole wrote:
"Couldn't pass up one comment you made, Trooper. You said, "if the person sitting at the table identifies himself as the person who got the ticket". This is a criminal case. You can't make the person say anything. They don't have to do anything except plead not guilty and sit back and wait for you to prove it. I think you are forgetting who has the burden here..."
You're right, the defendant does not have to do or say anything that would cause him to incriminate himself. However, by walking to the defense table after the judge announces his/her case is an obvious way of identifying themselves. Furthermore, I've never been to a JP trial where the clerk didn't call roll and have all of the defendants individually acknowledge their presence. Who cares if I don't remember what they look like? They've identified themselves before ever saying anything.
I'm not at all at odds with my DA, (he's a great guy and does a great job) and I'm not questioning anyone's competency. This is a matter in which I disagree with the way it's being handled here, and I wanted to see how other counties handle this issue.
John Bradley wrote:
"Don't start dismissing a bunch of cases. That only encourages this sort of behavior."
Great feedback. Frankly, prosecutors and officers need to talk more about their jobs with each other.
The only thing I would respond to is your use of a defendant's announcement in court to refresh your memory for an ID. Legally, the defendant is only indicating that he is the person who has been called to court. He is not confirming anything regarding what the state has to prove. I know it seems silly, and it may be silly, that he can put the state to its proof on whether he is the same person who was given a ticket, but it really isn't all that difficult to prove it, even if you have no specific memory (see examples above).
August 16, 2005, 12:31Kim Allen
In my nine years as CA I have certainly tried my fair share of speeding (and other traffic offense) ticket cases. It seems I have heard every defense possible, but I've never had a defendant claim he or she was not the person stopped. I always ask the trooper on the stand how he knows that the person he stopped was in fact John Doe, and the trooper always states he asked for the driver's DL, checked the picture and confirmed with the driver that he was John Doe. I never ask the Trooper if he remembers stopping John Doe, unless he remembers something especially interesting about John Doe that the jury needs to hear. The trooper then proceeds to testify about the speed, location of the stop, etc, based on the facts shown in the citation, not his specific memory of the events. So, I do not know why his lack of a specific memory of the defendant is a problem for a jury.
I have testified that way as a cop. When asked how I knew the defendant - answered that I had his TDL in my hand and compared photos, identifiers, etc. and usually asked "are you -whatever name was on TDL-?" Usually always remembered the facts, but not always the face, and this is before the days of digital cameras and in-car recorders. At most maybe had a mini-cassette recorder weighting down a shirt pocket.
And now have asked the same line of questions as prosecutor with officers.
The same thing in pawn shop cases. How did you identify the person who sold the watch? They checked the ID, wrote down the number, etc. compared the photos, and sometimes even xeroxed the ID. The pawn shop employees can usually never ID the people again by sight, but can identify them by the ID given.
August 16, 2005, 15:35Tim Cole
Are we now talking about two different identity issues? I thought the original post dealt with in-court identification of the defendant as the person who was stopped and ticketed? Are you saying that there does not have to be a trial identification so long as the officer identified the person at the time they gave the ticket? Think of a probation revocation. Of course, the probation officer got identifiers for the person they supervised. Of course, they saw them many times. They know the person they supervised was the person who entered the guilty plea. You still have to prove in court that the person seated at the table is the person that was convicted or placed on probation. Am I missing something here?
forgot to go on and say: using info. from stop - could pull TDL photo or many times an old in-house booking photo and then use that to ID def in court. So, even if can't remember from stop, can tie it all together for in-court ID.
August 17, 2005, 08:48Tim Cole
Ah, now I see. Good point. You could take the DL number given to the officer at the time and get the DL photo for that person and then have the officer, or even the jury, compare the photo to the person in court. I think that works. Again, the point is that the only limitation on how this can be done is the imagination of the prosecutor and the officer. But it DOES have to be done. You cannot simply say I proved identity because this guy here showed up for trial. At least, that's my opinion. Let me add one caveat: I started prosecuting felonies and have never done speeding ticket cases. Maybe I'm making too much out of this by comparing it to a felony. But, I cannot see why the rules would be any different.
[This message was edited by Tim Cole on 08-17-05 at .]