How Do I Challenge a Speeding Ticket in Houston?

January 8th, 2018 by Tad Nelson in Misdemeanor Crimes

Dealing with a traffic ticket can be a hassle. But if you believe you did nothing wrong, then you have every right under the law to challenge your ticket in court. It is important to understand, however, that the legal process for handling traffic violations can take several weeks or months to complete.

Defendant Represents Himself, Gets Fined $200

Consider this recent traffic ticket case from here in the Houston area. The defendant in this case, who apparently chose to represent himself throughout the process, was ticketed for speeding in December 2015. The police officer who issued the citation later testified in court that he observed the defendant driving “a lot faster” than the posted 45-per-hour speed limit. Based on this observation, the officer then activated his radar, which registered the defendant’s speed at 60 miles per hour. In addition to the officer’s testimony, video footage of the traffic stop, taken from his body and dashboard cameras, was introduced at trial.

As is common practice with traffic violations in Texas, the defendant’s case was initially heard by a municipal court judge, trying the case without a jury. The judge found the defendant guilty of speeding and fined him $200. The defendant then appealed this conviction to the county court, where he could have the case reheard before a jury.

Unfortunately, the jury also found the defendant guilty, and again he was fined $200 in addition to court costs. The defendant then exercised his right to appeal to the Texas First District Court of Appeals. (Appeals from the Houston area are concurrently heard by either the First or 14th district appellate courts.) In December 2017, approximately two years after the original traffic stop, the First District once again affirmed the defendant’s guilt for speeding.

In fact, the appeals court refused to consider some of the defendant’s arguments on appeal because he failed to properly raise them before the lower courts. For instance, the defendant said he never received “sufficient notice” of the traffic law he was charged with violating. The First District said the defendant “waived this argument” because he failed to make his objection to the purported lack of notice before the trial began. As a general rule, you cannot raise a new argument for the first time on appeal.

Similarly, the First District dismissed the defendant’s contention that the county court improperly instructed the jury. Once again, the defendant “did not preserve this argument” by raising it before the trial court. Finally, the appeals court rejected the defendant’s claim there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction. The officer’s testimony–combined with the defendant’s own admission he was driving above the speed limit–was more than enough to sustain the jury’s finding of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Do Not Fight a Traffic Ticket Alone

Even when it comes to something like a traffic ticket, you should never attempt to represent yourself in court. It is far too easy to misunderstand or overlook important procedural rules that can doom your defense. This is why if you have received a ticket and want to challenge it, you should engage the services of an experienced Houston traffic violations attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 to speak with a member of our legal team today.

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