What is Trial De Novo?
In the state of California, according to the Vehicle Code Section 40902, the defendants are permitted to fight back traffic tickets through a process that is commonly referred to as Trial by Written Declaration with the use of the Trial by Written Declaration form TR-205. Nevertheless, in case a defendant does not succeed in getting the traffic ticket dismissed by using a trial by written declaration, the defendant has the following three options at his/her disposal:
1. Request to attend traffic school, provided that he/she is qualified to attend a traffic school; or
2. Accept the verdict obtained from the trial by written declaration; or
3. Continue the fight against the traffic ticket with a trial de novo with the use of a trial de novo form TR-220. As a defendant, in case you tried to fight against the traffic tickets with a trial by written declaration individually, and you were unsuccessful, you can continue this fight with a trial de novo.
How to Request Trial De Novo?
In case you get the result of the trial via written declaration and the verdict reached is guilty, you will have a maximum of 20 days from the date when the letter of verdict was issued to file a request for a trial de novo. For you to file for trial de novo, you will have to use the form TR-220. This form is a simple one page which you will complete with basic information about you and the traffic ticket that you were given. A majority of people usually get confused with item 3 on this form. Item 3 on the form requests the defendant to input the violation codes that were entered on the traffic ticket by the traffic police and also the number of the traffic ticket. Once you have completed the form, you should submit it to the designated traffic court before the 20-days period expires. The form needs to be submitted to the court by mail or in person. It is strongly recommended that you use a certified or a registered mail with return receipt when sending the request.
The trial de novo law guarantees the defendant in a trial by written declaration a brand new trial in case he/she is not satisfied with the outcome of the case (for example in case he/she is found guilty in a trial by written declaration). This type of trial is an in-person court trial in which the citing traffic officer and the defendant will have to appear in person. Your trial de novo will not be another mailed trial by written declaration. Nevertheless, you can still bring along your copy of the original written declaration statement to the trial, and then read it aloud to the judge, or hand the statement to the new judge for him/her to read.
You can request a continuance to defer the trial date. A majority of courts will require a minimum of 10 days before the trial for a continuance to be granted. The arresting police officer who cited the traffic ticket will have to appear in court to testify, in case he/she fails to appear, your case will have to be dismissed.
All the defendant’s constitutional rights are in effect at this new trial including the right to cross-examine and confront the citing traffic officer. Additionally, the defendant in a trial de novo has the right to produce evidence and witnesses.
In case the defendant did not choose a trial by written declaration when contesting, and instead went ahead with a court trial, he/she will not be entitled to another new court trial. A trial de novo is a legitimate right for those individuals who first completed a trial by written declaration. This is one of the benefits of doing a trial by written declaration; you are entitled legally to a new trial in case you are not satisfied with the decision reached by the judge. There is nowhere else in criminal law where the defendant is entitled legally to a brand new trial just because they are not happy with the first trial’s outcome.
The demand for a brand new trial voids the whole trial by declaration decision, and this includes the parts of the decision that the defendant may have liked for example an assignment to a traffic school or a bail reduction. For instance, in case the judge found you guilty and decided to reduce your bail from $320 to just $150, your application for a new trial will reset your bail back to the maximum penalty of $320. In case you are found guilty in the new trial, the second judge will most probably not choose to cut down your bail. Therefore, you need to take this into account before you apply for a new trial.
How to Conduct Yourself During Trial
In a court trial, a little respect goes a long way, especially when you are presenting yourself. Make sure that you always address the judge as “Your honor” and not as “Mr. Paul” or “Judge Paul.” You should try your best to be polite to your opponent without being petty or demeaning. Showing respect for procedures and people in the courtroom will help you in getting the respect of the judge, and this will make your day in court a pleasant experience.
In case you find yourself up against a lawyer who will not let you get a word in edgewise or will not stop rattling off legal citations, you will need to stand up for yourself. A majority of judges will make an effort to keep the court proceedings understandable to a self-represented party- and take several steps to rein an opposing lawyer who attempts to take unfair advantage of the situation.
Do Not Interrupt
It can be extremely tough for you to sit down quietly as your opponent or even judge makes light of your arguments or implies that you are lying. However, no matter how frustrated you are, you should never interrupt- particularly not the judge. Wait for your chance to tell your side of the story.