By: Beltz Law Firm
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WRONG INFORMATION ON A TRAFFIC TICKET
WRONG INFORMATION ON A TRAFFIC TICKET
TRAFFIC TICKET DEFENSE ATTORNEY
The opening phrase we often hear from clients is, “I got a ticket and the officer wrote down the wrong information so I want the ticket dismissed.” That question is what drives this thread – Does wrong information on the ticket get my case automatically dismissed? The answer is sometimes if the error is also found on other supporting documents needed to establish a traffic offense. If you received a traffic ticket, contact us to go over your case and let an experienced attorney review the information for you to ensure you get the best outcome possible.
Searching for the term “what makes a citation invalid” and clicking on one of the first results that came up brings up some inaccurate results. Somewhere around the middle there is a section covering errors on a citation. The common belief is that cases can simply be dismissed by showing up to court and saying, “I drove a midnight blue car and the officer wrote black”, “I have two last names and the officer wrote one as my middle name”, “The ticket says it’s a ’93 but the car is a ’94”. Though this could assist in getting the case dismissed, it is not as easy as one might think. Let’s review what a complaint is and what it must have.
WHAT IS A TRAFFIC TICKET COMPLAINT?
Article 45.018 and 45.019 outlines the necessity of providing a defendant with a formal complaint over the citation itself. Article 18 informs you that you are entitled a complaint at least 1 day prior to any official hearing taking place. More than the citation that you received, the complaint is what holds a little more merit in court. Article 45.019 outlines what a complaint must contain.
OKAY, SO WHAT DOES ARTICLE 45.019 MEAN?
You have to request a copy of the complaint. A complaint is a sworn document alleging the offense you committed. It outlines specifically what the prosecutor intends to prove at trial. Article 45.019 gives you the option to contest what is written in the complaint as well as the timeline for when that objection must be submitted. This document is actually used to prosecute you, not the ticket. The ticket is used to complete this document. Think of it as an indictment based on the information contained in the ticket.
Further, prosecutors have the ability to amend defects in the complaint. Going to the court and saying, “The citation is wrong” only alerts them that the complaint must be amended so that they have an accurate case against you. So there is a strategy and timing issue related to bringing up defects in tickets and complaints. Do you tell them immediately only to have them amend the defect? Or do you wait until trial so that they cannot fix it? This really depends on the court and the prosecutor. We have had plenty of prosecutors say, “I’ll just dismiss this case and refile a proper complaint if you force me to dismiss based on a bad ticket/complaint.” This is perfectly within their right as well. With those prosecutors, we save the defect for trial. If the defect is jurisdictional or based on constitutional violations and you do not bring up the issue, you can also waive your right to bring up the defect.
DOES THAT MEAN OBJECTING TO DEFECTS IN TRAFFIC TICKETS POINTLESS?
In all honesty, it means that fighting a traffic ticket is a lot more complex than it seems. It takes decades to gain the knowledge on how to fight defects in traffic tickets and complaints in Texas. Hiring an attorney does not mean it will automatically be dismissed either. Remember your lawyer is not a magician and for every legal argument made on your behalf, there is usually an equally compelling counter-argument that is presented to the judge by the prosecutor. For more issues related to traffic ticket defenses click the preceding link.
WHY WASN’T MY CASE DISMISSED BECAUSE OF THE ERROR ON THE TICKET?
The purpose of the ticket is only to offer information regarding the offense. That information must be transposed unto the formal complaint against you. If the information was transposed in a way that gives you proper notice of the charges against you, then it will be considered valid for the purposes of proceeding to trial. The specific requirements of a valid complaint are as follows:
Art. 45.019. REQUISITES OF COMPLAINT. (a) A complaint is sufficient, without regard to its form, if it substantially satisfies the following requisites:
(1) it must be in writing;
(2) it must commence “In the name and by the authority of the State of Texas”;
(3) it must state the name of the accused, if known, or if unknown, must include a reasonably definite description of the accused;
(4) it must show that the accused has committed an offense against the law of this state, or state that the affiant has good reason to believe and does believe that the accused has committed an offense against the law of this state;
(5) it must state the date the offense was committed as definitely as the affiant is able to provide;
(6) it must bear the signature or mark of the affiant; and
(7) it must conclude with the words “Against the peace and dignity of the State” and, if the offense charged is an offense only under a municipal ordinance, it may also conclude with the words “Contrary to the said ordinance”.
(b) A complaint filed in justice court must allege that the offense was committed in the county in which the complaint is made.
(c) A complaint filed in municipal court must allege that the offense was committed in the territorial limits of the municipality in which the complaint is made.
(d) A complaint may be sworn to before any officer authorized to administer oaths.
(e) A complaint in municipal court may be sworn to before:
(1) the municipal judge;
(2) the clerk of the court or a deputy clerk;
(3) the city secretary; or
(4) the city attorney or a deputy city attorney.
(f) If the defendant does not object to a defect, error, or irregularity of form or substance in a charging instrument before the date on which the trial on the merits commences, the defendant waives and forfeits the right to object to the defect, error, or irregularity. Nothing in this article prohibits a trial court from requiring that an objection to a charging instrument be made at an earlier time.
(g) In a county with a population of more than two million that does not have a county attorney, a complaint for an offense under Section 32.14, Penal Code, must be approved by the district attorney, regardless of whether a collection proceeding is initiated by the district attorney