A traffic court appearance can be scary for anyone. Even if you didn’t cause the accident or break any laws, showing up to traffic court will likely result in some consequences. However, not all consequences are equal, which could be especially true when dealing with cops as judges. Police officers don’t typically attend traffic court very often—or at least they don’t show up often enough for us to track their attendance across the country. Cops are usually present at the arraignment of people accused of vehicular crimes, such as hit-and-run driving, drunk driving, and reckless driving. But police officers almost never appear in lieu of a prosecutor for traffic court appearances related to minor offenses such as a broken tail light or expired license plate tags. Why is that? So how often do cops show up to traffic court? To find out more about this topic, keep reading and check out our list of answers below!
How Often Do Cops Show Up For Traffic Court?
This is a question that can’t be answered with certainty. Some people may appear in traffic court and never see a police officer, while others may see one or more officers at the hearing. The presence of law enforcement at a traffic court hearing should not be taken as a sign of guilt, nor is it an indication that the hearing is more serious than others. Officers appear in court for a variety of reasons—they may be involved in the case, they may be there to provide testimony, or they may be there as an observer. If you are ever in doubt about why an officer is present at a hearing, you can always ask the judge.
Why Don’t Cops Show Up To Traffic Court More Often?
- If you get a traffic citation and you want to fight it, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to go to court. Traffic courts are held at different times and in different locations depending on where you live. Most traffic courts are held in municipal buildings, but some are held in courthouses or public schools. Some courts are even mobile! Depending on the location of your court, you may have to pay for parking or for your ticket before entering the building. Once inside, you will likely have to wait for your name to be called by an employee who is not a judge—but is usually called a clerk.
- Cops don’t typically show up at these court appearances because they don’t have any input about the case. If a cop issues you a citation, their job is done once the ticket has been written and delivered—they do not get involved with the court process except in extreme cases such as hit-and-run driving or drunk driving charges.
- The cop who issues you a citation will likely appear at your traffic court appearance if they are present that day. However, the prosecutor who would normally appear in their place is likely not present on any given day.
- Prosecutors are responsible for determining what charges to file and when to file them. They also determine whether or not the charges will be dismissed prior to the court date. So why would prosecutors appear in traffic court? In most cases, the answer is that they wouldn’t appear because it’s not their job. If a cop shows up, then you can expect them to be the judge for your case. The only time a cop will show up instead of a prosecutor is when there’s some uncertainty about what should happen next with your case.
- As mentioned above, cops don’t have any input on when court dates are set. For them, appearing in traffic court is a waste of time. Why should they show up to a traffic court appearance when a clerk can handle it just as effectively? There are a few circumstances in which cops might be required to show up to traffic court, but these are very rare. For example, in rare circumstances, a judge might require a cop to appear. In other cases, a judge might require a cop to appear if the cop has issued the citation or if it is related to their job. For example, if a cop issued a citation and then was involved in an accident, they might have to appear in court.
What Happens When Cops Show Up?
- In many cases, cops show up because they aren’t sure what should happen next with your case. This could happen if you were arrested after an accident or if there was some uncertainty about whether or not you were intoxicated while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- In these cases, police officers have more input into your case than they typically do because prosecutors don’t have all the details from the beginning of your case and may have another trial scheduled shortly after yours ends.
- If this happens, then you may see an officer in addition to (or instead of) a prosecutor at your traffic court appearance!
- If you’re ready to take on your traffic ticket, then contact our team of traffic ticket lawyers today. We’re the only team in the nation that specializes in fighting traffic tickets.
Why Are Cops Sometimes Not In Court?
- Most officers have a legitimate reason for not attending traffic court. Unfortunately, you probably won’t know exactly what that reason is. Some of the most common reasons for police officer absence in traffic court include the following:
- Sickness – Injury – Emergency – Other law-enforcement commitments – Non-law-enforcement commitments – Absenteeism – Lack of concern Each of these scenarios could have an impact on your court case. If the officer is sick, injured, or otherwise engaged in an emergency, they may not be able to attend court.
- If the officer has a law-enforcement commitment that takes precedence over traffic court, they also may not be able to attend.
- If the officer has a non-law-enforcement commitment or is otherwise unable to attend, they may also be unable to attend court. The officer’s absence could also be due to their choice not to be there.
Why Are Cops Sometimes Present In Court?
- You can be sure that any time a police officer is present in court, that officer is there for a reason. They may have some specific purpose in mind for being there, or they may be there simply to observe and keep order.
- Regardless of the officer’s intentions, you should be aware of what their presence means for your court case. If the officer who issued you the citation is present in court, they are likely there for one of the following reasons:
- They are testifying against you. While this is the most obvious reason, it is also the least common. In the event that the officer is there to testify against you, they will likely be questioned by the prosecutor and may also be questioned by your defense attorney.
- They are verifying that you were the person they pulled over. If the officer is there to verify that you were the person they pulled over, they will likely be questioned by the prosecutor.
- They are verifying that the citation is legitimate. Likewise, if the officer is there to verify that the citation is legitimate, they will likely be questioned by the prosecutor. –
- They are present simply to observe the court proceedings. If the cop is present in the courtroom but not testifying, they are there to observe. This is the least common reason for their presence.
The Importance Of Knowing Which Police Officer Will Be There?
- If you know that the officer who issued you the ticket will be present in court, you can prepare accordingly. If you know that they will be questioning you or verifying that you were the person who was pulled over and issued the ticket, you can prepare yourself for those questions and how to respond to them.
- Likewise, if you know that the officer will be present but not testifying, you can prepare for the questions the prosecutor may ask you. If you know that the officer who issued the citation will not be present in court, you can prepare for the possibility that the prosecutor may ask for a continuance.
- If the officer is absent, the prosecutor may ask for a continuance so that they can attempt to reschedule the officer’s presence at court. A continuance will extend the duration of your court case, so you should be prepared for that possibility.
If you get a traffic citation, you likely won’t see a cop show up in your traffic court appearance. In most cases, the person who issued you the citation will appear, but they are not a judge. That means you will likely have to pay a fine or otherwise be penalized at traffic court. You can prepare for your traffic court appearance by reviewing your citation and contacting an attorney to help you understand your legal rights. Keep in mind that cops don’t have to show up to traffic court, so you will likely have to defend yourself without any legal counsel.
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