There are other advantages to a Trial by Written Declaration. Even if
the officer does respond, you have a much better chance of a favorable
judgment. The officer will not be able to refresh his memory of your
case without seeing your face again in court. After writing 200-300 citations
per month, it's difficult for any officer to remember the specific details
of your particular stop. Since you will remember the details of the stop
much clearer than the officer, you can usually write a much better declaration.
Also, the intimidation that many defendants feel in meeting the officer
in the formal setting of a court trial is eliminated by drafting a written
declaration in the privacy and security of their homes. The result: most
defendants are able to present a stronger case in writing than in person.
A friend of mine submitted a written declaration for speeding on the
freeway; he was driving 93 in a 65, clearly in violation of the law.
On his written declaration he wrote,"I'm not Guilty" with an orange crayon,
misspelling "guilty". The officer who cited him did not respond; my friend
received a dismissal notice and his $270 in bail back in the mail. If
the officer does not respond, your case is dismissed and all your bail
is returned, regardless of the merits of your argument.
In a Trial by Written Declaration, the judge is able to assess the case
fairly and separately in his chambers. His decision can be based on the
merits of the case alone, unbiased by the social circus that is the California
traffic court. Even if the judge finds you guilty, he may suspend or
reduce your fine and assign you to attend traffic violator school.
In a court trial, fine suspensions are rare and fine reductions are
smaller. Judges find it difficult to reduce fines drastically in a court
crowded with defendants all expecting the same good deal.