What Is A Trial By Written Declaration?

trial by written declaration form

When people are told they can fight a ticket with a written declaration, the most common question is often how to fight it. But most people have never heard of it, so how does it work and how can it help you?  

Choosing to have your trial by written declaration means that instead of going to court to contest your case, you file statements and any evidence in writing. Evidence may a sworn declaration of the citing officer and a written statement or letter signed by the defendant. 

What happens if you contest your ticket by trial by written declaration?
Choosing to have your trial by written declaration means that instead of going to court to contest your ticket, you and the officer file statements and any evidence in writing. 
Evidence may include:

  • The "Notice to Appear" ticket;
  • A business record or receipt;
  • A sworn declaration of the citing officer;
  • A written statement or letter signed by the defendant; and/or
  • Any written statements or letters signed by witnesses.
  • Photos & video 
By filing a declaration in a trial by written declaration, you are waiving and giving up the right to remain silent and not incriminate yourself, and the right to a public and speedy trial. You are also waiving the right to appear in person before a judicial officer, except that you will have a right to a new trial in court if you disagree with the court’s decision in your trial by written declaration.

The advantage of a trial by written declaration is that the judge can review the arguments in the case privately and without the court's influence or having to go to court. All evidence and statements can be submitted in writing, which in itself dramatically increases your chances of success. However, this form of trial has several crucial disadvantages, as it has the potential to bring each person to a second trial if found guilty.     

Most states have a simple way of dealing with traffic matters, using easy-to-fill-out forms in which you state — and please be brief — why you are not guilty of the traffic offense. Experience shows that in most situations, the driver is going to lose the case. But where it is a question of identity — who was driving the car — or a change in ownership, the chances are very good that your ticket will be dismissed.

How do you ask for a trial by written declaration?

You can ask for your trial by a written declaration in person at the clerk’s office or by mail sent to the courthouse address listed on your ticket.

If you mail your request and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, the court will mail you instructions and a form entitled Request for Trial by Written Declaration (court form). The top portion of the form you receive should be filled out by the court clerk with important information; read it carefully. Once you get the form and instructions, you can fill out the paperwork.

Are you eligible to request a trial by written declaration?

If you have received a traffic violation, you can request a trial by written declaration unless you were issued a ticket for an offense involving alcohol or drugs or the violation requires a mandatory appearance in court.

Additional eligibility requirements include:

  • You were issued a ticket for infraction violations only;
  • The due date to take care of your ticket has not passed; and
  • Your ticket or courtesy notice does not say that you must appear in court.

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