Passenger failing to wear a seat belt

snapple612
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Passenger failing to wear a seat belt

by: snapple612 on
Wed Oct 15, 2014 6:50 pm

Hey All,

Driver was pulled over for going 38 over (on a highway). After the officer spoke with the driver; noticed I was sitting in the backseat and asked for my ID. Returned with a 38 over ticket for the driver and a failure to wear a seat belt for me.

I have requested disclosure and officer notes indicate that upon approaching/walking up to the vehicle he had a clear unobstructed view of the seatbelt, in a relaxed position.

My defense in court is that, with the time of stoppage (5:15am) [sun hadn't risen], the tint of the windows and the proven speed of the vehicle it is unreasonable that the officer could have seen if the seatbelt was off while the vehicle was in motion. Once stopped, I removed my seatbelt to gain access to a backpack holding all ID's- as there is no time indicated of when the officer approached the vehicle this could have been 5 minutes or 30.

Is there anything else I should add to this, what to expect with such a defense.

Any tips at all. This is my first 'offense' and first time in court so any help is greatly appreciated.


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highwaystar
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by: highwaystar on
Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:48 pm

While I think you have some good arguments to raise reasonable doubt, something also sounds unbelievable about your story. Are you saying that you had your seat belt on while the car was in motion, but you took it off between the time the officer got out of their car to approach the one you were in? Logically, if the officer noticed movement in your car as they approached (while you supposedly reached for a backpack), they'd be approaching with their firearm drawn! If the officer's notes don't make reference to that type of scenario, your story doesn't sound all too believable either. Why would a backseat passenger feel a need to obtain ID from a backpack at that immediate moment---when the officer would be requesting it from the driver in a few short seconds. I don't know any officer who would approach a vehicle in the dark with passengers in the back seat looking for things without immediately being concerned for their safety and taking necessary security measures! If anything, your action shows a complete lack of respect for the safety of everyone involved!

Chances are the officer's notes will say that they never lost sight of the vehicle and there won't be any mention of this type of scenario! You'll therefore be cross-examined on how the officer's headlights were likely shining right inside the vehicle and he would have seen any movement. More importantly, if you raise the story you are claiming, then the whole firearm drawn scenario will undoubtedly be raised by a savvy prosecutor to discredit you.

Regardless, you should still be able to raise doubt on the notion that the officer couldn't possibly have a clear view at that time, light, distance and speed. More than likely, they only saw you without a seat belt while the car was no longer in motion. However, given that the minimum fine is $200 and the max is $1000----its quite a gamble to take on these type of charges.


snapple612
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by: snapple612 on
Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:02 pm

In reality the belt was never on. However, the argument is that yes I reached into a bag once the vehicle was stopped. The officer didn't even notice anyone in the back seats until he had stuck his head through the open passenger side window (opened upon officer approaching). All ID's were in the bag as we were returning from a concert so I was getting it for the driver as well.

My action and intent was to make the officers stop go by faster by having all ID's of all individuals in the vehicle at the ready- not everyones a criminal threatening officer safety- but I digress.

As the driver also requested disclosure there is no mention of the officer having eyes on the vehicle at all times. He wrongly identified how many parties were in the vehicle. His credibility is, let's say shabby at best.

In terms of a savvy prosecutor, I doubt it for traffic court.


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by: ynotp on
Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:26 pm

It's one thing to try to raise reasonable doubt through a good cross-examination of the officers testimony, but quite another to take the stand with the intention of telling a bold-faced lie. If you can't tell the truth in your testimony then don't testify, I would try and find another way.


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by: Stanton on
Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:46 pm

snapple612 wrote:My defense in court is that, with the time of stoppage (5:15am) [sun hadn't risen], the tint of the windows and the proven speed of the vehicle it is unreasonable that the officer could have seen if the seatbelt was off while the vehicle was in motion. Once stopped, I removed my seatbelt to gain access to a backpack holding all ID's- as there is no time indicated of when the officer approached the vehicle this could have been 5 minutes or 30.
Don't lie in Court. Regardless of the morality and legal issues, it just simply tends to backfire. It takes only the slightest mistake to get caught up and then your whole testimony gets discredited. You've already got a good argument to raise reasonable doubt, why risk it? In fact, I'd be cautious about taking the stand in your defence. You can simply cross examine the officer and suggest to him it was possible you removed your belt prior to him approaching the vehicle.
snapple612 wrote:In terms of a savvy prosecutor, I doubt it for traffic court.
While not all prosecutors are the same, don't make the mistake of underestimating them. Many prosecutors having been doing their job for a long time, are very articulate and know the law well. They arguably spend more time in Court and make more arguments to the Court then their criminal counterparts.


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