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Traffic Tickets: Your Rights and Responsibilites

Sgt. Mark Thompson of the Michigan State Police discloses everything you need to know after receiving a traffic ticket.

Baseball’s spring training has begun and it looks like the Tigers will provide stiff competition in their division and the American League. I’m looking forward to attending a game or two and snacking on the peanuts and hotdogs as both seem to taste better at the ball park.

Thanks to Mike Gorman, of Ann Arbor, MI, who noticed a small, but significant, conundrum with the last Ask A Trooper column and emailed me.

Last week I wrote about the intricacies of round-abouts. I wrote about how to enter a round-about a driver would yield to traffic already in the round-about and then turn right and travel “clockwise” while in the round-about. Oops, that is wrong.

In America, you can’t turn right in a round-about and travel in a “clockwise”
direction. This directionally challenged sergeant left out small but important word, and that word is “counter,” as in “counter-clockwise.” Traffic in round-abouts in the United States travel counter-clockwise.

When you receive a traffic citation, do you know what your rights and responsibilities are?

First, let me be very clear, never ignore a traffic citation. If you ignore a traffic citation and fail to appear a default judgment will be entered against you. A person who fails to answer a citation is guilty of a misdemeanor and the Secretary of State will suspended your driver’s license. If this happens, your problems just got worse because you can no longer legally drive. And it just became much more expensive to correct the problem.

On the back of each citation, it explains your options; Admit Responsibility, Admit Responsibility with Explanation or Deny Responsibility.

If you choose Admit Responsibility, you are admitting responsibility to the traffic charge and will pay the fine and costs.

If you choose Admit Responsibility with Explanation, you are admitting responsibility to the traffic charge but with an explanation of circumstances the court may consider in determining the amount of your fine and costs.

If you choose Deny Responsibility, you must appear in person for an informal or formal hearing.

At an informal hearing you and the Trooper will appear before a magistrate, referee or judge. Neither you nor the Trooper will be allowed to use a lawyer. Whereas, a formal hearing is held before a judge and the Trooper will be represented by an attorney from the prosecutor’s office and you may also be represented by an attorney.

The burden of proof at both hearings is called the Preponderance of the Evidence, which means one of the party’s must show evidence that, as a whole, shows the fact sought to be proven is more probable than not.

The difference of the Preponderance of the Evidence burden of proof and the Beyond a Reasonable Doubt burden of proof used in criminal trials is significant. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt means fair, honest doubt growing out of the evidence or lack of evidence. It is not merely an imaginary or possible doubt, but a doubt based on reason and common sense.

A reasonable doubt is just that; a doubt that is reasonable, after careful and considered examination of the facts and circumstances of the case. All of this is explained on the back of a traffic citation.

If you have a question, please send it to askatrooper12@gmail.com or mail it
to the Michigan State Police – Brighton Post, 4803 S. Old US-23, Brighton,
MI 48114.

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