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Courtroom garb

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
In about two weeks I'm scheduled to appear in court for the first time in my life. I'm contesting a speeding ticket, the acquisition of which also being a first for me. The court district resides in a semi-rural area, a college town (Athens-Clarke County, GA.)

I already know what I'm going to say, so the question becomes, what to wear? I know that with my slight (but still present) accent I start at a disadvantage, and I don't want to compound that by looking too "not from around here". I've scouted out the better men's stores, and they seem to be selling what would be considered trad/preppy-wear.

Not much form to the suits, no explicit detailing (picked stitching), mostly two buttons with a lower gorge than I usually wear and a lower buttoning point, along with center vents. Most of my suits strike me as too much for the occasion, between silhouette and handwork. The only two that might work are the following:
-A center-vented two-button Burberry London, in POW fabric.
-An unvented two-button Armani Collezioni, in dark grey flannel with light grey chalkstripes.
Both have fused coats and no handwork but fit acceptably well and are in good condition. However, both will also be pretty warm for the time of year due to the fusing and fabric weight. Or should I bite the bullet and, assuming a quality but anonymous suit might come in handy at other times too, drop the $600 or so on a nondescript grey or blue worsted Hickey Freeman from NM Last Call? (Used suits almost never work for me; I trawled eBay and found appalling numbers of American suits in 42's and even 42L's only 29-30" inseams.)

Second, shoes. Should I wear the "correct" type of shoes, bal captoe round-toe oxfords, in black (Ferragamo)? My other "trads" option in black are black bal wingtips (AE) and black plain toe ankle boots (Bruno Magli). Am I correct in assuming that something in a nicer color or with more shape would be contrary to my goal of blending in? I don't have any tassel loafers, and don't imagine I'd ever have any interest in buying a pair.

Beyond that, I assume no pocket square. Also, I assume I should do something that under normal circumstance I would never consider: a button-down oxford cloth shirt (white or sky blue?) with a tie. The tie in question would probably be a fairly conservative and not super nice model, more likely a Ferragamo/Zegna/Lanvin than a Kiton/Brioni/Charvet.
post #2 of 32
From the point of view of appropriate level of respect shown - which is really the primary issue - a blue blazer and tie will suffice. Traffic court often has persons representing themselves and most dress as if for work. Hence, many are dressed business casual to blue collar or worse.

I think this is a case where you could easily overdress. I would go for respectful, but not wealthy. Simple, understated, and "trad." will do fine. Inasmuch as this is your first, I see no reason to spend more than the value of the ticket on a new suit.
post #3 of 32
Forget the clothes. Hire a local lawyer who regularly handles traffic tickets for $75 to $100. You can usually get off with no points and $50 court costs. If you're not very familiar with ticket litigation, representing yourself is a waste of time and money.
post #4 of 32
Wear something respectful, but not obviously new or expensive looking.

By the way, the advice to hire a lawyer is also the best advice. Most pro ses lose. Though, if this is your first ticket, the prosecutor will probably offer you a plea where you pay a fine and get no points. But if you're not willing to accept such a fee and want to actually fight the ticket, then I would suggest getting a lawyer.
post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by marc237
I think this is a case where you could easily overdress. I would go for respectful, but not wealthy. Simple, understated, and "trad." will do fine. Inasmuch as this is your first, I see no reason to spend more than the value of the ticket on a new suit.
This says it best. I think the POW pattern or the Armani styling say "new" or "expensive." Blazer, flannels, tie, and conservative shoes are your best bet. And, as you said, no pocket square or other dandyish accessories.
post #6 of 32
There's also a time benefit from hiring a lawyer, depending on where you got the ticket and the size of the city. In Milwaukee, the judges (often not judges, but court commissioners, etc.) who handle traffic tickets take the lawyers first, starting at 8:30 a.m., and those lawyers are usually all done within a half-hour or hour. The general public starts after the lawyers, and people have been known to wait up to four hours to be heard.

With traffic tickets, it's not that pro ses lose, but they sometimes don't do as well. I recently went to court for a client who got a six-point ticket for doing 20 over; he had two prior speeding tickets. The judge knocked three points off and kept the fine the same. For an unrepresented person who came right after me, his six-point ticket was knocked down to four with the same fine, and he had no priors.
post #7 of 32
Coincidentally, I have a speeding ticket court date coming up. I am contesting it on the grounds that there was a car right next to me doing about the same speed or faster depending on when the radar hit, and I don't think I "can be proven to have been" the one the radar hit. I was considering doing a contest-by-mail thing. Should I get a lawyer instead? It's not a high MPH one, I have never had to deal with "points" before, etc., but I'd rather have a clean record. Thanks.

BTW, I will dress respectfully and cleanly but not look rich, it already says BMW on the ticket and the town is a "Calvin pissing on a Chevy bowtie" type of town.
post #8 of 32
With all respect due to you, please understand that aphorisms and proverbs typically exist for a reason.

Do yourself a favor. Hire a specialist attorney. A specialist typically does several cases in the same day. A specialist knows the local court and will strike the best deal for you. It's faster, cheaper in many ways, and your attorney's fees are likely tax deductible. At least take the opportunity to experience a brief no-cost telephone consultation.

Whatever you decide, good luck to you!
_______________________________
post #9 of 32
If you represent yourself, the best advice has already been provided. Wear something conservative. A Judge or Commissioner does not expect you to dress like a lawyer.

Prevous posts from lawyers are sound. You will probably do better if you are represented, especially in small communities. It sends the message that your firmly believe in your defense theory and are willing to invest in someone to represent you.

Every state has different rules regarding Traffic Court. In my particular county, there is a Traffic Commissioner who hears the cases. There are no prosecutors because most violations are only infractions. You have no right to a free lawyer for an infractioin.

I have donated a significant number of hours sitting as a Pro Tem Judge or Commissioner in Traffic Court and heard all possible defenses. If this is your first offense, you may be able to qualify for Traffic School which results in the dismissal of the charrge. Remember, the goal is to keep the "point" off your driving record.

In my experience, there are very few lawyers of real merit that specialize in traffic violatioins. You just can't do enough of them to make a living! Yes, I have represented many clients in Traffic Court with primarily good results. You have to remember that judicial officers know most law enforcement people.

Any lawyer will tell you that a good set of facts is vital. In one of my cases,
my client was charged with making an illegal right turn on "Mariposa" street and proceeding 200 yards without stopping for the Officer.

I went to the scene the next morniing. Mariposa street at that location had been closed for construction with warning signs posted. It had been closed
for three months (I had verification from the city street department). Of course, I took photographs and had them blown up to 8 1/2 x 11.

The Officer had the wrong location!! It was good because I asked him, prior to presenting my case, was he absolutely sure it was Mariposa and his response was "why yes counsel, thats my beat, and has been for 3 years".
How could an officer, who was on the same beat for 3 years, not have known the street was closed?

Verdict: Not guilty!

On a final note, if you win the case, be respectful to the officer and the court. Do not gloat! Officers make mistakes and have a very difficult job.
Keep it on a professional level.
post #10 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by j
Coincidentally, I have a speeding ticket court date coming up. I am contesting it on the grounds that there was a car right next to me doing about the same speed or faster depending on when the radar hit, and I don't think I "can be proven to have been" the one the radar hit. I was considering doing a contest-by-mail thing. Should I get a lawyer instead? It's not a high MPH one, I have never had to deal with "points" before, etc., but I'd rather have a clean record. Thanks.

BTW, I will dress respectfully and cleanly but not look rich, it already says BMW on the ticket and the town is a "Calvin pissing on a Chevy bowtie" type of town.

Depending on local law, this defense may or may not work (which is why you should probably get a lawyer).

In NJ the officer has to testify that at the time the radar hit your car was out front, by itself, and nearest the radar. In your jurisdiction there might be local law, either statutory or decisional on what happens when there are two cars in close proximity to one another. My one concern with your defense is that it seems to be saying that you can drive as fast as you want and the police can't use the radar as long as there is another car right next to you driving the same speed.
post #11 of 32
Thread Starter 
I had never thought to hire a lawyer for a speeding ticket, but I will now. My situation is similar to J's, except that the other car was in the process of passing me, from a lane that was not only to the right of mine but also a turn lane and going about 8-10mph faster than I was, but slammed on the brakes when he saw the cop cycle (after the cop put his radar down) and ended up behind me. I think the other guy was helped by driving a domestic clunker with local plates rather than a little sporty car with Atlanta-area plates like me. (Unlike many states, Georgia puts the county of registration on the bottom of your plate.)
post #12 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by odoreater
Depending on local law, this defense may or may not work (which is why you should probably get a lawyer).

In NJ the officer has to testify that at the time the radar hit your car was out front, by itself, and nearest the radar. In your jurisdiction there might be local law, either statutory or decisional on what happens when there are two cars in close proximity to one another. My one concern with your defense is that it seems to be saying that you can drive as fast as you want and the police can't use the radar as long as there is another car right next to you driving the same speed.
Yeah, it's confusing to explain. I was not nearest the radar, I may have been in front, but I don't think I was going the faster of the two cars.

It's just one of those stupid situations where there is nothing to hit anywhere, a clear day, and you stop paying attention to your speed for a while because you are at a safe speed, and then you are rudely reminded that you are not an adult, you must have someone make trivial decisions for you still. I get the same feeling sitting at a stop light in the dead of night where there are no cars around... or are there? Maybe a cop is just waiting to pounce on the technicality and ruin my night. I hate it.
post #13 of 32
Call me cynical, but you can almost never win in fighting a traffic ticket. When it comes down to it, it's usually your word against a police officer's and the judge/commissioner will believe the officer. After all, they work with each other all of the time. To beat the ticket, you need rock solid proof, like in the post where the officer testified about a street that had been closed to traffic. The vast majority of cases are negotiated. If the potential points are high enough, hire a lawyer who knows and is respected by the prosecutor and/or the judge. There's not a great deal of skill involved and it's not a complex field of law. It's mostly a matter of who the lawyer knows.

As far as the clothes go, there is no way a judge will pay attention to details we fuss over, like gorge height or pick stitching. Dress professionally; not ostentatiously. You don't want to wear a biker's shirt or a Liberace style pocket square. Where you land in between will not matter that much.
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by j
Coincidentally, I have a speeding ticket court date coming up. I am contesting it on the grounds that there was a car right next to me doing about the same speed or faster depending on when the radar hit, and I don't think I "can be proven to have been" the one the radar hit. I was considering doing a contest-by-mail thing. Should I get a lawyer instead? It's not a high MPH one, I have never had to deal with "points" before, etc., but I'd rather have a clean record. Thanks.

BTW, I will dress respectfully and cleanly but not look rich, it already says BMW on the ticket and the town is a "Calvin pissing on a Chevy bowtie" type of town.

Wait wait wait...you admit do doing as fast as the other car but are contesting this? Dude...I love ya, but the logic here....
post #15 of 32
From past experience, if you show up in anything dressier than jeans and a T-shirt you'll already be ahead of the rest of the defendants. So like others said, dress conservative and act respectful.
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