Some Techniques of Self-Defense
I recommend first a visit to marcstevens.net, because Marc Stevens has done a great deal of work figuring out how best to beat the government in its own courts. Read his "Adventures in Legal Land" to see what I mean.
Here are a few ideas of my own, which are not as well prepared as Marc's but which may give the flavor and might work. A couple of them did for me.
- Try not to sign the ticket. I said something like "If you don't mind, I prefer not to sign things without my lawyer's advice" and the cop accepted that. Later, we each found that signing the ticket gives the traffic court jurisdiction! - although it doesn't say so plainly. So at my trial I told the judge he had none, and when the prosecutor looked for my signature and didn't find it, I won. However, beware: if you refuse to sign and the cop knows this, he can arrest you because by signing it you also promise to show up.
- I can imagine exchanges like this in court, when one's case is called:
- Judge: Next case, State vs Smith.
- Smith: Your Honor, you have no jurisdiction here
- Judge: Yes, I do. You signed the ticket
- Smith: Where does the ticket say I grant you jurisidction?
- Judge: I don't have to answer that. How do you plead?
- Smith: I refuse to plead. I did not knowingly grant you jurisdiction, and if I did so unwittiingly, I now take it back
- Judge: Then I will enter a plea for you
- Smith: No, you will not; I have not granted, and do not grant you my power of attorney
- Judge: I'll enter one anyway. Madam clerk, enter a Not Guilty plea. Mr Prosecutor, begin.
The judge will ram the case through and arrange for a guilty verdict, but Smith has racked up several bases for a subsequent appeal. Or consider another possible exchange:
- Judge: Next case, State vs Jones
- Jones: Your Honor, before we begin will you please confirm that this will be a jury trial, for I don't see one present
- Judge: No it will not. This is a traffic court, we don't have juries
- Jones: The US Constitution guarantees me a jury trial, and I claim that guarantee now. Also, it mentions criminal trials and common-law trials, but not traffic trials. And the "amount in controversy" is more than $20, so I insist on a jury trial as Amendments 6 and 7 promise.
- Judge: You agreed to attend this traffic court, and so you waived your right to a jury [see Smith, above, for that "agreement".]
- Jones: When I signed the ticket I saw no reference to waiving my Constitutional rights, your Honor. Please point out the words to me
- Judge: We've wasted enough time. Proceed.
- Jones: I give you notice, your Honor, that I shall sue you and the Prosecutor for violating my Constitutional rights and shall seek the disbarment of both of you. [And then do exactly that, later. It won't succeed, but they will fast lose enthusiasm for such cases.]
Again, same outcome as Smith's case.
- Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to weaken the government's case by cross-examining the cop, their only witness. For example if one is caught in a checkpoint, one might ask him:
- Thomas: Officer, have you sworn to uphold and defend the US Constitution?
- Officer: Yes.
- Thomas: Here is a copy. Please read Amendment 4 out loud
- Officer: [Does so]
- Thomas: When you caused me to stop and be searched on Highway 17 on July 1st, what reason did you have?
- Officer: We were running a safety check
- Thomas: Your Honor, please compel the witness to answer my question
- Officer: I had no specific reason to stop you in particular
- Thomas: Officer, I advise you that you have the right under Amendment 5 to remain silent, but I ask now whether you now admit that you violated my rights under Amendment 4?
- Prosecutor: Your Honor, we withdraw this case
Well, maybe! But if not, Thomas has a fine basis for suing the Officer Plod and his P.D. employer for heavy damages.
The point of these ideas is not necessarily to win (though the judge might just "nolle" the case because it leaves him exposed) but legitimately to take up their time and put them on the defensive; to show them and the attending Press that they are running a massive scam and that you know it. The more people who resist in such ways, the better known that will become and the more who will do likewise. If a significant minority filibusters like this, the whole process will become unworkable; for it depends upon fast, protest-free verdicts. Smith, Jones and Thomas would each tie up the court for at least 20 minutes; that limits it to handling three cases an hour, say 15 per 5-hour day. If there are 150 cases waiting, guess what happens to the court docket and the associated tax ticketing swindle