Most of the time, a traffic ticket is issued by a police officer to a driver on the side of the road. Sometimes though, a ticket is issued after whatever event that gave rise to the ticket occurred. In those cases, the police will often try to track down the defendant and serve the ticket.
This post relates to traffic tickets. Police may call you for other reasons, and this advice is not on-point for every situation.
Why would the police call you?
Two common situations we see are hit and run tickets, and criminal photo enforcement tickets. In both of these situations, the event occurs and the defendant keeps driving, perhaps not even knowing the event occurred. At some later time, the police identify the defendant and reach out by phone or text. Usually, all the police want to do is issue a ticket. The police may also try to ask the defendant some questions, which the defendant should generally decline to answer.
So you got a voicemail or a text message from the police. Now what?
Call an attorney.
This is a great option in this situation. Dealing with the police can be stressful. No one wants to be stopped by the police or have the police call them out of the blue. An attorney can be a buffer in these situations.
When a defendant in this situation hires us, we will reach out to the police. We’ll see what they want. If they are just wanting to serve a ticket (also known as a complaint), then we will facilitate that. We’ll schedule a time to meet the police with the defendant so the police can deliver the ticket to the defendant. The service of a complaint should be pretty straight-forward, but sometimes we encounter cops who play games or go out of their way to make things as difficult (and intimidating) as possible. Having an attorney with one of these game-playing cops can be particularly helpful.
Use your right to remain silent.
We’re not saying don’t speak with the police. We are saying keep the talk to a minimum. If you have an attorney, your attorney will make sure that’s what happens. If you are dealing with the police on your own, obviously you will have to communicate to some degree to meet with the police. This would also apply if the police actually get you on the phone when they call.
- Don’t answer questions, other than to identify yourself.
- Don’t try to explain what happened.
- Don’t try to talk your way out of it.
- If an accident is involved, provide a copy of your insurance card.
- Say just enough to get the ticket and leave.
Nothing you say is going to change the officer’s mind, but you could definitely scuttle your case with some inadvertent comment. Also, be aware that it is extremely likely that the police are recording any telephone conversations with you. Arizona is a one-party state. This means that anyone you are speaking to can record the conversation with you, and they don’t have to tell you.
After the ticket is served.
Make sure you deal with the ticket one way or another. Make note of the court date on the ticket, and don’t miss that court date. If you miss the initial court date, the court is going to issue a warrant for your arrest, suspend your license, and it could be a real pain in the behind to get your case back on track. You may want to reach out to an attorney and ask some questions.
Many attorneys, including us, are happy to talk to you about your case, discuss options and look at possible courses of action. We don’t charge for these conversations. We really want defendants to understand what is going on so they can make good decisions in their case.