What to Know About Using Witnesses
Drivers who receive a ticket in South Carolina for speeding, reckless driving, running a stop sign or any other type of traffic offense often try to contest the allegation in a court of law. In order to do so, many collect information from witnesses that helps them prove that they were not at-fault or that the charges made against them should not be as severe.
Who Can be Considered a Witness?
A witness is anyone who saw what happened before, during and after a traffic citation was issued. It is important to remember that witnesses should be independent of the situation, and not directly involved with what occurred. For this reason, drivers who have a passenger with them in their vehicle at the time they were pulled over should not generally use this person as a credible witness while contesting a traffic ticket.
It is also important to keep in mind that the witnesses who will be the most helpful are the ones who saw what transpired in its entirety. Due to this, someone who showed up at the scene near the end or who barely viewed the incident would likely not prove to be helpful. Witnesses must also have first hand knowledge of the event and can only state what they saw or heard. Testimony from a witness about what someone else told them is hearsay and is generally inadmissible in court.
Acquiring a Statement
Drivers who desire to use witnesses when contesting a traffic citation will need to acquire statements from those who saw what happened at the scene. This is usually best accomplished as soon as possible following the incident so that no critical details are forgotten about. While gathering statements, drivers should encourage their witnesses to be as detailed as possible about what occurred. Additionally, drivers should ask every one of their witnesses to both sign and date their statements. It is also helpful for drivers to collect the contact information of their witnesses so that they can reach them at a later date if the need arises.
Depending on the situation, drivers may have their witnesses appear in court when they contest their traffic citation in a court of law. Drivers should remember that their witnesses may be unwilling to do this, and should rely most heavily on the accounts they received from those who saw what happened at the scene of the incident. Often a statement alone cannot be presented as evidence without the in person testimony of a witness in court. A witness must swear under oath before providing testimony and be subject to cross examination by the State. Although witnesses are a valuable asset to use in traffic court, there are many other tactics and strategies available that can be equally as effective. Drivers interested in exploring their defense options after being fined for committing a traffic offense can reach out to the experienced South Carolina traffic attorneys at the office of Nosal & Jeter, LLP.