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Hello, I'm 18, and I got into a fender bender a few days ago. I was driving a Toyota Sienna and I bumped into a Range Rover. The only damage that I caused to the Range Rover were a few paint scratches. The woman I bumped into called the police, and the officer gave me a citation for "following too closely". I have to show up in court for this sometime in February.
I've been very skeptical about this whole thing, and I have a lot of questions about it.
1. Since the officer did not witness the accident, is it safe to say that he could not have accurately assesed/judged how close I was following the Range Rover?
2. I know in the 5th amendment you are given the right to not testify in court. Would this be any benefit to me? How or how not?
3. While talking to the officer, I gave him a truthful account of what happened when I bumped into the Range Rover. Could he use my account in court?
These are just a few questions I have... basically, I really feel BSed by this whole thing, and I want to be heard in court. Can anyone give me some advice?
Interesting questions, since things like this are usually just insurance problems and don't get to the level of citations (at least where I'm at). But, let me try and address them:
1. Officers and forensic specialists have long been able to reconstruct accidents, big and small, and can testify to them in court.
2. If you do not testify, then only the word of the Officer will be heard. While you waive your right to self-incrimination if you do testify, you have no voice if you do not. It is a judgment call as to whether or not you have any self-incriminating testimony to offer...such as "were you drinking?"
3. Everything that you say to an Officer can be used in Court, and will if it would help in a conviction. This is the reason that you should NEVER answer questions asked by an Officer except for ones that you have no ability to get out of. ("Where is your license and registration" or other such questions). Remember, the Officer is there to determine if there has been a crime and assist in the prosecution of individuals if they deem a crime has been committed.
Having said all that, co-operation can sometimes go a long way in there never needing to be a court appearance. ALWAYS be polite and truthful...especially in Court. It goes a long way.
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