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Friday, May 27, 2022

Winning By Letters Of The Law

If you fight a traffic ticket in court, your best hope is that the officer who cited you doesn’t show up.

But Westlake Village company TicketBust.com has found a less risky way to tilt the odds in a driver’s favor: a little-known legal maneuver called trial by declaration. That tool allows drivers to fight tickets through the mail instead of in court, and the company estimates it gets tickets dismissed for about three-quarters of its customers.

“It gives you a huge advantage over just going to court,” said TicketBust Chief Executive Steven Miller, an Internet entrepreneur who co-founded the company in 2003 with his brother after his sibling got a ticket.

So how does it work?

Customers enter some basic information about their ticket on the company’s website and talk to a researcher who knows the technicalities of California traffic laws. For instance, a red-light camera ticket can be automatically dismissed if the citation isn’t received within 15 days of the infraction.

But most challengers rely on submitting a written declaration to the court that details why the violator believes he or she is innocent. Under California law, that requires the officer to respond with a declaration, too.

“Officers do not like responding to written declarations,” Miller said. “They’re paid to go to court, not to do additional paperwork. If the officer doesn’t respond, the case is dismissed.”

The company, which charges $250 for its services, started out handling a few tickets a week and has been so successful that it now employees 14 who handle about 200 per week. Last year, the company had revenue of about $2 million.

Indeed, since TicketBust came on the scene, several copycats have followed, including TicketKick.com in San Diego and 2FixYourTrafficTicket.com in West Hills.

Two of the largest law enforcement organizations in the state –the California Highway Patrol and Los Angeles Police Department – dispute the idea that officers don’t respond to written declarations. But Mike Gregg, an LAPD traffic officer, said he doesn’t doubt TicketBust is a better option than fighting a ticket in open court.

“I think you probably do have a better chance if you write things out and put down a more cogent thought,” said Gregg. “You don’t want to just get up before a judge and say, ‘I don’t think I was going that fast.’ They hate that. You’re going to lose every time.”

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