I was a witness in a traffic case but the officer didn't show

I was a witness to a traffic accident in January. Fortunately no one was injured, but a fraction of a second would have changed that.

I was at a red light behind one other car, a Camry. When the light turned green, he pulled ahead and when he was in the middle of the intersection, a Pilot came from the left, ran the red light doing about the speed limit (40-45) and hit the front end of his car. The Pilot continued straight and hit the median strip, hitting so hard that it broke a wheel against the curb, bouncing back into the road. The Camry turned right and pulled over. I called 911 and an unmarked car with a man in plainclothes happened on the scene and checked on the drivers.

I stayed on the scene and gave a statement to the police. If the Camry driver had been a little quicker to go on green, she would have hit him in the door, and caused serious injuries, maybe even killed him. She showed no indication of any awareness that she was going to hit somebody–no braking, no swerving, she just plowed straight ahead. I could not see into her car, but the smart money is betting on her on her phone.

I was called by both insurance companies. Then I was subpoenaed for the trial. This surprised me because it was pretty cut and dried. From the docket record it appeared that the Pilot driver had requested a trial.

The trial was yesterday. When the case was called I came up to the witness table. The judge asked to me describe what I saw, which I did. Then he said, “Did you see the drivers?” I saw the man in the Camry get out of his car and walk to the Pilot, but I never saw the Pilot driver.

“Can you tell me if this woman was the driver of that car?”
“No, I can’t be certain.”
"Well, the officer who issued the ticket is not here to identify the driver, and so that’s why I asked you that last question. "
Then he turns to the defendant.
“I can’t find you guilty. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but I have to find you ‘not guilty’.”

Before this case there were several other cases where the officer didn’t show up, resulting in a “not guilty” verdict.

I wouldn’t say I was exactly angry but I was very disappointed that someone who was guilty of such negligence got off. Not to mention that I had to take the afternoon off work to appear.

Wow, that is highly frustrating! As court often is.

Why couldn’t they use the officers report or the other witnesses statements ( you mentioned a plain clothed guy). She must have had a good lawyer. The Camry drivers legal team obviously didn’t do their homework. The officer should have been subpoenaed.

The Camry driver didn’t need a legal team because this trial was not for a civil lawsuit. He wasn’t even at the trial, and I don’t know if he had been subpoenaed. The Pilot driver did not have a lawyer in the trial. For all I know the officer was subpoenaed, and didn’t show. I don’t know if they pursue penalties for “failure to appear” for a witness subpoena in traffic court.

It was a criminal trial, not a civil trial. The defendant was being prosecuted by the state (or municipality). The failure was by the prosecution, not the Camry driver, who was not a party to the trial (other than as a witness).

My husband was a witness to a mugging several years ago. It has been an endless parade of subpoenas and cancelled court dates while they figure out if the perpetrator is competent to stand trial, attempt to get him to agree to a plea bargain, etc. Once again, what seems so cut and dried is kind of a clusterfuck.

Yes, the policeman should have been there, but so should the Camry driver. He would have been able to identify the driver of the Pilot, right?

Wait a second. The Pilot driver ran a red light, was hit by the Camry driver (who had the right of way), and the Camry driver is the one being prosecuted? I don’t get it.

I reread my post and I don’t see how you reached that conclusion.

The Pilot driver was ticketed, and she was on trial. I described above that I didn’t see her at the scene, so could not identify her in the courtroom. The Camry driver was not prosecuted and was not even present as a witness.

Right. I wondered about that. I don’t know if he was subpoenaed. I am guessing that he figured that her insurance company was paying for the damage to his car so he didn’t give a shit about driving across the county to spend half a day in a courtroom. I suspect that disregarding a subpoena in a civil traffic case is not going to generate contempt charges.

I think I see where I got mixed up. I misread some of the gender pronouns. Carry on.

Sounds like evidence that the “challenge all traffic tickets in court because the officer almost never shows up” strategy works more often than it should.

Of course, everybody I know who tried this (a) has the officer show up, (b) is found guilty, and (c) when they ask if they can get the ticket removed through traffic school, is told that the primary reason for traffic school is not to teach you to be a better driver, but to take the load off of the courts.

I’ve had one out of two tickets dismissed because the police officer didn’t show up, and my husband had one out of one. It’s worth the chance, especially if you hire a law firm that shows up for you to get the court date changed. Then you have to show up on the new date. Our law firm charges a pretty low fee.