Dear Lifehacker, I was recently disqualified from driving for six months and haven’t driven my car since. The other day, the police rocked up to my house out of the blue, handed me a fine for unlicensed driving and confiscated my plates for seven days. I stood in front of my plates and demanded they show me proof, but they just threatened to lock me up if I didn’t stand aside. Is this allowed?
I plan to plead “not guilty” in court and will ask for evidence like: If you saw me driving, why didn’t you pull me over at the time? They just knocked on my door and handed me a fine and took my plates when it wasn’t me at all. What are my rights here, as I’m already suspended and don’t want the judge to say I’m guilty and then lose my license for a year. Thanks, Bilbs
The viability of your case comes down to one simple question — did you drive your car or not?
Just because the police officer didn’t show you any proof doesn’t mean none exists. Think about it: when was the last time a cop showed you physical proof while booking you for speeding? With the exception of speed cameras, evidence is usually only shown if you decide to contest the fine in court.
If you were identified behind the wheel, it’s a pretty safe bet that the police have evidence to back up their claims. This could be in the form of a surveillance video or a first-hand police report that identifies you as the driver, based on appearance.
If the police are relying on their own eyewitness testimony, it’s basically your word against theirs. You’d need to convince the magistrate of one of two things: either it was a case of mistaken identity or the police have a personal vendetta against you and fabricated evidence. The latter is extremely fanciful and unlikely to meet with much success.
As you weren’t actually pulled over in the act, your best bet is to claim a buddy was driving — which he was, right? You’ll need your friend to front up at court and corroborate your claims. Just be aware that lying in court is a very risky game. If your mate crumbles under cross-questioning you could both end up in serious legal strife.
In short, if you’re innocent, it’s worth taking the matter to court as the evidence against you will be flimsy at best. If you’re guilty, accept personal responsibility and follow the law next time.
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