Plead Not Guilty and
Request Trial By Declaration
You may need to request an extension or two before requesting a trial by declaration in order to have the time to get the money together to send in with your declaration.
NOTE: You may be able to avoid going to the court to request an extension by using the phone or the court's web site to get at least the first extension.
The court must, per Vehicle Code 40902(a), provide you the right to a trial by declaration for any alleged infraction.
The Rule of Court covering this option is Rule 4.210. Per part (b)(2) of the rule you need to submit a written request for a trial by written declaration on or before the due date for your case (i.e., the date on the ticket or the date estabished by any extension). The learned members of the Judicial Council expect you (and the court) to know that the "request for a trial by written declaration" referred to in Rule 4.210(b)(2) is obviously not the same as the form TR-205, Request for Trial by Written Declaration. Note the capitalization and italics; the difference is obvious, isn't it?
Do this rather than use the form TR-205, Request for Trial by Written Declaration. Should you use the form, developed and published by the learned members of the Judicial Council, you would need to submit your statement at the time that you enter your plea. This leaves you no time in which to adequately prepare and present your case. The TR-205 is actually the form you need to submit your statement for trial, not your request.
You have two options for pleading not guilty and requesting your trial by declaration:
- At Court
You may appear at the court on or before your promised date to appear and request a trial by declaration.
Go to the traffic window and hand the clerk your written request. The clerk will most likely ask you to deposit bail at this point. If so, politely inform him/her that per Vehicle Code 40902(b) and Rule of Court 4.210(b)(4) you will include the bail with the actual statement (this is included in the form). Of course the clerk can tell you the bail amount and hand you the TR-200 and TR-205 rather than mail them to you.
The obvious downside of this is that you have to go to court, stand in line, etc.
- By Mail
Per Section 40519(b) of the Califonia Vehicle Code you may plead not guilty by mail. This is a great way to avoid hassles from ignorant clerks, Commissioners and Judges. Calling them ignorant in this case is not an insult. It is actually giving them the benefit of the doubt, as the alternative is that they know Rule 4.120(b)(2) and are purposefuly violating it.
This also saves you the time and trouble of going to court. All you have to do is mail your request to the court.
The only downside to this is that you waive your right to a speedy trial for your Trial by Written Declaration when you use mail for entering a not guilty plea. However, you do not waive your right to a speedy trial for your Trial de Novo should you lose your Trial by Declaration.
NOTE: You should mail your letter via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. This means a trip to the Post Office. During a couple of weeks in December it might be quicker to go to the court.
The other downside is dealing with clerks, and even Commisioners and Judges demanding bail immediately, and in some cases that the TR-205 be filled out and submitted immediately. These are blatant violations of Rule 4.210 (b)(2):
If the clerk receives the defendant's written request for a trial by written declaration by the appearance date indicated on the Notice to Appear, the clerk must, within 15 calendar days after receiving the defendant's written request, extend the appearance date 25 calendar days and must give or mail notice to the defendant of the extended due date on the Request for Trial by Written Declaration (form TR-205) with a copy of the Instructions to Defendant (form TR-200) and any other required forms.
This brings up the next step in the process -- submitting your declaration.