We frequently represent clients in traffic accident cases. The two most common traffic accident statutes we see are A.R.S. § 28-701(A) and A.R.S. § 28-729.1. A.R.S. § 28-701(A). A.R.S. § 28-701(A) is the statute typically cited in civil speeding tickets, but it is also commonly used in accident tickets because, in addition to language about not driving “at a speed greater than reasonable and prudent,” the statute also states that “A person shall control the speed of a vehicle as necessary to avoid colliding with any object, person, vehicle […]” So if you rear-end someone, a police officer will likely ticket you for violating this statute. If you are found responsible for violating this statute, you will receive 3 points on your license and be ordered to pay a fine.
A.R.S. § 28-729.1 applies more to situations where one vehicle leaves its lane and collides with another vehicle in an adjacent lane. Specifically, A.R.S. § 28-729.1 requires that “A person shall drive a vehicle as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not move the vehicle from that lane until the driver has first ascertained that the movement can be made with safety.” This is may be listed on your ticket as an “unsafe lane change.” So if you change lanes and collide with a car that was hiding in your blind spot, a police officer will probably issue you a ticket for violating this statute. If you are found responsible for violating this statute, you will receive 2 points on your license and be ordered to pay a fine.
Regardless of the statute you may be charged with violating, the process for defending against each is the same. Unlike a criminal traffic case, which can span a period of several months or more, civil traffic cases are usually resolved quickly with a single court appearance. Once a defendant hires us, we request a civil traffic hearing which is typically scheduled within a couple months of the request. This gives us sufficient time to prepare the case.
At the civil traffic hearing, it is the State (“State” is a generic term used to refer to any government entity) that must prove all the elements of a civil traffic offense by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the burden of proof is on the State as to whether it is more likely than not that the accused has violated a traffic law. When representing clients in these cases, we typically obtain a copy of the accident report as well as any 911 calls. We also interview any witnesses who may have helpful information or who may testify in court. Often, the officer who wrote the ticket was not present for the accident and is only issuing the ticket based on the statements of witnesses and/or the drivers who were involved in the accident. It is not uncommon for the details in the accident report (written by the officer who did not see the accident) to differ greatly from what actually happened.
These types of tickets can also be resolved through defensive driving diversion, if you are eligible.
If you have been issued a traffic ticket because you were involved in an accident, we would be happy to discuss the particulars of your case with you and let you know your options.