Explanation of the Trial De Novo process

CVC 40902(d): “If the defendant is dissatisfied with a decision of the court in a proceeding pursuant to this section, the defendant shall be granted a trial de novo.”

Trial De Novo: the Basics

The above law guarantees the defendant in a Trial by Written Declaration a new trial if he is not satisfied with the judges decision (i.e. if he’s found Guilty in the Trial by Written Declaration). The trial de novo is an in-person court trial at which both the defendant and citing officer must appear in person. All your Constitutional rights are in effect at the new trial including the right to confront and cross-examine the citing officer and the right to produce witnesses and evidence in your behalf.

If you did not choose a Trial by Written Declaration when contesting, but instead proceeded directly to a court trial, you are not entitled to a new trial.

A trial de novo is a legal right only for those defendants that first completed a Trial by Written Declaration. This is the great advantage of doing a Trial by Written Declaration; you are legally entitled to a new trial simply because you are unhappy with the judge’s decision. No where else in criminal law is the defendant legally entitled to a new trial simply because he’s unhappy about the outcome of the first trial.

Demand for a new trial effectively voids the entire Trial by Declaration decision, including parts of the decision you may have liked such as a bail reduction and/or assignment to traffic school. For example: If the judge found you guilty but reduced your bail from $346 to $100, your request for a new trial will reset your bail back to the maximum amount of $346. If your are found guilty at the new trial, the second judge may not choose to reduce your bail. Take this into account before requesting a new trial.

Deadline for submitting your Trial De Novo form

Though the law does not set a specific deadline by which one must submit a request for “trial de novo” (a new trial), most traffic courts have adopted a time limit of 20 days from the mailing date of their decision. Trial by Written Declaration Judgement is Fully Voided

Trial de Novo: You Must Appear In Person

You must appear in person for your new trial at the time and place designated by the court. You’re trial de novo can not be another mailed Trial by Written Declaration. However, you can simply bring a copy of your original Written Declaration statement to court and read it aloud to the new judge, or hand it to him to read.Continuance on Trial de Novo

You may request a continuance to postpone your trial date; most courts require at least 10 days notice prior to the trial date to grant a continuance. The arresting officer who cited you must also appear to testify; if he does not appear your case is typically dismissed.

Send Your Trial De Novo Request Via Certified Mail

Send your motion for trial de novo via certified mail, return receipt requested. This way the court can not deny having received your request. Since a “failure to appear” is a serious offense that can result in license suspension and even jail time, all correspondence to the court should be via certified mail.

Traffic School if you lose

If a “guilty” verdict is rendered without the mention of an assignment to traffic school and you’d like to attend, you may use this motion for a new trial to “negotiate” a traffic school assignment from the court in lieu of continuing to contest. You can request a new trial, then go to court well before the trial date and ask for traffic school. The court may then assign you to traffic school to lighten its case load. Even if you go forward with a new trial and lose, many judges will still assign you to traffic school.

Trial de Novo, blank forms and examples

Trial de Novo, completed example

Trial de Novo, PDF form (right-click, save file)