Courts instruct juries to base their verdicts solely on the evidence without speculating on what might be held back. Jurors often want to know if a traffic ticket was given and conclude that if there is no proof a ticket was given, then they must acquit, or if a ticket was given the defendant was at fault.
Florida law forbids any proof on this delicate issue. Courts reason that the opinion of a cop is irrelevant, and prohibit any mention one way or the other on this issue. As a trial lawyer representing plaintiffs I would like to be able to let the jury know the defendant got a ticket, but it would instantly result in a mistrial. Sometimes a defendant will want to put into evidence that they did NOT get ticketed. Same rule applies.
I have over dinner parties with friends discussed this rule of evidence and they are always outraged, think the law is stupid, and make comments about how this doesn’t make sense.
I once tried the same case twice because of this rule. The defendant accidentally turned left at a red light into my client riding his motorcycle, causing severe injuries. She got a ticket for violating his right of way, and careless driving. In the first trial, the defendant blurted out to the jury that she got a ticket. That resulted in an immediate MISTRIAL. In the second trial, with a new jury, there was no proof of a ticket. After hearing the case, the second jury speculated whether a ticket was given. They concluded since there was no evidence that the defendant got a ticket she must not have done anything wrong, and therefore returned their Verdict for the defendant.
After the trial, I got a call from the jury foreman, who had gone to the police station to look up the incident. He was angry. He demanded to know why I had not put the ticket into evidence. When I explained why, he was amazed, but it was too late to fix the Verdict. Even after I explained why he still did not believe me. I told him he had violated his oath as a juror by speculating about something that was not in evidence.
It is important to follow the law or injustice will result. A Verdict should not be based on speculation. If you have any questions about accident cases, please feel free to call or email.