Beating a stop sign ticket in California is among the more difficult traffic tickets to fight in the state. Consider going to traffic school if it is an option. In most stop sign ticket cases, it's the officer's word against yours, and the judge will believe the officer most of the time. No amount of verbal argument will succeed. On the other hand, if you have nothing to lose (e.g. ineligible for traffic school), there are a few ways you can beat the stop sign ticket in California on a procedural error.
Ask to change the court venue to the county seat when you receive your ticket. Write down "COUNTY SEAT PLEASE" when you sign the ticket. You will ask again for the county seat at arraignment, but you have to ask at the beginning or the judge can deny the request.
If the officer asks you whether you know why you were stopped, tell him, "I don't know."
If the officer asks you whether you stopped at the stop sign or whether you did a California stop, tell him, "I was driving safely" and say nothing else.
Consider paying the entire fine and taking traffic school if you haven't received a ticket within the last 18 months. Traffic school keeps your DMV record clean and keeps your insurance company from finding out about your ticket. To get out of the ticket via traffic school, you'll have to pay the entire fine plus the cost of traffic school, and spend 8 hours in traffic school. But consider that the chances of beating a stop sign ticket in California are lower than with other traffic tickets.
After you've received the ticket, write a informal discovery letter to the police department that gave you the ticket and the district attorney. There is no official sample letter for the informal discovery letter. In it, request:
1) Any notes and logs relevant to the case. 2) The exact location or address where the officer was watching the violation. 3) The distance between the officer and the stop sign.
Have a friend send each letter via certified mail with return receipt for you. You cannot serve these papers yourself.
Hopefully the police and DA will not respond, which could be used as a basis for dismissing your case since your rights to discovery have been violated. Most of the time, the information gained from informal discovery is not useful.
Request a Trial by Written Declaration (Form TR-205) by calling the court (you do not need to attend arraignment to ask for this).
In your TBWD, you need to prove that the officer cannot see the stop sign from where the officer was located. You will need a picture from the original site of your ticket that supports your claim.
At this stage, you are mainly hoping that the officer fails to respond (cops don't get paid overtime to respond). If he fails to respond and you didn't admit guilty, your case should be dismissed.
Attend arraignment if your case has not been assigned to the county seat. Ask during arraignment to reassign the case to the county seat; it gives another opportunity to have the officer fail to appear at a later trial and give you a case dismissal by default.
Make sure you tell the judge you are doing TBWD, and that he doesn't need to set a trial date. If he accidentally sets a trial date for you, you lose the right to TBWD.
If you lose the TBWD, request a Trial de Novo within 20 days. This gives you a second chance to argue your case, and another opportunity for the officer to not show up. Only in traffic court can a defendant get a second chance at proving his case.
Attend the Trial de Novo at the county seat and hope the officer doesn't show up. Argue the best you can, but in most cases, a stop sign ticket in California is very hard to beat by verbal or written argument alone.