Should I get a lawyer if I’ve been mistakenly cited as a different person?

I received a citation in the mail for permitting an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle that I have never owned, with an address that I have never lived at. After calling and speaking with the officer about it, he told me that I came up in search results as the closest match to the description given by the driver, but now that he has verified in the system that I don’t own the vehicle, he would make some calls and the case should be thrown out. He also advised me to plead not guilty in the meantime. I have absolutely no connection to the vehicle, the driver, or the owner of the vehicle, and the only reason I was involved was because my name is very similar to that of the vehicle owner. I sent in the not guilty plea, trusting that the matter would be resolved as it is very easy to verify that I have nothing to do with this incident. Should I still be concerned? Will I have to go to court to prove it was big mix-up, and will I need a lawyer? Thank you in advance.

Asked on April 28, 2016 under General Practice, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you will very likely have to go to court and prove this (e.g. with proof of your identify; evidence or proof that you own different cars than the one cited; etc.)--the court does not usually simply accept someone writing in and saying "oh, that wasn't me," for obvious reasons. And the burden of raising this affirmative defense--mistaken identity--is on you: don't count on the court or prosecutor doing your job for you, to prove that it's not you. Proving it's not you is your responsibility. You legally are allowed to do this on your own, but a lawyer--someone familiar with the rules and procedures--would absolutely help.

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