So You Got a Speeding Ticket
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This is from the Car and Driver.com forum and gives very good advice. Thanks Nakona.
SO YOU GOT A SPEEDING TICKET. WHAT NOW?
Well the first thing is, what kind of Traffic ticket did you get?
I put tickets into three categories:
Equipment tickets such as loud muffler, illegal lights, etc.
Ordinary moving violations, mostly speeding tickets.
Serious violations such as reckless driving, DWI or anything that carries jail time.
Now before we begin, I want to talk about how to act when you get busted. I know, it's too late this time, but lets not kid each other. This might be your first speeding ticket but it for damn sure won't be your last.
Did you ever watch COPS? Have you ever wondered to yourself where the people are who don't act like idiots? I'll tell you where they are. Home. They had their brief interlude with the police, acted right and either got sent home or quietly booked for some offense and FOX thought their scene was too boring to show.
A cop's favorite traffic stop is a boring one. What you need to do in a traffic stop is act like a cop. How does a cop act?
The moment an off-duty cop in a civilian car knows that he's going to get pulled over, he pulls over. If he can't pull over immediately, perhaps he's on an overpass, he waves to the cop behind him to signal he sees him and pulls over as soon as there is a place to pull over. Don't drag this out of course. When you pull over, pull over far enough that he can park behind you in such a way that his car protects him from oncoming traffic. Turn you wheel all the way to the right, roll down your window, turn off the radio, shut the car off, place your hands on the steering wheel and wait. If you have passengers, have them sit quietly with their hands folded in their laps. If there was time after spotting the cop pulling out you should have put away your detector, but ONLY if you can do it without him seeing you fumbling around in the car. That generally means you'll only have time for this if you get popped on the highway. Do not be wearing sunglasses when you talk to the cop. Just toss them on the dashboard. Have your passengers do the same.
When the cop asks you for your license & registration, tell him where they are before you reach for them, and then move slowly. Not ridiculously slowly, just very carefully.
Don't sir him to death, that will often annoy him, just be polite, calm and speak in an ordinary conversational voice.
Everything you've done has now signaled to him that you're not going to be trouble. This is good because most of the time he hasn't yet decided if he's going to write you and any warm fuzzy feelings you can generate are a good thing.
IF YOU HAVE A PBA CARD, DO NOT GIVE IT TO HIM.
Keep it directly behind your drivers license. When you hand him your documents, make it a point to hand him the license last. Keeping your arm resting on the door sill and your wallet in your left hand, remove the license with your right hand and hand it to him, leaving the now exposed PBA card in plain sight.
SAY NOTHING! Trust me. He sees it. If it's going to do you any good, it will. If not, don't even mention it.
Don't give the cop some lame excuse. He's heard them all and then some. About the only excuse worth bothering with is that you were rushing to the Doctor/Hospital or home, to the bathroom. But of course, only use that excuse if it's true.
What you can do is express to the cop that you would be grateful for any slack he can cut you, but leave it at that.
If he writes you a ticket, don't bother asking him to see the reading, or about his qualifications, or when the gun was last calibrated. I know that goes against conventional wisdom, but trust me. The 70's are long over. Tickets just don't get beaten like that anymore. These police departments have got this stuff down to a science and the whole process from getting pulled over to paying the clerk runs like a well oiled machine. This is a serious source of revenue and they don't play games with it.
OK, moving on to the meat.
Lets take the third category first, because it's the easiest.
IF YOU ARE FACING POSSIBLE JAIL, GET A LAWYER. If you can't afford one and you are looking at jail time, they MUST provide one for you. If you aren't looking at jail time but are looking at a serious violation that might result in you losing your license, consider hiring a lawyer anyway.
OK, that's it. Category three is done.
Category One is equipment violations. This is pretty easy too. If it's something you can get fixed before court, such as a loud muffler or cracked windshield, it's usually easier and cheaper to just do it. If you're going to fight it, look up the law, find out what it is that the people have to prove you did to get a conviction and ask yourself if the cop did what he was supposed to. For instance, in most places a cop cannot just say your car is too loud. He has to quantify it with a decibel meter. If you live in NY State and have a loud exhaust ticket, e-mail me directly. I ruined the law in NY a couple of years ago and the legislature hasn't fixed it yet. If you got a ticket for something you know damn well they can prove, like illegal tail lights or tint, and you aren't going to fix it, just pay it by mail. I also suggest that you consider driving a lower profile car, or making yours less "flashy" or "bling-bling" But it's a free country, mostly, and if you want to drive a cop magnet, that's your business.
Now we come to category two, the most common reason for a ticket, LEAD FOOT.
OK, first lets dispense with the illusions. If you are reading this, you are most likely reading it at VWVORTEX.COM and that means you're a car enthusiast. Car enthusiasts speed. Pretty much all the time. Some more than others of course and some faster than others, but if you're a car guy (or girl) you drive faster than you're supposed to on pretty much a routine basis. What does that mean? It means that unless you stop driving, this will not be your last ticket.
Now why is that important, you ask?
Because you cannot afford to think in terms of beating THIS ticket. You must take a long view and have a strategy. Your goal is to avoid accumulating enough points to lose your license. THAT'S IT. You have no other mission. Remember one thing: Speeding fines are the fee you pay for the privilege of driving as fast as you want.
If you do not agree with that premise then stop reading this FAQ right now, because everything that follows is based on that premise.
One quick disclaimer here...
This is NOT legal advice. This me reporting to you how the system actually functions in the real world and how you can work the system.
Why should you buy into my advice?
Because I have been doing this for 20 years. I've lost track of how many tickets I've received but I do know it's in excess of 100 and I have NEVER been suspended for points. Came close a couple of times, but never crossed the line.
I've argued in cases in both trial and appellate court, I generally win, and I've even beaten the Ohio Department of Motor Vehicles in court, which is only slightly less difficult than what O.J. did a few years ago. In short, I've been there and done that.
OK, step one... You have the ticket. Hopefully you didn't act the fool when you got the ticket and the cop won't have any reason to remember you unkindly. Don't change that now by requesting a supporting deposition. Let me repeat that. Do NOT ask for a supporting deposition.
For those who don't know, a supporting deposition is a written statement from the cop that sums up the events leading up to the ticket. The theory behind this is that if the cop's testimony varies under cross-examination, you can get the ticket thrown out. Well forget it. You ain't Johnny Cochran and all you're going to do is annoy the cop by making him do paperwork. You might wonder why that matters if you already have the ticket. Well it does, and I'll come back to that.
Now, most tickets have a section on the back that allows you to enter a not guilty plea by mail. Do this. If it doesn't, or if the ticket says that you must come to court, that first visit is going to be an arraignment. You'll be entering a plea. That's ALL you're going to do. Don't try to hand the judge your explanation or sob story because he don't want to hear it.
Quick note on NOLO CONTENDRE pleas. Hopefully I spelled that right, but either way it's the famous "No Contest" plea. This is a very nice plea. It basically means that you don't admit guilt but you won't object to being punished. If your ticket arises from a traffic accident, make SURE you plead NO CONTEST. In most cases someone official at the court, possibly even the Judge will actually tell you that. It has to do with liability and the possibility you might get sued. Also, in most cases, the court won't let you enter a plea of NO CONTEST unless you were in an accident. Furthermore, if you were in an accident, don't play around. Put in your NO CONTEST plea, pay your fine and get the hell out of there. You don't want this to come back to haunt you later and a plea of guilty when you have been in a traffic accident is considered to be an admission of fault in civil court. Don't take my word for it, ask a lawyer. If there was no accident involved, plea NOT GUILTY and go home. You will usually be mailed a court date. Sometimes they will give it to you on the spot. Either way, go home and don't sweat it.
OK, so you've entered a plea of NOT GUILTY.
First thing is... don't agonize over this. You're charged with speeding, not murder, OK? The absolute worst thing that can happen to you is you lose some money and you get a couple of points.
I want to inject something into this FAQ now, based on an issue that arose with another poster on this board. What this person did was to contact the ADA before the trial and try to work out a deal.
This certainly seems like a good idea but unfortunately it usually only works for other attorneys.
Know this: ADAs are human. Humans are lazy. When an ADA shows up in court he has only one goal. Getting the hell out of there as quickly as possible. This is actually true of everybody there, espescially the people who are being paid to be there. You see, you only have to be there once. They have to be there all the time.
If you go calling that ADA at the office where they have easy access to the offender database and time on their hands, you lose the leverage that their inherent laziness and dislike of their job brings.
Wait until court, when they are MOST likely to be in a mood to cut a deal just to get you, and by extension them, the hell out of there as quickly as possible. Does this make a deal a sure thing? Well, no... it doesn't. But it increases your odds and when you're playing a number game that's crucial.
So, your trial date rolls around. By now somebody has told you to see about getting something that's sometimes called "Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal" or some such fancy title. The deal is, nothing happens with your ticket. If you stay clean for a certain number of months, usually 12-18, your ticket gets dismissed. Sounds great, right?
The only problem is that if you get another ticket the OTHER one comes back. Now you have TWO tickets and TWO fines. ooops.
Basically, unless you're about to join the Army or go abroad for a year, it's a bad gamble. Like I already said, this isn't your last ticket. The question isn't IF you get another, the question is when and 12-18 months is a long time to drive like your grandmother.
So what do you do? You engage in that honorable American institution known as The Plea Bargain. On the day of your trial, before you go in front of the Judge, you will be approached by either the Cop who wrote the ticket or by an ADA, or Assistant District Attorney. This pretty much depends on the population density where you got the ticket.
Now is where you tell them, in quite simple language, that you know you were doing wrong and you're mostly worried about the points. Ask them if it's possible to plead guilty to a non-points charge instead and pay the fine.
Now, remember when I said you shouldn't annoy the cop by asking for a supporting deposition? This is where it pays off.
Basically, if you didn't do anything to annoy the cop either at the original stop or later on along the way, he's pretty much not going to care. If you have an ADA then he's going to ask the cop if he's OK with any deal.
Now, sometimes you can't get the deal you want. OK, try for what you can get.
If they ADA says that he can't let off the hook with no points, ask him if there is anything he CAN do for you. What's the worst he can say, no?
I have encountered exactly TWO courts in 20 years that simply will not allow plea bargains of any kind and they are both in suburbs of Cleveland, so unless you're there, don't worry about it.
OK, so there are two possibilities now.
a) You struck a bargain
b) You struck out
90% of the time you'll have struck a bargain, and you can almost always get rid of the points. At this time you'll go back into the courtroom and wait to be called. When you are, walk to the front of the courtroom, say "I'm your honor." and shut up. The cop or ADA will do the talking for you, there will come a moment when the Judge will ask if you agree to the plea bargain. You say: "Yes, your honor" and shut up. The Judge tells you what the fine is and hands you off to the court clerk. By the way, you REALLY should have your fine money with you already. This is NOT the moment to be asking for time to pay, but if for some reason you don't, then you better speak up before you walk over to the clerk. Make sure you know how long you need and I strongly advise you to make sure sure it's not longer than a couple of weeks. Pay what you can on the spot.
Now, let's say that you were not able to strike a bargain. Well, you have two choices. You can try to cross-examine the cop during your trial, hoping to trip him up. Trust me when I say that this is pretty much a waste of time and will annoy the Judge, especially if you're clumsy about it. They HATE wannabee lawyers.
OR, you can take that sob story you've been saving and tell it to the Judge. Keep it short though, and don't insult the man's intelligence. Ask for a reduction in fine if you want. Ask whatever. You've really got nothing to lose at this point. Unless you do something stupid like argue with him or smart off of course...
Now you're done. Pay your fine or ask for time to pay and go home.
Using this method you will almost always be able to avoid the points. That also has an effect on your insurance. The few times you don't manage to get a favorable plea are just that, FEW.
Over the long term this will keep your points down, your insurance costs down and cost you only the occasional fine.
And remember; Fines are the fee you pay for the privilege of driving as fast as you want
Subject to revision and editing for clarity
[Modified by nokona, 6:40 PM 2-18-2002]
SPEEDING TICKET FAQ
ANSWERS TO SOME SPEEDING TICKET QUESTIONS THAT HAVE COME UP
Not even worth fighting. To give you an idea of what I mean, every parking ticket written in the State of NY is jurisdictionally defective. Why that is isn't really important. The point is that nobody, especially not a layman, ever wins a motion for dismissal on jurisdictional grounds in the little "kangaroo court" traffic courts that those things are heard in. Usually, you don't even see a real Judge. You see a Justice of the Peace, or even the local Mayor. You'll get convicted ever time. Of course, you then appeal, citing the correct case law, and you will over turn the conviction and get your money back every time. It's like shooting fish in a barrel. But it costs more to go through the process than the actual ticket is worth. Not to mention that filing an appeal is a genuine P.I.T.A. You get a parking ticket, just pay the stupid thing and move on. It's not worth it to fight it even if you have the Pope ready to swear you and your car were elsewhere.
The Cop made a mistake on my ticket. Color wrong, name misspelled, etc. Should I fight it?
Don't bother. Unless the person and vehicle on the ticket are CLEARLY not you at ALL, in which case why do you have the ticket, this falls under the category of "allowable error" Let's say the ticket spelled your name wrong and described your yellow Jetta as Blue. The Judge is just going to ask you if the ticket is yours. If you lie to this man I PROMISE you, you'll be sleeping with Bubba that night. Just treat it as if the cop got all the info correct. Now, I will say this. There are some jurisdictions that are pretty fussy about having the paperwork filled out correctly. If in doubt, just pick up the phone, call a local lawyer whose yellow page ad says that he deals with tickets, DUIs and such, and ask him if the flaw on your ticket in particular is fatal. Lawyers generally don't mind answering a quick question like that. If he says it is, you may want to consider hiring him to get your ticket thrown out. You can usually get them cheaper when it's a slam dunk. This is pretty much the only time I advocate hiring a lawyer for a regular speeding ticket.
The Cop was mean/rude/nasty to me! I want to complain and this ticket should be dismissed!
95% of Cops are just regular human beings doing a tough job and won't give you a hard time unless you ask for it. The other 5% are just jerks. Deal with it. Take a cue from the Mafia. "It's just business." treat it as you would any other ticket and don't let the jerk get to you. Remember, you aren't here to get revenge, you're here to play the game and work the system as best you can. Lose sight of that and you'll be staring at 2 points on your license you probably could have avoided. If that doesn't work for you, just think about it this way.
By the time you arrived in court and paid that fine, because of all the speeding you've done in the meantime, you have pro-rated that ticket down to a fraction of a cent on the MPH.
This is a bogus ticket! I know for SURE that I didn't do it.
Can you prove that? Yeah, me neither the few times it's happened to me. But really, I can count the number of truly bogus tickets I've received on one hand. Did he write you for a higher speed than you think you were going? Chances are his numbers are correct. Even if they aren't, remember, it's just business.
This is the fee you pay for the privilege of driving as fast as you want.
You play the game right and the numbers go in your favor over the long run, even if you DO get a genuinely bogus ticket.
This cop was following me for a while before he pulled me over. I don't think he can do that!
Sorry, but the bottom line is that you have a ticket now. It doesn't really mater if the ticket is legit or not, you have it and unless you can prove that it's a bogus ticket, the cop is going to win in court.
Fair? No, of course not. But who said this was about fairness?
Should I get a continuance and hope the cop forgets to show up or something?
Don't bother getting a continuance unless you actually need it. In the first place it has no impact on the cop showing up or not. These things are scheduled and co-ordinated between the court and the Police, meaning the cop doesn't have to remember a damn thing. All he has to do is show up on the regularly scheduled court date when he has only to look at the list of cases and has everything he needs provided for him.
The second problem is that the courts are wise to this trick and have been for years. If you try playing games with continuances you'll run the risk of annoying the clerk. You know, the person who the Judge counts on more than anyone to keep his life organized?
OUR TWO CENTS FROM SPEEDING TICKET CENTRAL
Generally the above is good advice. You need to remember that speeding laws and consequences vary from state to state. What works in one state may not work in another. Before you do anything, you need to research the laws in your state and be sure you understand what this one ticket will mean to your insurance company.
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Fight Your Speeding Ticket Books
There are a lot of books online and in print that promise you can beat your ticket if you will just purchase their program, speeding ticket case dismissed, speeding ticket excuses or whatever. Most of these are a complete waste of money and only guaranteed to give the judge and officer a good laugh. I have reviewed almost all of these and can only recommend two. They are Fight Your Ticket and Win in California and Beat Your Ticket: Go To Court & Win by David Brown.
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