How to Fight a Traffic Ticket
Grrrrr this is not how I wanted my day to go! Mr. Patterson and I were driving along a somewhat obscure one lane highway in central Florida this past weekend. It’s mostly ranches along the drive with very few houses close to the road; really all you see is scrub land and cattle.
We were moseying along when out of nowhere a police cruiser pulls up behind us and turned on his lights. To say we were surprised would have been an understatement. We dutifully pulled over and gathered the documents we knew the officer would request to see. Once at the driver’s side window the officer informed us we were speeding, unbeknownst to us the speed limit had dropped by 10 mph a few hundred feet back. We never saw the sign or knew that we were breaking the law.
After a being checked out by the police officer we receive a ticket. We had planned to politely argue that the sign was not readily apparent and maybe we should have been given a break, but once issued the ticket all our arguments were moot.
It really chapped my hide to receive the ticket as I felt like the officer was using the sudden drop in speed to trick motorists into getting caught. What I really wanted to say was, “Go catch the real criminals, you jerk!” But thankfully cooler heads prevailed and I kept my mouth shut.
When we got home hours later I was still pissed about the whole experience. In no way did I want to just roll over and pay the ticket thereby admitting guilt. Nope I plan to fight the ticket.
One thing I know is that it was good I didn’t try to argue with the officer. Once you see those blue and white lights behind you, it’s important to get your attitude right. No officer is going to let a jerk that argues or hurls insults at him off with just a warning. You want the officer to like you so switch off the car, turn down the radio, take off your sunglasses, keep your hands at 10 and 2 and be polite.
If the officer asks you if you know why you were pulled over, never say that you do. Or if he asks you, “Do you know how fast you were going?” politely respond, “No, officer, I don’t.” No matter what. Anything you say in this instance can be construed as an admission of guilt. Plus the officer may not have pulled you over for the violation you think. It may be what you actually did is worse than what the officer saw you do. Let him tell you what offense he pulled you over for.
If you do get a ticket, leave the scene in a calm matter, making no bold moves. You don’t want to anger the officer nor do anything that would make him remember you. Your next actions will be legal maneuvers so the less the officer remembers you the harder it will be for him to recall details about your case.
As soon as you get your ticket begin preparing your defense. Read over all information printed on the ticket. Look for any inaccuracies. Did he write down your license plate incorrectly? Or print the wrong street name where the offense occurred? Etc. Any inaccuracies can discredit the officer in court and get the ticket dismissed.
Snap any pictures with your cell phone that could help your case. If I had been smarter I would have taken pictures of the obscure nature of the speed limit sign we missed. Take pictures and make note of all relevant details like road conditions, heavy traffic, or the weather that might influence your case.
The next step will be to contest your ticket. Your court date will be written somewhere on your ticket. It is imperative you show up to court that day looking presentable and like a responsible member of society. A three piece suit will be overkill, but ripped jeans and a loose fitting t-shirt will not impress the judge either. Dress casually, but nicely.
The best case scenario will be to show up for court, ready to present your case and the officer who issued you the ticket does not. In this instance, your case will be dismissed. Any fines issued against you will be returned, you’ll receive no points on your license and the instance will not go on your driving record. This is the easiest way to win your court case and happens with some regularity.
Another tactic is delay the trial as long as possible. Ask the court for a continuance to put off your court date. This will put even more time between when you received the ticket and when you finally go to court, making any details harder for the police officer to remember. If the officer can’t remember the details of why he pulled you over, you will most likely get out of the ticket. In some jurisdictions you can only ask for one continuance, but in others you can ask for several.
If you get a ticket anytime near the holidays it might behoove you to ask for a continuance until the holiday nears. This increases the chances the police officer will be on vacation and not show up for court on the new day of your trial, which means your case will be dismissed!
Sometimes fighting a ticket may cost you more than the actual cost of the ticket. In these instances it may not make sense to fight it. Find out what the maximum fine will be for your violation, the court fees, what if any jail time you are facing, and increased insurance rates. Also if it’s a serious offense or you have multiple offenses you should hire an attorney.
In other cases fighting a ticket is exactly what you should do. A lot of times if you have a clean driving record or this is your first offense, going to court will help you reduce your fine and the points put on your license.
You should also go to court if there were extenuating circumstances. I read a story about a father traveling with his daughters on the highway, at one point a bird got caught in their windshield wipers. His daughters got scared and began screaming so he sped up to dislodge the bird quickly. A cop clocked him speeding just at that moment. The cop didn’t buy the excuse and issued him the ticket, but once the man told the judge the story in court, he dismissed the case and the father didn’t have to pay any fines or get points put on his license.
I plan to go to court and hope the officer does not show up so my case will be dismissed immediately. If I do go to trial I plan to describe to the judge how the sudden speed limit slow down sign was not readily apparent. I hope my circumstances will be enough to sway the judge to dismiss my case. For me, this is really about removing the ticket from my record so I won’t incur higher premiums from my auto insurance carrier.
What I learned in my research is that going to court is half the battle. You have very little to lose and will more than likely at least get a reduction in fines and points.
Anyone else had success out there fighting a ticket? Drop me a note. I look forward to hearing from you!
Keeping Money in Your Pocket,