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How To Fight a Traffic Ticket...

Posted by njoachim305 on January 27, 2012 at 11:20 PM

The article below comes from the website:, titled: "How to fight a traffic ticket."

One minute you’re cruising down the highway making record time on your commute, and the next you’re pulled over on the side of the road with the flashing lights of a police cruiser in your rear view mirror.

Since you are innocent until proven guilty, here is how you can try to beat that ticket!

1. Be polite and cooperative when you get pulled over. Being belligerent or indignant may make you feel better but it might cost you more. By being polite and cooperative, the officer may just write your ticket for a less costly offense instead of what was actually committed and with luck, you might just get a warning! On the other hand, if you are nasty or curt, the officer may note this and the prosecutors will be less likely to cut you a deal if this went to court.

2. Avoid admissions of guilt and never make excuses or create outlandish stories.

When you are asked if you know why you were pulled over, just respond with a simple and polite, "No officer, I do not,".

Keep in mind that honesty is the best policy especially when you prefer to get off with merely a warning.

On the otherhand, if you do get you the ticket, and decide to contest it, remember that any admissions you make now, can be used against you later.

3. Follow one of the two theories regarding how you question the officer.


Adopt the 'low-profile' technique. Ask the officer if you can handle the ticket by mail. The officer will immediately see you as a low probability to go to court and may take fewer notes. When you do challenge the ticket, the officer's sparse notes will make him want to skip the hearing. Even if he does come to the hearing, his sparse notes and memory will help the judge decide in your favor. Questioning the officer on the other hand will cause him to write voluminous notes on the traffic stop.

Alternatively, question the officer more directly, as you are handed the ticket, about how the offense was detected and verified. In the case of a speeding ticket, find out where they were positioned when they clocked you and what type of speed measurement device, was used and if it was radar, laser or Accutrac. Gather as many specifics as possible, including the serial number of the device. If, however the officer estimated your speed by following you, then find out what the location was when he began to follow you. Make sure you write down the patrol car's license plate number and his badge number. If you were cited for an offense other than speeding, make sure you understand exactly why you were pulled over, especially if you were cited for something that could not have been easily seen. Do note that the officer does not have to actually give this information releated to the device used at the time of stop. You can request this information by filing a motion of Discovery, and then you will get that information.

4. Check your ticket for accuracy by reviewing it immediately upon receipt. There are two considerations here:


If there are inaccuracies that may hurt your case (i.e. if the officer notes on the ticket that you crossed two lanes of traffic when you only crossed one, or if he says traffic was heavy when in fact it was light), ask him immediately to correct them. Be very polite when requesting changes to your ticket. However if you find that the officer is not accommodating, do not argue but record the actual circumstances in your mind, and after he leaves, jot it down.

On the other hand,if there are inaccuracies that may help your case or get the ticket dismissed, such as the wrong license plate number, the wrong street, etc., you do not want to call attention to them.

5. Begin preparing your defense immediately, once the police officer has given you your ticket and left the scene.

Record relevant details, such as traffic and road conditions, weather, time of day, and any extenuating circumstances.

If you have a camera or cell phone camera take pictures - especially if your defense depends on something like an obscured speed limit sign or a huge pothole that you had to swerve to miss.

The best witness you could ever have is a dash-cam recorder. It records video in front, to the sides and rear of your car. It also records audio in your car's interior, speed, location and other driving info. It can show: red-light, full stop, traffic flow, etc.

Go to the officer’s original position (whether stationary or moving) and check for any obstructions that might have caused them to have a poor view of the alleged offense or that might have caused the radar to malfunction.

Make a diagram of the road showing where the officer was positioned, which direction you were traveling, where you eventually stopped, and other important details.

6. Read the fine print on the ticket after you get home, as there is useful information on there that might help you. Make sure you understand all of it, as it will give you instructions on how to proceed to the next step.

7. Decide whether to fight the ticket by the circumstances involved, and the information on the ticket. Weigh the costs and benefits of contesting the citation.


Find out exactly what offense you are charged with by looking at the code number on the ticket.


Find out what the cost of conviction will be, including the fine, jail or community service, mandatory diversion programs, and increased insurance rates.

8. Calculate the cost of fighting the ticket and weigh it against the chances of getting it dismissed or reduced to a lower charge.

9. Decide whether you will need a lawyer.

Find out whether or not the jurisdiction where you received the ticket or were involved in an accident will allow you to have a lawyer for a hearing on a traffic ticket that cannot lead to a criminal conviction for either driver (criminal convictions are for DUI, felony hit and run, etc.) This information will be on the ticket.

If you plan a civil suit against the other driver in an accident, your attorney can come to court to observe the hearing on the ticket, but may not be involved in the hearing.

10. For most minor traffic violations, it might not be cost effective to retain an attorney.

Some exceptions include a ticket you received while far from home—an attorney can handle your case without you having to travel to court—or a ticket issued by photo enforcement (in many jurisdictions, if you’re not in the court room, there is no way to prove that you were the driver, and the case will be dismissed).

You should, however, hire an attorney for more serious infractions, such as DUIs.

11. Request a trial. Your ticket may include a court date, or you may need to request a trial.

For most minor violations, your ticket will also give you the option to pay the fine.

In almost all jurisdictions, paying the fine is an admission of guilt, so do not remit payment. Instead, follow the required steps to get your day in court.

12. Get as much information as you can.

Well before your court date, send a written request for discovery.

Discovery is the legal notion that you are entitled to see all the evidence against you and other relevant information that the prosecutor may have that can help or hurt your case. The prosecutor’s office must provide this information if you request it.

In some jurisdictions, you may need to file a motion for discovery for the judge to consider. In addition, you may be able to file a public records request for relevant information.

Some things you’ll want to specifically request (and you generally must make specific requests) include the officer’s copy of the ticket, maintenance and calibration records for any speed monitoring or breathalyzer device that was used by the officer to charge you, and the officer’s training records and certifications.

The exact nature of your case and your plan of defense will dictate the exact information you need to get.

13. Try to cut a deal.

In many places, you can request a pretrial conference with the prosecutor. This is an opportunity to plead to a lower charge or get a reduction in points or fines before you go to court.

Sometimes you can make an appointment for sometime before the court date, while sometimes you can only meet with the prosecutor right before your hearing.

Always consider any deal thoroughly, and make sure you understand the implications on both your driving history and your insurance costs.

14. Consider traffic school. Many jurisdictions offer an option to attend traffic school. In return, your charges will be dismissed or reduced. Explore this option by researching the law in your state. If you find that traffic school is a good option, request it from the prosecutor or judge. In California commercial drivers may not take traffic school.

15. Request a continuation of your hearing.

In most jurisdictions, the police officer who gave you the ticket must show up for the court hearing.

If he or she fails to show, your case will be dismissed. Many times officers will schedule many court hearings on a certain day so that they can appear for all of them at once.

If you request a continuation (a change of date) you increase the odds that the officer won’t show up.

You usually need to do this in writing, and typically you will need to make your request several days in advance of the scheduled hearing.

You might see about choosing a court date that is closer to the holidays - this might increase the odds of your officer being out on vacation.

16. Plan your defense.

Once you’ve decided to go to court, make sure you know how you will argue your case.

If there is a particularly egregious error on your ticket, you may be able to rest your defense on that, but minor discrepancies (such as the color of your car) won’t help you out.

If your defense is based upon extenuating circumstances, make sure they are sufficient to warrant a dismissal. The judge will not be particularly impressed by “I was running late to work,” for example.

Make an outline of your points, and make sure your evidence is well-organized.

17. Go to court and plead not guilty. Show up to your hearing looking clean and professional.

If you have not yet had the opportunity to speak to the prosecutor, now is a good time to do so. Unless you are offered a satisfactory deal, plead “not guilty.” A plea of “no contest” or “guilty with explanation” will do you no good.

Remember, just showing up to court may result in a dismissal if the police officer doesn’t also show up.


In Broward County, Florida, and perhaps in other places, if the officer does show up, change your plea to “no contest”; in most cases you will only pay court costs, with no points on your license and no traffic school necessary. There are many law firms in the area that will handle this for you for a reasonable fee, saving you the time and lost wages of going to court.

18. Use facts to present your case to the judge without admitting guilt.

"I was only doing 57 in a 55" is an admission of guilt. "I was traveling at a safe speed for the conditions" does not admit guilt.

Politely and clearly explain your defense, entering evidence as necessary.

In some cases (for example, a malfunctioning stoplight or an obscured speed limit sign) you may be able to admit guilt without harming your case.

Many conservative municipalities, however, maintain a master copy of all traffic laws, speed limits, and zone descriptions in a set of books at a courthouse or town hall. Sometimes these municipalities will not take your (legitimate) ignorance of the law as an excuse.

19. Make mental or handwritten notes of the decisions of the judge. Many courtrooms do not record conversations for traffic proceedings where criminal penalties are not reasonable. There can be ambiguity in how the judge declares your guilt or innocence and any penalties you might face. Make sure the Clerk or Collections department has information that matched what the judge decided.

20. Follow through with all the court’s requirements. Many times the judge will allow you to pay a fine without incurring the points on your license, or he or she will allow you to enter a diversion program. These arrangements and others can only benefit you if you follow through and complete the requirements in a timely manner. If you don’t, you will most likely be convicted of your original offense, and other charges may follow.

21. Request a copy of your motor vehicle record (MVR) from the state department of motor vehicles. Occasionally, clerical errors result in a dismissed ticket appearing on your MVR as a conviction. These can be difficult to clear up quickly (for example, when your insurer notices and raises your premiums), so it’s best to make sure your record is accurate. Telephone the court building and ask to speak to the Clerk's Office, or speak to someone who can verify that your case is paid, dismissed, postponed, etc.



The easiest way to beat a ticket is to Avoid a Traffic Ticket in the first place.

Help the officer relax. Traffic stops are the most unpredictable and dangerous part of normal police work, and officers are trained to approach vehicles with extreme caution. Always keep your hands in sight, preferably on top of the steering wheel. If you're stopped at night, immediately turn on your interior lights. Have your license, registration and proof of insurance handy before the officer comes up, or wait until he comes up and then tell him you need to open your glove compartment or purse. Use respectful language, like "Yes, sir" and "No, sir."

Consider recording the conversation during the traffic stop. An audio recording of your interaction with the officer can help you avoid a “he said/she said” situation in court — an argument you will almost certainly lose. Some states require that all parties be notified that they are being recorded, while others do not. Check the external links for more detailed, state-by-state information, and make sure you know the law in your jurisdiction before you record anyone without their consent.

If the officer relies on radar, ask to see the display of your speed on his radar unit. Often the officer has either cleared the result from his display or is fudging. This won’t lead to a dismissal by itself - and in some jurisdictions the officer isn’t required to show you the display - but discrepancies or lack of evidence may help as part of your defense.

Start preparing your defense immediately. It can take time to get necessary information from police departments and prosecutors, so make sure you request this information well in advance of your hearing date. You’ll also need to be proactive throughout the process to keep on top of court deadlines and to ensure you have the most complete defense possible.

If possible, try to delay your court hearing as much as possible. The longer the time between the ticket was issued and the trial the more the chance that the officer will forget details about your particular case. For example, if there were any trucks around, or if you had to swerve to avoid an accident.

Often simply showing up in court to fight the ticket is enough because many times, especially in big cities, there is a high probability that the officer won't show up. If the officer won't show up, then the case is usually dismissed.

In big cities or counties where the turn out for court is usually large, the judge may offer to reduce the charge to a lesser offense (reducing points on your driving record) or to a county ordinance (no points on your record).

Remember the sixth amendment guarantees you a speedy and public trial. For example, in California, a speedy trial is defined as 45 days from the time of the infraction. In many jurisdictions you must go to the courthouse in person to get a court date. During this process you will have to fill out several documents. If your local court system is a backed up, then among those legal documents you are asked to sign, will be one in which you waive your right to a speedy trial. Do not sign that document. You cannot be legally forced to waive this right. What this means is that if the court system cannot fit you in, within those 45 days, (times for your state may vary) then your case must be dismissed.

In some states (including California) you are entitled to a trial by mail. This is the best option for beating your ticket. You submit your claim as to why you are innocent in a letter, and the officer must do the same. While officers will often show up for court because it is an overtime opportunity, trial by mail is pure paperwork, and they will often not bother to submit their side of the story. When this happens, you win by default. Should you lose by mail, you have lost nothing: you can still request an in-person trial (as if your mail verdict never happened), request traffic school, or pay your fine.

Your entire case can rest on your attitude, be on your best behavior inside and outside of the courthouse. Always show respect for the court and the proceedings. Win or lose, it is always best to thank the judge. You never know if you will have to appear in front of them again.

Most radar guns need to be recalibrated every 30-60 days, and due to ignorance, lack of funding, or laziness, they rarely are. One solid arguement for your case is to prove that the measurment device is faulty. In some states the officer must check the calibration after issuing the ticket - usually by using two tuning forks held in front of the radar, which vibrate at the frequencies for 35 mph and 55 mph. Verify whether this was done and documented.

Examine what policies, guidelines, and standards your local transportation authority uses in the design and operation of its infrastructure. "A Policy On Geometric Design of Highways and Streets", also known as the "Green Book", is published by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, provides the source for most state agencies in the design of their roadways. Similarly, the "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices", published by the Federal Highway Administration, often serves as the foundation for most states in determining their policies and standards on such traffic control devices as signs, markings, and signals. Much of time, especially on municipal and county roads, traffic control devices do not meet the requirements set forth within the MUTCD and related violations are therefore susceptible to being dismissed from court. The MUTCD is available at no-charge online (see external links).



The advice in this article is mostly for Americans in the United States. For example in many places in the world it is acceptable to offer cash to the police! Different countries (and states in the USA) have very different ways of dealing with things and, of course, different legal systems.

This article is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of a lawyer or your own research. Laws and legal processes differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and you must familiarize yourself with those in your jurisdiction.

Don’t ignore a ticket. You must show up for court if your ticket instructs you to. If your ticket gives you the option to go to court or pay the fine, you must do one or the other. If you wish to pay the fine, be sure to do so by the due date

Don’t be belligerent either to the police officer or in court. Belligerence can never help your case, and can frequently hurt your chances of a good deal or a dismissal.

Always make sure you know the implications of proving your defense. Sometimes a defense that seems effective does nothing more than prove your guilt. For example, if you say you were simply traveling at the speed of other traffic, you may prove that you were breaking the speed limit.

The best possible way to avoid a traffic ticket is to try to avoid getting one. This saves you time,money and from a lot of stress.

Categories: Law, Money

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