The Art of Getting Out of Speeding Tickets

It happens to the best of us: whether we’re running late and need to shave a few minutes off of our trip or just completely oblivious to our own speed, just about everyone gets an occasional speeding ticket. When you get a ticket you will probably deserve it, however that does not mean you can’t get out of it. I am certainly not advising anyone to speed and the tips that I can offer will not work if you are going at a speed that truly endangers others, but for the garden variety ten-over speeding ticket, there are several ways to avoid stops, tickets, and fines.

The process starts long before the speed trap. I wont advise you to simply not speed – that’s a given. If you are a fast driver, you should know whether your car is going to help or hurt the chances getting pulled over and getting a ticket. First, color and model matter. Red sticks out and sports cars will naturally be eye catching and appear to be going faster. The moral of the story: if you own a red Corvette you will need to be more careful than if you own a white Neon. The condition of your car will also matter. If you are pulled over and your back seat is a mess, your bumper is falling off, or you have questionable stickers on your car you’ll make a bad first impression, and believe it or not, that can really matter since it will set the tone for the traffic stop.

Now let’s assume that you do get pulled over; a ticket is by no means a foregone conclusion. In fact, there are a great many things you can do to help your chances. First, the basics: be respectful and act curiously. Talk to the officer, don’t put him or her on the defensive, be polite, don’t be confrontational, and avoid name-dropping – it rarely works and will likely simply irritate the officer. In short, try to make the officer like you. A good way to both show respect and impress an officer is to address them by their proper title. For example, if the officer’s uniform has three or more stripes, chances are, he or she is a Sergeant. One or two stripes generally means the officer is a Corporal. An officer driving a state car with no stripes is usually a trooper. If the officer is in a county car with no stripes then he or she is a Deputy. If you are at all unsure, you should simply refer to the officer as “Officer”, “Sir”, or “Ma’am”.

Now back to the traffic stop. If you are pulled over but have a good reason for speeding, mention it. Don’t act as if having a reason to speed makes you entitled to violate the law, and try to phrase your reason in the form of admission of guilt. For example, you could say, “I am very sorry Officer. It was my fault that I was speeding butâÂ?¦” Similarly, if you have a clean driving record its worth mentioning. While it’s unlikely that either an admission coupled with a reason or a clean record will get you off the hook, it is always worth trying. When asking the officer to be lenient, it is also pays to be understanding. The phrase “I understand if there’s nothing you can do” can work wonders since it both shows humility and recognizes that the officer is only doing his or her job. Importantly, if your excuses and gentle language don’t work, don’t get upset. The fact is you probably were speeding and you should be prepared to deal with the consequences gracefully.

I wouldn’t advise lying in order to create an excuse. Most officers can detect a lie easily – its what they are trained to do – and if they think you are lying to them, you are likely to lose any prospect of leniency. However, if you do choose to lie, at least make it plausible: Don’t say your wife is giving birth at this very moment; say you were running late. Even more importantly, don’t offer a lie that can be easily be tested: Don’t say you were going to work if you’re in jeans and a tee shirt.

Okay, so all your smooth talking and excuses didn’t help you and you got a ticket. As you are debating whether to challenge the ticket or not there are a few things you should know. First, look at the ticket. Make sure it is signed. If the officer does not sign a ticket it is invalid. Of course this gets stressed in training to no end so its rare to find an unsigned ticket but it never hurts to look. Next, look at the charge. If it is a speeding charge, read the details. Some speeding tickets go into great detail concerning the conditions and method used to determine your speed; these are the hardest to fight. Other tickets are vague, listing only a speed; these tickets are much easier to challenge in court. You may also get a ticket for “failure to obey a posted traffic control device.” This basically means that you are being fined for not paying attention to the signs posting the speed limit. While these tickets generally carry heavier fines, they less often carry points and can be easier to have reduced in court. As you decide whether to pay the fine or appeal, consider the difficulty of making your case. If you were doing 30-over in a school zone its simply not worth the effort.

Lets say you think you have a case though and you decide to challenge the ticket. First you should think about why you are challenging it. Are you admitting guilt and just hoping to have the fine reduced or are you actually disputing the facts? These are two very different things. Generally, people just go to court to have fines reduced. This is so common that many states have special avenues for people wishing to do so. If your state allows this, make use of it. It avoids wasting the police officer’s time as well as your own since many times this type of system requires neither of you to be present. The worst thing you can do is request a trial with the sole aim of having your fines reduced if your state has other methods to deal with people pleading guilty. This will just piss the judge and the officer off and may even result in you having to pay additional fines.

If you decide to head to trial you open up more possibilities for having your fine decreased or your ticket thrown out. First, you should delay your trial as much as possible. Most court systems allow for three postponements, use them! This is useful because the officer who ticketed you is required to be at court for your trial and, if he or she cannot attend your trial, the case is dropped and you get off. While your first hearing is scheduled for a time when the officer will defiantly be at court, if the trial is postponed, it is more likely that the officer will not be able to attend.

As your trial nears you will have other matters to consider. For example, some people hire lawyers for traffic court. This is generally a waste of money, especially if you are simply trying to have your fine reduced. Ironically, having an attorney present can actually work against you in this situation because it may convey a certain amount of arrogance to the judge. Depending on the complexity of the case, you may want to consider an attorney if you are arguing the merits of a speeding ticket as opposed to asking for a reduction in the fine. Even in the most complex cases though, it is generally not the practice to have an attorney present. In addition to simply being overkill, the attorney’s fees are generally higher than the fine so think long and hard before calling a lawyer.

So it’s the day of the trial, you should still not give up hope of getting out of that pesky $50 fine. First, if you are a member of any branch of the U.S. military – and I don’t care if you’re a reservist for the Coast Guard, I mean ANY – for God’s sake, wear your uniform to court. Judges, like the rest of the country, have a great deal of respect for the men and women of the armed services and quite a few of them will be happy to toss out a minor traffic violation for a young man or woman in uniform. If you don’t have a uniform, dress as formally as possibly. Don’t be flashy, but dress as if you were going to a job interview. Ties are a must if you are a guy and a suit jacket helps. Never ever wear a tee shirt, shorts, sandals, or anything else you would not want to be wearing at a nice restaurant. Dressing “down” will almost completely eliminate any chance of gaining a favorable settlement since, as a judge would say, it shows disrespect for the courtroom.

In court, be respectful: Don’t interrupt, use only proper language, remain calm and speak clearly. Judges see scores of traffic violations a day and will have no qualms about dismissing some of them; however to get dismissed the judge will need to like you. Thus, you will want to appear graceful, proper and like a fine upstanding citizen.

If you are in court to argue the facts of a case, do not incriminate yourself. The phrase “Well sir, it’s true I was speeding, but I was only doing 20mph over, not 30” wont do you any good. I am not advising you lie, just that you not freely offer any information that is detrimental to yourself. On the other hand, if you are in court to ask for a lighter penalty you should openly and respectfully admit your guilt. You’re not there to argue with anyone so don’t be aggressive and don’t contest the facts. Simply admit guilt, offer evidence that you’re not a bad person, and then respectfully ask for a lighter sentence.

As I said above, the best way to avoid a speeding ticket is to simply not speed. However, we all have moments where speeding may seem appropriate. If you get caught you should keep this article in mind. With a little thought and a lot of luck, you may be able to avoid a fine.

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