Fight Your Speeding Ticket, Save Yourself Some Dough

By Andrea Karim on 2 April 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 23 comments

I've never fought a speeding ticket before. I usually just pay it and forget it. By "usually", I mean, for the two tickets I got before when I was 16 and 19 years old.

My recent ticket was an anomaly for a couple of reasons. And I've decided that I have to fight it, so I've been researching ways in which you can fight your tickets. Here's what happened to me, and what I found out about fighting the system.

Country Road, Take Me Home, Late at Night, With a Big Truck Following Me....

I was driving home to Seattle from my parents' house, which is a few hours' drive. I had gotten a late start, and had chosen a quieter, more remote route to avoid the death race that is I-90 westbound. I was driving behind a small car that was going well under the speed limit. When I reached a passing lane, I passed him, going over the speed limit to ensure that I made it past him (the passing lanes weren't that long).

As I was slowing down in the passing lane, a large truck came zooming up the left lane, so I pulled into the right one to let him pass. He didn't.

The truck followed me at an uncomfortable range for the next 2 miles. His headlights were shining in my rearview and side mirrors, and it was making me nervous. I sped up to get away from him, but he kept pace with me. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I was scared. This was a huge truck that appeared intent on sitting on my car's tail for the rest of the drive.

I am female, driving alone, on a more-or-less deserted road, at 11:30PM. My cell phone just died, so I couldn't call anyone. I couldn't pull over, as it was a narrow, twisting road and there wasn't much of a shoulder, and besides, what single woman would pull over and let some nutcase in a giant Chevy kill her in the mountains? I tried a few times to speed up and get away from him, since he didn't want to pass me, but he wouldn't pass.

Finally, as I was reaching a small hamlet with a gas station, and preparing to pull over, the truck behind me began flashing police lights.

That really threw me for a second. Police lights? On a truck? Oh. State patrol. Washington State Mountain Patrol.

I pulled over, and got all my papers ready. I have to admit that I was in shock. Looking back, the reaction that my have been more appropriate would have been to shout, "What the hell were you thinking? Why were you following me like that? You scared the living daylights out of me, you sonofabitch! You don't do that to single women late at night on a mountain road! Give me your badge number!" Not that I advocate screaming at cops. But righteous indignation might have gotten me farther than silent stewing.

But instead, I was fuming. I was mad at him for following so close that I couldn't see his police lights. And it was all I could do to KEEP from shouting, although I'm sensing now that a bit of outspoken anger may have been a better response to his questions than quiet, seething rage. I probably came across as someone who was angry to get caught, rather than someone who was infuriated that she was being intimidated into speeding.

My explanation that I thought he was trying to kill me apparently wasn't enough, and I felt too drained to fight. I also sincerely believed that my clean driving record would mean that I would get a warning. But I was handed a $132 ticket.

I'll Fight the Law, But Will the Law Win?

I have several options:

  • Pay the damn ticket and forget about it. This is a tough one for me, because I feel like I don't deserve it. This will save me time and effort.
  • Plead guilty but explain the circumstances. Perhaps pay a lower fee, perhaps have a point added to my driving record. If I'm lucky, I might be able to request deferred adjudication, where I pay a fine, but no point is added to my driving record should I be convicted of no further violations for a specified period (usually one year) thereafter.
  • Fight it in court on my own. Plead not guilty and tell them why I'm not guilty. This requires significant time and effort, and may or may not result in a dropped ticket or a reduced fine.
  • Get a lawyer. Hiring a lawyer will cost a decent chunk of money. In my case, a flat fee of $350 for a successful lawyer who may be more apt at explaining to a judge why it's not cool for a cop in a large truck to tail someone on a dark mountain highway for several miles. I'm wary of this because $350 is a heftier hunk of change than $132. However, I'm unable to determine how much my insurance would increase by (if at all), should I plead guilty to a speeding ticket. My insurance agent attempted to run the numbers for me, but admitted that even if the system doesn't seem to want to increase my premiums now, they most likely would do so once the traffic conviction was processed and would MANUALLY enter an increase into their system.

Tips for Fighting Your Ticket

  • While the incident is still fresh in your mind, write down everything that you remember. You can take pictures of the scene if you want to. If the officer was particularly nasty (mine wasn't, but I had one before who was), make note of that.
  • Send in your paperwork within a week. I know you have 15 days, but do it within 7. Don't let it wait, or you're screwed.
  • If you chose to fight it, when you get your court date, ask for an extension immediately.
  • Subpoena the officer, and request all of the evidence that will be used by the prosecution.
  • If you don't receive this paperwork within 3 days of the court day, request another extension.
  • Some states let you challenge the radar gun's accuracy. In other states, you can try to establish whether or not the gun was accurately calibrated.
  • Look for discrepancies on your ticket and between your ticket and the officer's notes. I'm curious about mine, for instance, because the officer gave me one explanation for assessing my speed, and noted a different method on my ticket. Discrepancies are nearly a sure-fire way to get the charges dropped. The color of your car wrong? Dropped. The time was wrong? Dropped? Your address was wrong? Dropped.
  • The notes you took earlier about the incident. Type them up, and keep them with you. Make sure that it's all true (it's harder to remember a lie than it is to remember the truth, and plus, you don't want to lie in court). Bring all of your evidence with you, labeled, and in a folder.

Here are some links with speed-ticket fightin' advice (none of it is legal advice, just tips, so don't go thinking that you're getting actual law advice).

As usual, Lifehacker is a good source of info on how to charm your way to what you want.
FYST (Fight Your Speeding Ticket)
NMA (National Motorists Association)
Fun story about how Google Maps exonerated a driver.
Nolo.com gives 5 strategies for fighting a ticket.

Remember, time is money, but sometimes you lose out on both. As Fringeweb points out:

Losing isn't terribly traumatic. Yes, you'll have to pay the fine and get a point on your insurance. On the bright side, the assessed fine will often be less than the standard penalty, and you have the right to appeal. Of course, you're already out the time you put into the case...

I think I'd rather waste the time and know that I tried to fight something that I find injust, rather than to just give up. But I'll update as the case goes on.

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Guest's picture
Rebecca

Another thing you can do is find out everything you know about the specific violation and quiz the officer about the law. Most likely you can trip them up on the stand with a great cross examination. watch some great court movies to see what I mean.

Rebecca johnson
www.trafficticketsolutions.ca

Guest's picture
Guest

I don't know about your state, but in mine, the speed limit is somewhat flexible depending on road conditions and circumstances. ie, you can get a ticket for driving 50mph in a 70mph zone if conditions are bad, but also get out of a ticket if you can prove you were driving safely.

A lawyer will be able to sort this out for you and compared to the insurance rate hike it's CHEAP. They'll almost always be able to get the penalty reduced for you.

Paul Michael's picture

Check this MSN Money video here

Guest's picture
Not a guest

Oh my God someone was tailgating you AND YOU'RE A SINGLE WOMAN!!!!!11 Police officer should have been fired for not realizing you are a single woman YOU DESERVE BETTER.

Are you in therapy now for this horrific ordeal? You should sue the state to pay for your Xanax prescription, too.

Re-read your post and then call it to mind the next time you want to complain that there are few women at executive levels in business or politics. Maybe this neurotic dread of everything and totally insane menstrual overreaction to the slightest risk is the reason. "I should have raged at him like a hysterical shrew!" Yes, you should have. Then he could have charged you with something that would stick and you'd be boo-hoo-hooing about that, too.

Also, follow Rebecca Johnson's advice, traffic court works just like TV law dramas, actually isn't everything in the world just like TV? HA HA HA!

Andrea Karim's picture

There's only one person on this comment thread who needs to refill their prescriptions, and it isn't me. Trying to formulate a connection between legitimate fears and the glass ceiling is incredibly disingenuous. That's all I'm going to say, since I'm trying out a new policy of not feeding the trolls.

Those of you interested in the topic female bloggers and the incoherent, generally sexist rants against them might be interested in Joan Walsh's blog on Salon.com, which discusses the recent Kathy Sierra brouhaha.

Paul Michael's picture

Maybe we should instigate some kind of I.Q./personality test before people can leave comments on Wisebread. Nothing way over the top, but enough to weed out the classless, undignified, rude and moronic. As I say, just a thought.

Guest's picture
Guest

One thing to do, before going to court, is to research on the officer. Subpoena the police department for his personnel records, and see if there are complaints in his record; most likely, there will be. Given the way he acted, he probably has a history of similar behavior, and a string of complaints for similar incidents (or worse). If so, hold a deposition, and grill him on his previous conduct. Subpoena his supervisor, partner (if he has one; many departments no longer assign specific partners), and other officers, and grill them about his behavior. If there is negative information, you'll send the message that you intend to expose it in court; quite likely, he'll make a panic-stricken call to the district attorney to get the ticket dismissed before he has to go to court and be exposed. In addition, file a formal complaint against him, both with his department and with the Sate Attorney General and consider filing a full blown lawsuit against the police department. Contact the media as well; government (and remember, the police work for the government) hate the media more than anything else. If there is a local "troubleshooter" or "investigator" with the six o'clock news, call them and try to get them to do a story on the officer. When his face is on the news at 6:00, with you crying and saying "I thought he was going to kill me, and then I found out, last month he beat a subject unconscious", he'll either be fired outright or resign and move out of state. Bonus points if you can get the AP to pick the story up; if he was State Police, it may embarrass the state enough to get the AG to file criminal charges. Your $135 ticket just won't be worth it to them when Oprah is calling for comment.

Guest's picture

That is some very good advice that is commonly overlooked. Subpoena the officers records and check him out thoroughly; see if he has a history of complaints and/or questionable acts to fulfill his ticket quotas by any means necessary. Many of these officers do this, I have been a victim of this myself and could have taken him to court and won had he not realized I was more educated than he was and would not be taken advantage of without a fight. I got pulled over one time for no reason at all, and when I asked the officer (who wanted to search my car for reasons that are beyond me) what his reason for pulling me over was and to explain the probably cause for doing so and requesting to search my car he stayed quiet for a moment and responded by telling me "I made eye contact with him when he passed me that made me look suspicious". Seriously? Needless to say, I did not let him search my car and did not get any type of citation. My point is that challenging a citation is the right thing to do, especially when you know you should not have received it. Everyone needs to remember that these cops are just people, not gods among men who get to do whatever they want to you without just cause or proper explanation. Don't let yourself become a victim.

Guest's picture
Guest

can u get out of it if he put down the road conditions and weather conditions wrong

Guest's picture
KEvin Markis

I found a great list on a site on why to never pay a traffic ticket. check it out at www.trafficticketsolutions.ca and maybe it will help save you some dough!

Guest's picture
Jon

Really enjoy reading your blog - the content is interesting and fun.

For an attorney's perspective on traffic offenses, please check out my blog.

Guest's picture
K

A friend of mine who has rubbed shoulders with powerful people once received this advice from a judge. he said pay the ticket but overpay by at least one dollar. the court will mail back the remainder in the form of a check. rip this up, never cash it. the file will remain open and you will not get points on your license. i have not tried this but it seems a sound theory.

Guest's picture

Wow, does that really work?? I wish I had known that 10 years ago! I have always fought every ticket I got, only got one of them dismissed because the officer didn't show up in court. That is some good advice though if it actually works, hopefully I won't have to try it anytime soon but if I do, I will let you know how it goes.

Guest's picture

As a lawyer I see people fight their tickets every day. It is always best to consult an attorney for advice first.

Guest's picture

I'm not sure this will work in every court... If it doesn't.. once you've paid the fine it will be hard to reopen it if you can at all.. you may be stuck with increased insurance and DMV taxes.. I'd suggest just fighting it with the help of an lawyer.

Guest's picture
Guest

I received a traffic ticket for going 50+ over the speed limit and thought my life was overrrr!! I got my license suspended and my vehicle impounded- yes, this actually happens from one simple traffic ticket! I had never received a traffic ticket before, and didn’t know where to start! Until of course I visited www.street-legal.ca! The staff there was so helpful and knew exactly what to do with this traffic ticket! I was relieved that I could just sit back while they took over and did all the work for me, and I didn’t have to worry about it! After they did what they had to do, and went to court for me for my ticket- everything was cleared! I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to recommend Street Legal to anyone!

Guest's picture

I went to No Points Traffic Tickets after getting a ridiculous speeding ticket and they took care of it for me. I was caught on radar doing a 60 in a 40 zone, which just didn't make sense because it was in a residential area and I never speed. Nonetheless, I got a free quote by email and they eliminated my ticket! Didn't get anything on my record so my insurance won't go up (I'm not 25 yrs old yet).

Check 'em out, they now offer a 25% for XCoppers clients that got screwed over since they went bankrupt. They will price match too! Good luck!

Guest's picture
C Conway

These days you have to fight every traffic ticket to keep your insurance low. There is some good information on the web but there are a lot of fly by night types as you can see by previous posts. Check them all out but for honest legal advise from a company not out to just take your money have a look at www.OTTLegal.com

Guest's picture
rocio

the whole discrepancies thing, the citation has my race as W. im pretty sure thats white/caucasian and im hispanic (and you can tell). can i get it dropped for that? and how would i do that?

Guest's picture
Street Legal

If you plead guilty or automatically pay a traffic ticket or speeding ticket, you are admitting that you’re guilty of the offence. Any Traffic ticket on your driving record may significantly affect your insurance rates and you may also be accumulating demerit points which will lead to a licence suspension. Call 1877-603-UWIN(8946)

Guest's picture
Street Legal

If you plead guilty or automatically pay a traffic ticket or speeding ticket, you are admitting that you’re guilty of the offence. Any Traffic ticket on your driving record may significantly affect your insurance rates and you may also be accumulating demerit points which will lead to a licence suspension. Call 1877-603-UWIN(8946)

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Guest's picture

That is the worst. Policemen shouldn't be able to tailgate you like that. Good for you for contesting it.