How to Beat a Speeding Ticket
April 21, 2005 8:29 PM   Subscribe

How to Beat a Speeding Ticket, for those feeling rebellious. Work the system to your advantage.
posted by zardoz (58 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
umm....I prefer the first entry here
But I'm not so sure this FPP was errrr.....needed, to be perfectly p.c. about it.
posted by peacay at 8:44 PM on April 21, 2005

speeding/parking tickets: I can't read rite.
posted by peacay at 8:45 PM on April 21, 2005

I am not sure where the author lives that the officer would be making a closing argument and trying the case. The officer is a prosecuting witness, and an assistant District Attorney should be trying the case.

I am a criminal defense attorney and I have represented people on literally thousands of speeding tickets. So I will add my own pointers:

1. It is very good advice to be quiet and cooperative.

2. Depending on the state you live in, it may be useful to get an attorney. Call an attorney who practices in the area that you got the ticket. If the attorney tells you that she can do something for you that will be a satisfactory resolution to you, then hire the attorney. In most places you will not have to go to court if you hire an attorney for a speeding ticket.

3. If you represent yourself, ask the assistant District Attorney to reduce the charge to something that is acceptable to you. An assistant District Attorney's primary objective is to move cases. She does not want to try your case.

4. If the assistant District Attorney will not reduce your ticket enough, then tell her you want to try the case only if you have time to sit around in court all day. She does not want to try your case. She will almost certainly improve her offer to you as your trial time approaches. She knows the Judge absolutely does not want to waste time trying a speeding ticket.

5. Do not try your case. You will lose. The Judge will not want to find someone not guilty of a speeding ticket because it will just encourage anyone else in the courtroom to try their own cases. Also, officers are trained to measure speed by radar, pacing, and even observation. Finding you not guilty will be a slap in the officer's face. Judges generally respect officers. In most states, speeding at a lower rate of speed is a lesser included offense. That means that if you are charged with going 90 in a 55 and the Judge thinks that you were only going 80, the Judge will find you guilty of going 80 in a 55. He will not find you not guilty under that scenario.

6. Call your insurance company and find out how your ticket will impact your insurance. Look up the Safe Driver Insurance Plan which generally controls how much your insurance can be raised for various offenses. For example, the Safe Driver Insurance Plan allows for a one speeding conviction of ten miles or less over the speed limit in a three year period. If the assistant District Attorney offers you nine over and your record is clear for the past three years, then you can plead to it without the ticket affecting your insurance.
posted by flarbuse at 8:52 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I like the advice to try throwing something at the cop in the courtroom. I'm sure that's a great idea.
posted by washburn at 8:55 PM on April 21, 2005

Mmm... I posted this as a monkey but will give it another go.

I would recommend, if you intend to fight the ticket anyway, that you go and watch the court proceedings for a bit before deciding what you want to do. If the court is busy, you may see the prosecutor cutting a deal with every person who seeks it -- meaning that they'll plead guilty to a lesser charge (in this case, a lesser speed over the limit, incurring a smaller fine and probably fewer points/demerits). This happens because the prosecutor may be overloaded with cases so instead of spending twenty minutes on testimony for your ticket, he/she will make a deal and spend the time on some greater charge on someone else, like driving without insurance (for example, if the court is just doing traffic).

If it turns out that deals are not to be had that morning, you could wait to see if the officer testifying against you shows up, but of course you'll need to be able to recognize him, and he doesn't have to be there all morning/afternoon so that tactic could backfire. In any case, if it looks like the prosecution is prepared, you always have the option of going up in front of the judge and saying then that you're prepared to accept responsibility and pay -- and you can even take a shot then to "plead guilty with an explanation" which could result in a lower fine -- but it usually doesn't.

Things to consider:

i) by not paying the ticket before making your appearance, you may pay a court fee. The amount varies, but it's what the court charges for wasting their time.

ii) if you were belligerent with the ticketing officer, don't expect a deal of any kind. any good prosecutor will check with the cop before striking a deal with you.

iii) "Points" agents or the like are a double-edged sword, at best. For one thing, both cops and some judges hate them (they're usually ex-cops who are now turning profit by striking deals and... well, we'll get to that). For another, they're usually (in every case I've seen) fully prepared to lie to you. The deal with these guys is that they go down the court lists and try to contact everyone, promising that they'll get you a deal, either by you paying a greater fine (but losing few points which means less of an insurance hike so less money in the end) or even lesser points and the same fine or less points and a lesser fine (all three will be tried by the agent, depending on the situation). You are left with the impression that here is a guy (usually) who knows the law, and if the ticket isn't reduced, you pay the agent nothing (in some cases). What you don't know is that most of these clowns know next to no court procedure, couldn't fight your case if your life depended on it, and when they come to you with a triumphant story of how they fought the law and the agent won, what actually happened -- if you care -- is that they begged the prosecutor for a deal and the prosecutor said ok. If it goes to trial with one of these guys, you're going to lose lose lose.

iv) do these things only if you intend to fight the ticket anyway (contrary to the article above). if you have any self-respect, don't fight every ticket. why? well: a) it can cost you more (see above), b) you never, NEVER get to complain "shouldn't cops be doing something more important?!" when you've made one appear at trial for nothing because you can't be bothered to pay for what you've actually done, and c) it can cost you a lot more if you appear in court again fighting ticket after ticket if you are clearly guilty in every case. they will bring this up again. a little atonement goes... well, a little way, anyway.

All this from a former prosecutor, but do what you will.
posted by dreamsign at 9:00 PM on April 21, 2005

It helps if you've got a sweet ride, man. I wax my IROC every day, and the cops' radar can't get a lock on me man, the beams just slide right off.
posted by anthill at 9:02 PM on April 21, 2005

Haha, well flarbuse, a pleasure.

Good points. I will note regarding number three that if it is a case of demerits/points + cash, the DA/crown attorney is NOT going to strike a deal that gets you off all points altogether. If 40+ gets you four points and $150, they might reduce it to a 30+ at three points and $100 -- they might even go for the "3 points and donate the extra $50 to charity" (but that's dicey on a number of levels) but I've never known anyone who would reduce it below that so you get no points, so if you're at the minimum, don't expect it.

On 5, we've had plenty of people try their own cases and yes, most of them look like idiots. Judges will by and large though give them more leeway because they don't know what they're doing. They also occasionally win but... very occasionally. Oh, and if you've been tagged by a laser gun, DO NOT FIGHT THE TICKET because many judges will nail you to the wall. I had one recite from memory every spec of this gun and its testing and accuracy. Radar, ok maybe, but never never the laser if it was tested before your ticket and after, at the beginning and end of the officer's shift. Also, if you fight, pay attention to the elements of the crime. Many, many people admit every element as they're eager to get to the explanation of why they're rushing. That's not the way it works. If you have some means of arguing the elements (visibility of the officer to the stop line, improper road signs, unsafe to stop -- but that can be a tough one) then ok, but not "I was late for work" or "I'm new here and didn't know the limit".

Have fun, kiddies.
posted by dreamsign at 9:07 PM on April 21, 2005 [1 favorite]

I've beaten a few tickets by being nice and contrite while the ticket is written and then going to court. The cop usually doesn't show. This strategy failed me in Ohio last year, though. I went to court and the cop was there. I made a deal with the prosecutor. One whole stinking point off my license. FYI: 19 over in Ohio gets you 2 points on your license if you live in Ohio. If you live in Michigan, and they report the ticket to your home state, you get 4 points on your license. It's in same category as drag racing.
posted by apis mellifera at 9:08 PM on April 21, 2005

radar/laser properly calibrated, tuning forks calibrated (with radar), FCC license, radar/laser unit appears on that FCC license

It can happen. I was in a courtroom once and saw a guy get off because even though the officer had calibrated his tuning fork, he didn't have the certificate with him that said so.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:11 PM on April 21, 2005

Not trying to rain on the party (or dominate the thread -- I'll cut out here) but we can go through everything we've seen happen in court but it doesn't mean it's likely or even possible in your case. Play the odds.
posted by dreamsign at 9:16 PM on April 21, 2005

I had an interesting case in Tennessee that looked pretty bleak. I had been nailed for going 89 in a 55 zone, enough to suspend my Georgia license, being that I was under 21. So, I went to court and pleaded not guilty, but I was quickly found guilty by the judge.

However, as I was paying the court clerk, I was visibly distraught. She understood that this ticket meant a license suspension for me, so she offered to go into the courtroom to try to get the judge to reduce my ticket. Sure enough, about 15 minutes later she returned telling me that he had agreed to reduce it to 69 in a 55. It meant a bigger court fee, but it also meant I could keep my license without being penalized with any points at all. So sometimes even the court clerk can help you out!
posted by charlie36751 at 9:23 PM on April 21, 2005

Hate to let the secret out, but this has worked for me 5 times:

Act extremely cooperative. License? Yes officer, right here in my pocket. Slowly reach for pocket, pretend to search your pockets, show complete confusion that its not where you thought it was. Oh! A light goes off in your head, it must be in the glove compartment! Methodically take every item out of the glove compartment and turn it over in your hands. (Meanwhile the license is of course in your back pocket where it always is.) All the while apologize and act very very concerned. Take this slowly step by step until it includes looking under the seats, searching the trunk. Especially good if there are clothes in the trunk, then you can slowly search every pocket. All the while say things like "Oh, I am such an idiot, I know where it is! Huh? Oh Yeah! It must be..."

Done right this can take 5 to 15 minutes. During that time there is a good chance that a more important crime will come over the radio, the cop will get bored, or decide its not worth calling in for your info, because he can't just give you a no license ticket because you are sincerely searching for it and you will surely find it in the next minute.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:44 PM on April 21, 2005

how weird! I got a speeding ticket less than 15 minutes ago and I'm gonna fume about it now.

so, it was a little after midnight as I was coming over a hill on the parkway. up ahead, I saw a cop parked on the side of the road and began to brake reflexively. then, I saw that he was parked in front of a "speed limite 55" sign and breathed a little sigh of relief as I was only going a little over 60. anyways, as I pass, his lights come on and he pulls me over. when the cop asked me if I had any reason to be doing 65 in a 45, I said, "I thought the sign said 55?" and then he said that he had clocked me on the hill where it was still 45. I just said "ok???" with three question marks and then gave him my license and such and he returned with a ticket. what a crook!

BIG SIGH! I've been debating whether or not I should take it to a judge. I'm sure any reasonable person would concede the shadiness of that particular trap, but I live in rural georgia and our local budget has been ravaged pretty harshly by the bush's tax cuts. what do y'all reckon?
posted by mcsweetie at 9:45 PM on April 21, 2005

This link is far more accurate (well, for me anyways :o) Note your chances of winning are normally quite low -- you're really best off trying to find a technicality to win on. The link should explode within the first 20 mefi'ites to see it. Sorry.

That being said, I can attest from personal experience about 20% of officers are no-shows, although most of the no-shows are for minor driving offences. It is unlikely your trial will be a no-show if you were driving like a real maniac.

Your best bet is to be very nice to the officer (without admitting guilt) and persuading them to be confused. Think throwing numbers about while they're writing the ticket (Oh, officer, was I going 10 over? 15? 20? I can't remember!), "helping out" with your name on the license (Don't forget that's PPARD, not HERD), etc, etc. Of course, this doesn't work when the officer doesn't write the ticket in front of you. :-)

Now, depending on where you are, you get to pay court fees. Lucky for me I live in Ontario, and there are no court fees, so you may as well fight it and hope the 20% works in your favour. Unlucky for me, I live in Ontario where offers from the prosecution to knock the ticket down are VERY hard to come by. More likely they'll offer to knock it *UP* a notch if you take it to court.

Traffic ticket specialists are universally useless, and in the 14+ hours I've spent in a courtroom I've never seen a single one actually FIGHT a ticket. They just plead guilty for you.

Remember one thing more: NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER testify! The prosecution will roast you alive, period! If the judge won't let you enter evidence in without testifying, just forget about the evidence. It's not worth losing. And you will lose when the prosecution asks you questions.

One helpful idea I'll be testing for a friend in the next trial is busting LIDAR traps. Normally the police officer operating the LIDAR radios another officer further down who steps in front of traffic and directs you to stop (Seriously... Police officers just don't value their lives where I live!) That officer writes you the ticket, and you go home sobbing.

With any luck both officers won't show at the trial. If only the officer writing the ticket shows up at the trial, don't forget to object to every single fact about the ticket as hearsay. That officer didn't witness the LIDAR reading, and therefore can't possibly know the truth. Ergo, the prosecution needs the other officer as a witness.

'Course, if they both show, you may as well pay.

But really, just be smart. In Ontario never drive more than 14 km/h over the limit. Rarely will a cop bust you for this, it isn't a points offence, the ticket is only for $65, *AND* if you manage to have an accident, it doesn't count as speeding (speeding is accounted for by law for Ontario Insurers in accidents at only 15 km/h and above).

On the 401 you'll need to do 120 km/h of course (since there are sections which, over a period of months, not a single soul did under the speed limit), but don't go faster. The left lane is just begging to get you better acquainted with the OPP.

Just my 2 cents, and my crappy lesson on tickets.
posted by shepd at 9:46 PM on April 21, 2005

I must have gotten lucky then because I went all Perry Mason in Chicago traffic court and won. I stood there in front of the judge and the officer (who, when he wrote me the ticket, said "don't worry - I won't be in court that day") and grilled the officer. The judge smiled and kept looking at the cop as if to say "He had a point you know". I was innocent from the beginning though so I'm not sure how you could play it being guilty.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2005

mcsweetie, things like that are why I carry a disposable camera in my car. You would have a pretty solid set of evidence if you took a picture of the speed limit sign with you being stopped far down from it...
posted by shepd at 9:48 PM on April 21, 2005

In California, go buy yourself (or check out from the library) Fight Your Ticket in California. Probably the best book on the topic. Use the trail by declaration method and hope that the officer is too busy to fill out the form, which is usually the case with medium and high crime municipalities, less so with county sheriffs and the CHP.
posted by calwatch at 9:52 PM on April 21, 2005

Dude, I worked in Ontario. There are court fees here -- perhaps your circumstances avoided them as you don't pay them in all cases. But if you go to court and agree to pay the fine in front of the judge, or lose your case, you're getting roughly $30 tacked on.

Traffic ticket specialists are universally useless, and in the 14+ hours I've spent in a courtroom I've never seen a single one actually FIGHT a ticket. They just plead guilty for you.

Heh. One got cornered into fighting the ticket because his client was a no-show (for some reason he expected him there) and he had no instructions. This guy knew zero law... (sigh) Had been waiting for that for awhile. Not that I enjoyed it, of course.

And StickyCarpet, that's a great way to go from a speeding ticket to driving without a license.

And now I really am out of here. Cheers.
posted by dreamsign at 9:55 PM on April 21, 2005

I still would like to know if the cop would have any sympathy for a speeding driver with a nasty case of explosive diarrhea.
posted by sian at 10:10 PM on April 21, 2005

Dreamsign: If it gets to that point you go with "Dang! Here it is right in my back pocket! What ever is wrong with me?"
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2005

Or you could, you know, like, not break the speeding law, and avoid having to subsequently behave like a slimeball weasel.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 10:21 PM on April 21, 2005

Oh, and if you want all the details, then remember to skip the open-the-trunk move if there are bales of pot in there.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:26 PM on April 21, 2005

fold_and_mutilate: Ever heard of the cops on I95, Florida to New York, pulling over people driving 55 mph? Sure sign of a drug courrier, who else would do that?
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:30 PM on April 21, 2005

So, what I am getting out of this is that no one actually thinks driving the speed limit should be the law? Or perhaps should be only be applied to other people? kkkrist. Ok, I speed, But you know when I get caught I realize that I broke the law and pay the fine.
I acknowledge that if for some reason you are innocent you should fight the ticket, but if you where going 90 in a 55... The posted limit is the law right? Should we raise all the speed limits? Should we have no speed limit? Should we protest innocence when we are guilty? TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. No fucking wonder our leaders feel entitled to deny culpability for their actions, everyone does...

you may now blast me...
posted by edgeways at 10:40 PM on April 21, 2005

I've gotten pulled over by cops twice recently.

The first time I was going 60 (km/h) in a 50 zone. The officer said he clocked me at 70, which completely threw me off. I remember passing him and checking my speed relfexively. He just gave me a warning though, so that was nice.

The second time I was pullling out of my office parking lot at 1 or 2 am (I work pretty late sometimes) and two cop vehicles stopped me like some sort of sting operation or something. One cop was asking me questions from his window (his car was facing the other way) and the other cop got out of his car and started shining his flashlight in my car. I was pretty weirded out by the whole thing.

I probably answered more questions than I was legally obligated to, but it caught me a little off guard.

Anyway. Sorry for the derail. Please continue with the conversation.
posted by ODiV at 10:45 PM on April 21, 2005

Ok, I speed, But you know when I get caught I realize that I broke the law and pay the fine.

You can't win if you don't play.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:47 PM on April 21, 2005

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS. No fucking wonder our leaders feel entitled to deny culpability for their actions, everyone does...

Yeah! What he said! What's the difference between you guys and common MUGGERS!!!???

(All together now: "We have cars.")
posted by mono blanco at 11:30 PM on April 21, 2005

So, what I am getting out of this is that no one actually thinks driving the speed limit should be the law?

One of the few laws that they pretty demonstrably just plain don't mean, yeah. No cop or legislator thinks you should be actually driving at 65 in a 65 zone in normal conditions; you'd just be a hazard to traffic then. They just don't want you going 75 or 80 -- but busting someone for doing 1mph over the limit is going to be hard, so they knock the speed limit down to make sure that real no-shit speeding is easy to nail people for.

Really not hard to understand. Also not hard to understand how people get irritated if they get a ticket for what everyone knows is essentially safe, and is just a revenue-gathering device -- why people get irritated when they were technically speeding but not exceeding the nebulous speed limit that they actually meant.

Also: depending on your jurisdiction, you may be able to ask the judge to continue prayer for judgment. In NC this meant you paid court costs (which you'd have to pay anyway in NC, even if you don't fight it) but no fine and no points so long as you kept your nose clean for ~3 years. If you got another ticket, the first would rise from its grave and eat your brain.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:48 PM on April 21, 2005

I've always admitted upfront what speed I was honestly going at. That's always the first question -- "Do you know how fast you were going?" and if I do, I'll say yes and answer honestly.

I've gotten out of my last three pull overs (last summer was most recent, the other two were probably a good 7 or 8 years ago) by being honest. If I was going 85 in a 65 on a freeway, I'd say "oh, about 85 or so"

All three times, the officer would say "I appreciate the honesty, now you just watch yourself next time and slow down." I got a ton of tickets when I was 16-20, but for some reason they stopped after that.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that the point about never admitting any wrongdoing isn't always correct. Sometimes I think cops are just tired of being lied to all day and appreciate the honesty.
posted by mathowie at 12:21 AM on April 22, 2005

I was pulled over for speeding recently in New Jersey, doing maybe 30 over the limit. I was extremely cordial with the officer, upfront with my speeding, and then asked him very politely if he could be as quick as possible, since I was late for a funeral (I was heading to a wake, and not late at all, but whatever). He still wrote me a ticket, but only for 0-9 miles over the limit, which was extremely nice of him.

I'm thinking about driving in dress clothes from now on.

Also, if you're a young woman, just cry hysterically when pulled over. My roommate was driving the wrong way(!!!!) on a major route late at night, got pulled over and just started bawling uncontrollably. The cop let her off with a warning.
posted by deafmute at 12:24 AM on April 22, 2005

Cops tend to seriously appreciate honesty and candor, but YMMV. They get lied to all day, when they show up unannounced, no one wants to see them. When they're called up, even the people they're trying to help don't give them the straight story. Though the "cop archetype" might be surly to begin with, even the best would be surly after being treated like that day in and day out for years on end.

Mostly unrelated, but an example of honest is the best policy. I was in Santa Ana, CA, smoking a joint and walking down a quiet and mostly industrial backstreet. (Hey, it's an art colony in downtown.)

Motorcycle cop pulls up, asks "Hey, what're you smoking there?" "A joint." *officer doubletakes* "Oh, uh... ok. Shouldn't you be doing that at home or something?" "Yeah, but it's such a nice day for a walk." "Oh, I guess it is. Be careful, will you? Sheesh."

I know scenes like that are pretty common in LA and especially SF as well.

Please don't speed. It's stupid, and generally only saves mere moments of time. Plus, it usually threatens other people's lives unduly, not just your own.
posted by loquacious at 1:08 AM on April 22, 2005

I was doing 129 in a 70 in the UK and got off with £30 and 3 points because it was the day before my birthday and I was travelling 300 miles to visit relatives.

I got to sit in the cop car and watch on the video me driving perfectly through light motorway traffic and even got a congratulations on my control of the vehicle.

I love nice cops.
posted by longbaugh at 1:27 AM on April 22, 2005

I've been pulled over for speeding 7 times in my 14 years of being a driver. I was only ticketed for two. I'm always very honest (first time I was pulled over, the officer asked if I knew how fast I was going; I didn't, my speedometer was broken. Turned out I was doing 127 - in a 65. 4am on a completely empty Sawgrass Expressway in S. Florida. He wound up giving me a ticket for doing 79 - 15mph over the limit was a felony, as well as a citation for having a broken speedometer - needless to say, I was extremely stupid and he was cool as hell), and polite.

I tend to lean towards bucking authority, but many of these folks really are just doing their job. It's the powermonger assmimes that have clown costumes with shiny badges that you need to watch out for.

Honesty and politeness can go a looong way. Along with a healthy spoonful of personal responsibility.
posted by zerokey at 1:29 AM on April 22, 2005

p.s that's mph not kph (207km/h in 112km/h zone) - damn your pissant speeding laws that have no basis in reality.
posted by longbaugh at 1:35 AM on April 22, 2005

peacay - Thanks for the link at the top...Amazing site...!!
posted by Groomz at 2:04 AM on April 22, 2005

From the link:

What happens in court:

* Go check in with the clerk.
* See if your officer arrives, if he doesn't that will often be the end right there.

The list goes on, but I have to say that while the second bullet on the list should be accurate, since your accuser doesn't show up there should be no way to prosecute, my experience is that another (NYS trooper) can come in his place. This always annoys me, but the courts seem to be ok with this around here. Years ago I recall having won that way, but times are a-changing, it seems. sigh.
posted by LouReedsSon at 2:51 AM on April 22, 2005

I would have loved a nice cop.

Got ticketed for 47 in a 30 zone. (Had to return something to work and get home to see the wife before she headed out for a day of work.) I'm 37 and this was my first one, not to mind ruining an otherwise frighteningly flawless legal record.

It was 05:30 with zero traffic, the road was one long hill, so visibility was excellent, with clear, dry weather and a dry road.

I did everything you were supposed to do, despite the fact they ticketed me directly in front of where I work.

I turned on the interior lights. Kept my hands on the steering wheel. I didn't go for the glove box until authorized to. Was polite and responsible. Provided everything in a timely and organized fashion. Did not make excuses or indulge the officers with any unnecessary chatter.

Not intoxicated and well dressed, with a clean, fully functioning vehicle.

Could I get a warning? Of course not.


Continuing the foolishly responsible bit, I went and paid, without fighting it. After the good humored browbeating my wife lovingly gave me, I doubt she would have tolerated me wallying about trying to re-enact a Law and Order episode...
posted by Samizdata at 4:12 AM on April 22, 2005

I've gotten exactly one warning in my life, the rest were tickets. I've always been courteous with the officer because I do have respect for them in general. I just don't have respect for speed laws, they're only there for revenue generation.

If you're actually speeding enough to be a danger, or otherwise behaving dangerously in an automobile there's already a catchall - reckless driving. If you get one of those there are pretty serious consequences. Fines, points and your insurance company will leave you without any doubt about their displeasure.

Instead road speeds, especially where I live now, are lowered to encourage people to break the law. There are four lane highways here that are marked at 35. I continuously see marked and unmarked police cars driving above the speed limit. Being a member of the police force doesn't absolve you from the laws, at least in theory, so they should be writing themselves up for speeding. Even if they're driving their private vehicles and are caught speeding they generally don't have the laws enforced against them, it's considered impolite to actually enforce the law against fellow officers.
posted by substrate at 5:08 AM on April 22, 2005

One ticket, 17 yrs old. I did everything I was told to do. Although I was crying (I knew my dad was going to kill me), I was polite to the officer. I got out of my ticket when I went to court. The officer wrote my ticket wrong! I had to go to court because I was doing 20 over the posted limit. But it was nice that I did a little homework. 3 streets before he ticketed me the limit had gone up by 5. That doesn't sound like a lot but between a map and a picture of the speed limit sign with the street sign in the background, was enough proof for the Judge, that indeed the ticket had been written wrong. A little homework got me off with probation and the fee for taking up the courts time.
posted by monkeyhead at 6:20 AM on April 22, 2005

Sometimes after pulling me over a police officer has asked if there is a reason I was going so fast. Would it improve my outcomes to provide an excuse (or fabricate one), or is it better to just fess up and say I have no excuse?
posted by found missing at 7:01 AM on April 22, 2005

Abbie Hoffman long ago wrote a whole book about things like this.
posted by ubueditor at 7:10 AM on April 22, 2005

what edgeways said.

Oh, and mono blanco, at least muggers have the strength of character to assault people face to face, and not to hide in a tin box.

Remember Ken Kifer!
posted by scruss at 7:17 AM on April 22, 2005

The last two times I've been pulled over weren't for speeding (although I've done both the play dumb/admit nothing thing as well as the honesty thing and have had better luck with honesty) but for expired tags/city decal. First time was the day after Christmas, and I was driving out to spend the day with the family again. The cop came up behind me, pulled me over and told me I wasn't doing anything wrong as far as speeding or any other driving infraction, just that he noticed that my tags were expired and according to his computer my license had been suspended months earlier. I played dumb, he went back to his cruiser for a while with my license and registration. When he came back he said, "OK, it's the day after Christmas. Here's what I'm going to do. I won't write you up for the suspension because you say you were never notified by mail about that." He did write me up for the expired tags and city decal on my windshield, but he said those were prepayable fines and as long as I took care of everything before the court date, there wouldn't be any problem. He confiscated my license, but I had a duplicate at home that was still printed with valid dates.

I did not take care of everything before the court date. Got pulled over a second time in a different jurisdiction about three weeks later, this time by a team of cops in one cruiser. I told the truth that time and explained I had been meaning to get things all straightened out but hadn't had the chance yet. (In the meantime I'd been knowingly driving around on expired everything. Tags were expired for so long I basically no longer existed in the DMV system.) The cops wrote me up for everything, although they were really very friendly about the whole thing. And since I was two blocks from my apartment, they actually let me drive home.
posted by emelenjr at 7:38 AM on April 22, 2005

Sometimes I think cops are just tired of being lied to all day and appreciate the honesty.

A cop friend-of-a-friend also says that it just sounds bad when you say you have no idea how fast you were going. Makes you seem unaware of what you're doing, reckless.
posted by apis mellifera at 7:51 AM on April 22, 2005

Driving an hour to and from work everyday, I've had numerous run ins with moving violations. This is in Pennsylvania, US. Thoughts I have in addition to whats already been posted:

1) State Troopers tend to be more professional than the locals.
2) A combination of acting dumb and telling the truth works best. Never lie outright.
2.5) If its dark outside, turn on the dome light in your car. In either case, keep you hands on the steering wheel and don't move until the cop is at your window. Always tell the cop when you're going to grab something out of the glove box. You want the cop to be at ease, not afraid he's about to catch a sawed-off to the face.
3) Unless the trooper lets you off with a no point offense (In PA its a 3111, Failure to obey a traffic control device) FIGHT THE CASE.
4) As your trial date approaches, do whatever you can to speak with the officer again to try to work out a deal by pleading to a no points offense. Even if you can only catch him at the courtroom before the trial.
5) My usual approach is to tell them I hate to waste their time, but I can't afford to have my insurance go up. At the least I've always gotten either a no point offense, or offered to plead to a lower speed, hence lower points.
6) Even with a no point offense, the cop still gets his kill, the district gets its money and you get away just paying the price of driving like an idiot.
7) I've never had a cop not show up. That is like the holy grail of fighting speeding tickets. Don't count on it happening.
posted by bra1n at 8:12 AM on April 22, 2005

The list goes on, but I have to say that while the second bullet on the list should be accurate, since your accuser doesn't show up there should be no way to prosecute, my experience is that another (NYS trooper) can come in his place. This always annoys me, but the courts seem to be ok with this around here. Years ago I recall having won that way, but times are a-changing, it seems. sigh.

I was pulled over in Maine, and the cop actually told me to contest it (it was for an expired registration, not speeding).

If you decide to contest a ticket, just hope that it was a town cop and not a state trooper. Usually only one cop from each town shows up, and he can represent any cop from that department. However, there are usually a large number of state troopers present. On my court day, a town cop didn't show, and he was the only one who was supposed to show up from that department. Everyone with a ticket from that town got their case thrown out. In my case, my state trooper did not show, but there were about five other troopers who were happy to fill in for him. (I still got my ticket thrown out, though).
posted by heydanno at 8:20 AM on April 22, 2005

Even if speed limits are unrealistic, I still encourage everyone to just slow down. How many minutes are you really saving on the average trip? Save yourself the trouble.
posted by recursive at 8:42 AM on April 22, 2005

I was told this story many years ago by a MN State Trooper who swore it was true. (Take that with a grain of salt.)

Two women were speeding down the freeway when the driver saw the dreaded red & blue lights in her rear view mirror. She turned to her passenger and said, "Oh my God! I'm gonna get a ticket for sure. You're married to a cop; what should I do?"

Her passenger said, "Say something cute. Cops like cute."

Up marches the Trooper smartly adjusting his Smokey the Bear Hat and asks for her license and registration. The driver bats her eyelashes at him and says, "Hi, Officer. Are you selling tickets to the Policemen's Ball?"

The Trooper stares at her and replies, "Ma'am, I am not a police officer; I am a Minnesota State Trooper and State Troopers don't have balls."

It took about three seconds for him to realize what he had just said. Then he turned around, marched back to the cruiser and drove away.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:04 AM on April 22, 2005

Easy answer...don't get a ticket... :-
It is just not that hard to avoid getting a ticket in the first place.. And, if you think about it, tickets aren't for speeding, illegal turns, reckless driving, are for being stupid...

I drive a two seater, sports car, ragtop... I have fun, I do NOT follow the speed limit... I haven't been stopped by the police in over 20 years.

Pay attention, keep your eyes open, be smart....
posted by HuronBob at 9:40 AM on April 22, 2005

recursive - considering I was doing nearly double the speed limit I saved about 2 hours. I also didn't have to stop or concentrate on driving for four straight hours which prevented me from becoming a risk to other road users.

I would only recommend driving quick under certain circumstances however - good road conditions, well rested, experienced/trained at high speed driving, good awareness, sound mechanical condition of the vehicle. You wouldn't catch me doing over 100mph in the wet for example, nor with passengers or other road users.

I may drive very fast but I won't put others at risk.
posted by longbaugh at 10:24 AM on April 22, 2005

dreamsign, the court fees were waived in favour of victim's surcharge fees (because we all know that the pavement has feelings, and they get hurt when you drive too quickly).

If there are court fees you pay them as part of the ticket now -- your court date is already "prepaid" and you don't get a refund for a guilty plea.

Having seen at least 50 or 60 cases recently, in which even the longest cases requiring recesses not having the court fees added in any way at all, I feel reasonably sure that if you fight your speeding ticket today, you won't pay more.

( BTW: I asked the prosecution on this matter personally and they agreed with me... )

If you still don't believe me, I invite you to call a court clerk and see if I'm right or not! I think things may have changed since you were working in the courts here. :-)

[ Of course, there will probably be fees for no-shows, although, again, from my experience, they don't do that. FYI, the appropriate regulation is here, and *could* cost you up to $13.50 (s1.1 + s2.1 + s2.2) if you show up. Yes, the courts hate me because I read up on the documentation -- but it did nearly net me $25 for the court wasting my time once! And I'm probably going to get out of my latest parking ticket because the city doesn't make the By-Laws publically available, and the prosecution can't photocopy their disclosure properly (they cut off the signature of the officer) so I already got an adjournment for predujice in evidence against the defence... :-D ]
posted by shepd at 10:34 AM on April 22, 2005

Being honest about your speed is definitely the way to go if you want to avoid getting a ticket in the first place. It might hurt your chances if you end up in court, but I've been let off several times just by telling the truth and acting sheepish.
posted by trevyn at 12:24 PM on April 22, 2005

mathowie - be very careful about answering the question "Do you know how fast you were going?" If you answer with a speed that is over the speed limit, then you are making a confession and it is admissible (!!) as evidence. If you answer "no" then you are making a case against yourself for reckless driving. The correct answer is either "Yes", or "Yes, Officer." You could also answer "Yes, Officer, a safe driver always knows how fast (s)he's going." but that sounds smug.
posted by plinth at 2:17 PM on April 22, 2005

I got pulled over in Ohio for speeding twice. One of them was fair, the other was pretty much a speed trap.
I'm from Illinois. As I understand it legally I could lose my license in Il, for speeding in Ohio.
I don't think that's fair considering if I wanted to contest it I would have to drive hundreds of miles and take a day off work to fight it. So even though I'm innocent 9of one of 'em) I still get penalized.

edgeways & scruss - I'll be fair when the law is fair.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2005

One tip I remember reading is to not keep your hands on the steering wheel, but on the edge of your rolled-down window. When asked about it, explain how if you were a cop you would want to know where people's hands are at all times too, and that you're looking out for his/her well-being.

It's a nice gesture anyway.
posted by craven_morhead at 4:01 PM on April 22, 2005

In NJ, because of the insurance industry / points game, they enacted a law which allows someone accused of a moving violation to plead down* to a non moving violation, so no points accrue to your diriving record.
However, a person can only envoke this privledge twice int heir lifetime

*you're pleading down, but the fine is about 25% higher than the ticket amount.
posted by BentPenguin at 5:57 PM on April 22, 2005

The last ticket I got was for having an expired license plate. I didn't have anything better to do the morning of the trial, so I went to the courtroom. In the waiting room outside, I got to see the clerks telling people to just go inside and talk to the judge--that he'd almost certainly lower their fine amounts. Maybe I just live in a nice town.

Oh, and I got the expired plate thing dismissed. I just went to the BMV and renewed my plates, which was retroactive to before the ticket was issued. Essentially I had documentation showing that my plates were valid at the time the ticket was issued.
posted by benimoto at 6:30 PM on April 22, 2005

shepd, you're right, they are victim surcharge fees now. I was using out of date terminology -- but the amount was still getting added to tickets as of last year -- but only when the case was heard, which sounds suspiciously like a court fee. It was always added when: i) you change your plea in person to guilty or guilty with an explanation, or ii) you plead not guilty and lose your case. It was never written anywhere on the ticket, but the JP will order that you pay the amount ("original ticket + victim surcharge = ______"). I can consult an old binder full of ticket copies where I've scrawled the original amounts + court fees (I always wrote court fee rather than the slightly longer victim surcharge, which is probably why I remembered it that way). The only exceptions were if you fought your case and won, and if you paid at the front counter before the case was heard, despite that not being enough time to release the officer for other duties (though they arrange for him to be there on several tickets if possible). It's been one year -- almost to the day -- since I left, so it's possible that things have changed, but I doubt it...

With regard to the issue of the officer being there or not, an ethical prosecutor (and crowns up here are supposed to follow a rigorous code -- moreso by far than the defence) is not supposed to try to continue the case to get a plea or deal out of you. When your case is called, each side is asked by the judge or JP if they are ready to proceed. The crown is NOT ready to proceed if they have no witness. It was discussed somewhat heatedly around our office and the tentative agreement was that it is likewise not ethical to strike a deal before the case is heard or accept a plea if we were not ready to proceed (which I agree wholeheartedly). I agree with the sentiment in this thread that drivers should: a) drive responsibly and follow the posted speed limits, and b) take responsibility when you are caught not doing a), but it is not your responsibility to accept punishment for a charge that cannot be brought to trial.

And one thing that hasn't been stated here yet: pay attention to exactly where you were when you committed the offence because it could dramatically change your opinion regarding your options. We're past the point now where provincial prosecutors can't prosecute federal tickets and vice versa. There is an agreement whereby each can prosecute for the other -- in an uncharacteristic show of common sense. But we had one guy quite ready to pay for his driving without insurance... until he learned that since he wasn't on federal land he wasn't facing a $500 fine but $5000...
posted by dreamsign at 7:13 PM on April 22, 2005

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