How to Beat a Speeding Ticket in Court
It may be infuriating — and expensive — to get a traffic ticket, but if you are diligent there may be hope for you even after the officer hands you a citation.
That is because, according to motorist advocates, if you do a little homework and fight your ticket, you can often get that ticket reduced or even wiped from your record.
There are no direct statistics tracking how many people win cases in traffic court nationwide, said John Bowman, communications director for the drivers’ advocacy group, the National Motorists Association, based in Waunakee, Wisconsin.
“So, it’s hard to predict how any individual case will turn out,” Bowman said. “But I can tell you that if you don’t show up, you have lost already.”
A traffic ticket is costly, with fines sometimes reaching into the four-digits.
And the costs of a traffic citation don’t end once you pay your fine. After the citation makes its way onto your driving record, you will also likely be facing an increased monthly insurance bill.
What that specific repercussion will be depends on a lot of factors, said Gary Stephenson, a spokesman for State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance Co., based in Bloomington, Illinois.
Stephenson said insurance companies take a number of factors into consideration when considering your citation, such as whether this was your first ticket or fourth, and how large the fine was.
“Flagrant violations could be viewed differently than very ‘minor’ violations,” Stephenson said. “There is no cookie-cutter answer.”?
But on the other end of the spectrum, a third ticket in as many months may end up causing the company to cancel your insurance altogether.
While each incident may have different repercussions, one rule of thumb used by traffic attorneys and advocates is that your insurance will go up by the formula of (Your Fine + $50) x 5.
So, a $100 fine could end up costing you $750 or more of increased insurance costs over the next few years.
And if your job is driving, such as a commercial trucker, getting a moving violation may even cost you your job.
Ready to Rumble
Once you get that ticket, Bowman said your options are “fairly limited.”
“You can pay and move on and watch your insurance go up, or you can fight it,” Bowman said.
The National Motorists Association estimates that only about 5 percent of all drivers who get a traffic ticket bother to contest it in court.
“Those are the people who will come out ahead,” Bowman said.
The National Motorists Association published an e-book for its members with strategies of fighting a traffic citation in court. The association also has a network of members across the nation who volunteer to advise motorists who want to fight their ticket in court.
The only way to win in court is to mount a logical and organized defense, said “Radar” Roy Reyer, speeding ticket avoidance tactics and product expert.
Reyer is the publisher of RadarBusters.com and wrote the book “How to Beat Your Speeding Ticket in Court and Win.” He is also a retired sheriff lieutenant and was a certified radar and laser instructor who “taught thousands of cops to write tickets.”
He said that to win, you need to do a “big homework assignment.”
“It is definitely going to take time to fight it properly,” Reyer said.
If motorists have any hopes of actually winning in court, they need to do better than just showing up and saying “trust me your honor, I wasn’t speeding.”
“Who will the judge believe,” Reyer said. “The officer trained in police radar and speed recognition, or someone who is just driving down the street?”
For the Record
But that doesn’t mean that motorists should abandon hope of beating a ticket in court.
“There are things that you can do to prepare — standard defenses,” Bowman said.
Discovery is when your homework begins.
“Subpoena everything you can,” Reyer said. “You want records, the manual for the radar gun, the officer’s training records — everything.”
One common defense is challenging the calibration record of the radar or laser gun.
“Most people consider radar guns as infallible, but they do make errors and so do the operators,” Bowman said.
Every radar gun needs to be calibrated at the beginning and end of every shift, Reyer said.
“A lot of cops don’t remember to do that,” Reyer said.
Reyer said he is helping a man in Connecticut who is fighting a ticket right now who was able to prove that the department hadn’t calibrated the gun in three years.
“And that goes against the standards published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police,” Reyer said. “That is powerful and damning evidence.”
Officers typically use a special tuning fork to establish that calibration. And that is another area that motorists should subpoena.
“If you drop a tuning fork, it is now out of frequency, and that is one of the items that has to be calibrated,” Reyer said.
And even if everything has been calibrated, every officer writing tickets should also prove they are certified to use the equipment with which they are recording speed.
“I am constantly surprised by how many agencies forget to certify,” Reyer said.
However, calibration and certification are now common tactics, which means many agencies are now more diligent, Bowman said.
And that is when motorists need to move to less common areas to protest the fine.
“It never hurts to go back to the scene of the incident and take down some notes and take some photographs,” Bowman said. “Was there a speed limit sign? Was it visible? Was it properly posted with the proper speed? Were there characteristics that would hinder the officers’ ability to see you?”
You should also scour the ticket itself for typos or incorrect details. Also check for nearby power substations or power lines, which might interfere with readings.
And any evidence will also help, such as GPS readings, dash cams, or anything else that might prove that you were not, in fact speeding.
Day in court
But If you just show up in court and argue, you will lose.
“It comes down to who has the better evidence,” Reyer said. “I used to laugh my ass off because people didn’t prepare. They showed up in court without records or documents, and it was just his word against yours.”
It is also important to dress to impress and to stay calm and respectful while you are in the courtroom, and you never want to lie, which could earn you a contempt of court charge.
And if you are lucky, sometimes merely showing up means that you win.
“If the officer does not show up, move for dismissal. Most times it will be granted,” Bowman said.
You can also negotiate with the prosecutor or magistrate for a plea deal that would allow you to pay your fine but keep the moving violation off your record.
“Most people just don’t want those points,” Bowman said. “They are happy to pay if they can drop the points, and lets be honest, all the courts want is the money, so they will bargain with you.”
But none of that is possible if you don’t show up to fight in the first place.