Okay, so you’ve been pulled over. What's next?
These nine ways to beat a traffic ticket offer no guarantee, but following them will up your chances of avoiding a hefty fee after your friendly encounter with Mr. Law Enforcement Officer (we’ll call “him” “Leo” for short). Read this, bookmark it, and read it again.
[Editor's Note: Always know your rights. Many states offer deferred adjudication, which functions like a plea deal, and you can get off with nothing more than probation. This article assumes that such a deal isn’t an option for you, for whatever reason.]
1. Don’t scare Leo
Leo is always ready to deal with bad people who may or may not be armed. Roll your window down in advance, keep your hands on your steering wheel, and only get your information after he asks you for it. Tell him you’re reaching into the glovebox or your pocket to get it.
2. Try to be forgettable
Leo has a good memory and he'll pick up on small details that set you apart from everyone else. This is a time for being quiet, not nervous smalltalk.
3. Don’t admit anything
When Leo asks you if you know why he pulled you over, you don’t. If he asks you if you know how fast you were going, you don’t.
4. Keep your friends quiet
Sure, Leo might be cool and find it hilarious that your friend is talking about snozberries and licking the window. But he might not, and when he sees you in court, he'll remember exactly who you were.
5. Pay attention to your surroundings
After Leo's gone, take a look around. Is the speed limit visible? Where are you stopped in relation to the nearest intersection, and in relation to where he probably caught you? Are there any trees or bushes that could’ve blocked Leo’s view? If so, go over there and take a photo from Leo’s point of view. What cars were you around when he got you, exactly? Make, model, color, etc...
Be as specific as you can here, down to the weather, your clothing, and even what kind of cop car he’s driving. It might sound trivial, but you never know when that’ll help out.
6. Sign the citation As Leo should tell you, this isn't an admission of guilt, merely an acknowledgement that he’s writing you a ticket, and that you’re receiving it.
7. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
File a motion of discovery—a form letter is easily found online—well ahead of your court date. Knowledge is power, and you need as much of it as you can get. Among other things, you’ll want to find out the last time their radar or laser gun was certified. If there’s anything wrong with the certificate, you’ve basically already won, and should file for dismissal.
Also, make sure you get the officer’s copy of the ticket, along with any written notes. Leo loves notes and will use them in court to build his case. Be able to hold your ground.
8. Reschedule your case. Do it again.
You’ve probably heard a story from of one of your parents’ friends who got out of a ticket because Leo didn’t show up in court. And that actually can work since you have the right to question the issuing officer, but scheduling practices are such now that Leo is much more likely to be there, waiting for you.
What you want to do is work the scheduling system against itself. If every single person fought their ticket, especially in more populated cities, the traffic courts probably wouldn't have enough staff to handle the extra caseload. Anecdotally, tickets have been lost this way, but at the very least you’re further reducing the odds that Leo will be there with you.
9. Know when to lawyer up
If you have a serious ticket, or the type of ticket that relies on a judgment call by the officer rather than observed fact, e.g. exhibition of acceleration or driving too fast for the conditions, there can be a lot of case law involved. Typically this means researching similar incidents and court decisions, which really isn't worth your time when a lawyer specializing in this stuff knows it off the top of their head.
The bottom line is that the deck is stacked strongly against you from the moment those lights show up in your rear view mirror. Unlike in a criminal matter, you don’t have to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt—a judge can declare you guilty if he finds a “preponderance of evidence” that you did it. In other words, you’ve gotta do everything in your power to turn the tables, by giving the system as many chances to make a mistake as possible. If the government screws up somewhere, you win.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. The first time he was ever pulled over the cop was about 100 feet up ahead his right. He was doing 18 at the start of a 20 mph school zone and the cop "got" him right as a blue minivan sped past him. To this day, he wishes he'd fought it in court.
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