Can You Beat a Traffic Ticket?

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Blue and red lights start flashing in the rear-view mirror and with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you realize the lights are flashing for you. It’s a traffic stop and you’re about to get a ticket. Not only will it cost a big fine; the resulting points on your license could cost you big on your insurance too.

While it may seem there’s little you can do to change the outcome of this scenario, that’s not true. We did the following video on how to beat a traffic ticket by hiring an attorney.

While that story was basically about hiring a lawyer, that’s not the only way to get out of a traffic ticket: You might be able to persuade the officer to let you off with a warning. You may have a legitimate, legally recognized excuse, called a “substantive defense”. You might be able to persuade a judge to reduce your fine/points by making a sympathetic plea. Or you might challenge something technical about the method in which you were pulled over.

Persuading the officer

Before the ticket is even written, there are a few things you can do that might help you get let off with a warning.

  • Pull over as soon as you notice that a police officer is behind you.
  • If it’s dark, turn on the lights inside your car.
  • Turn off the engine after you’ve pulled over.
  • Don’t move around inside the vehicle. Don’t reach for your driver’s license, registration or insurance information until asked for it. According to attorney Joseph Hazelbaker, “Moving around prior to the officer reaching your vehicle can put them on edge or make them suspicious.”
  • Roll down your window and have your hands on the wheel when the officer gets to your car.
  • BE RESPECTFUL AND FRIENDLY!
  • Give your excuse courteously, as the officer asks for your identification, before they have begun writing the ticket.

The main thing to remember is to be polite, without making the officer feel anxious or nervous. While a traffic stop is an inconvenience for you, it could be a life threatening encounter for them, so don’t give them any reason to worry about you.

Legitimate, legal excuses

In some states, there’s something called a “necessity defense”. It means that, if you’re doing something illegal (like speeding) because it was necessary, you won’t be punished for it.

Typically, acceptable necessity defenses will be cases where you were rushing someone to the hospital or trying to get away from a dangerous dunk driver.

Sympathy from the Judge

This one involves what it sounds like it would involve: asking the Judge for a little leniency. There’s certainly no guarantee this will work, but it’s worth a shot. Explain your circumstances and why you were speeding. Maybe you just didn’t see the sign reducing the limit. You can talk about how you’re traditionally a great driver, this is your first ticket, it wont happen again, etc. Try to keep lies to a minimum and respect and manners to a maximum.

Technical reasons

You might also be able to have your case dismissed in court for technical reasons. Suppose you were speeding, but only by a little bit, and within the margin of error for the device the officer used to measure your speed. The fact that you might not have been speeding after all is a decent argument to have your case dismissed.

That device used by the officer might not have been calibrated well, or maintained as regularly as needed. It’s within your rights to request this type of information from the police department where the ticketing officer works.

Finally, the officer might not have filled out the ticket correctly. Even a small mistake might give you leverage for a dismissal. The attorney we interviewed, Anthony Mallo, said that in his experience it happens often.

Don’t drive fast

The point is, you do have options if you get a ticket; options that don’t involve paying a lawyer. But the best way to beat a traffic ticket is to never get one in the first place. Leave home a little earlier, allow yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going and avoid road-side encounters with the cops.

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Comments & discussion

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  • phillman5

    This article missing a very useful tip. Over the last 5 years I have gotten two tickets, one for a minor fender bender, one for speeding. Both times there was an option to take a driving course, both times it could be taken on-line. Ticket is dismissed, it doesn't go on your driving record causing insurance to rise. And you might pick up a thing or two, its a good refresher some advise has changed. There is one catch, you can only do this once a year.

  • Darris

    I think a judge COULD let you off if you say sorry
    but I sincerely don't see that happening.
    The prosecution would appeal on the grounds that its a totally stupid decision. “I'm sorry, I sped” is just a confession with apologetic language, if anything that should increase your chances of having to pay it.

  • Ron

    I've always been polite to the officer. They'll give you a ticket anyways. And by all means Don't file a complaint against the officer afterwards with the police disiplinary board. That I found out in Ohio. The Ohio State Police has refused my state of Michigan to not reinstate my CDL. Ohio Police will retaliate,and cost your your livilhood,if you file a complaint against them.

  • Aaron

    The comment about the officer completing the ticket correctly confuses me….where can I find a ticket that is the standard way to complete one to compare it to the one I have sitting on my nightstand. I live in PA. And really…how much leverage can being filled out incorrectly does that garner with a judge who is always looking to keep good relationships with his officers?

  • eddiehuck

    The first suggestion in this article should have been to take the driving safety course. That's what the lawyer was talking about when he said that if there was nothing wrong with they ticket that he got his clients off but they had to pay some fine or court cost.

    As far as the lawyer's claim that he gets 70 percent of the tickets dismissed for mistakes, I don't know where he is from but in Texas mistakes on a ticket don't have to be fatal to the charge so I really question his 70%.

    Definately, be curtious to the officer and don't give him or her any reason to be afraid or suspicious of you. Even if you don't like their attitude, what they are doing or how they are doing it. That is a fight for another time and place. At the traffic stop all an argument will get you is taken to jail or another ticket.

    Last but not least, take the time to find out what all options the court of jurisdiction offers. You may have options you aren't familiar with that are short of and even leave the door open to highering and attorney and going to trial.

  • CLINT

    THE WHOLE POINT HERE IS COPS ARE NO LONGER HERE TO PROTECT AND SERVE. THEY ARE HERE TO MERELY HARASS AND INCREASE REVENUE. NOT ONLY DO WE PAY THEM IN THE FORM OF TAXES BUT WE PAY WITH TICKETS. WE NEED TO STOP VOTING FOR MORE POLICE ALL THE TIME. THEY ALWAYS PLOY AROUND BALLOT TIME THAT THE CRIME RATE IS NOT GOING DOWN AND GET STUPID PEOPLE TO VOTE THEM MORE FUNDING. THEY NO LONGER FIGHT CRIME. FIGHTING CRIME DOES NOT INCREASE REVENUE THEREFOR THEY ARE MORE “PRODUCTIVE” BEING AHOLES AND WRITING CITATIONS FOR BS CRAP!!!!!!!

  • luckybug20

    This works!! Also, something to think about, if you suddenly “don't have your registration” a lot of times the officer will let you off because he has a ticket to write you for the lack of registration… on the other hand if you are being a real pain in the butt or if you were going REALLY fast, that ploy might not work. But this one has worked like 10 times in Maryland.

  • http://www.traffic-ticket-dismissal.com/ Traffic Ticket Dismissal

    I feel, the best way to prevent tickets is to obey and educate yourself on the traffic laws in your area.

  • Avoid

    Best why to get out of a ticket, Don't speed. Or if you have to just be aware of your surroundings. Usually I can track down a cop before he tags me.