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Fight Your Traffic Ticket and Win

How to fight a traffic ticket with the chance of winning in your favor.

With the discussion recently about traffic laws and two full time motorcycle cops assigned to writing tickets in Laguna Niguel, I think it is appropriate that we discuss what to do when you get a ticket.  The system is set up to almost force you to go to traffic school to avoid the ticket going on your record which will almost certainly raise your insurance rates. So, for most of us, this is the wisest option to accept. However, I feel strongly that these traffic cops are part of an unfair tax system so out of principle, I fight every ticket. And if you already have a ticket in the last few years you may want to take this advice.

First, when you get the ticket, do not engage the officer whatsoever. Be as calm and polite as possible. This will come in handy later. Never, ever admit guilt to the officer. They usually ask, "do you know why you were pulled over?" This is to get an admission which they promptly write down in their notes to be used in court if needed.  It is tempting to give an excuse or reason for the infraction, but do not say anything whatsoever.

Second, sign the ticket very clearly with the words "Not Guilty".  Do not sign your name, just write "Not Guilty" on the signature section. Thank the officer and move on.  Then, go to court and please not guilty. They will give you the option of a judge or a substitute, never accept the substitute. This is usually a lawyer who needs extra work.  Always insist on your right to a real judge. Real judges know more and are so sick of bad defenses and excuses that when you provide a valiant defense they appreciate it. Also, this may cause the date to be changed which is a good thing because the new date may be a day the officer is unwilling to come to court.   

There is a 25% chance the police officer will not show up in court in the first place. This will cause your case to be automatically thrown out.  While before the judge, always be respectful and calm, do not get agitated or angry. The officer will have a chance to first review the case. Let him do his thing.

When he is finished, it is your turn. The first question is to ask the officer if you actually signed the ticket. He will say yes. Then ask him to read the signature clearly out loud. The judge will ask to see the copy and you will point out that it says "Not Guilty". At this point  ask the judge to reject the case because there is no proof that you signed the ticket. This may or may not work. If not ask the judge to throw out the case because the officer was not alert enough to notice the ticket was not signed, and if this is the case, he may not have been alert during the traffic infraction as well. This may or may not work, but the point is, every time make a point, you ask the judge specifically to throw out the case.

Next, likely it will be a laser or radar gun that caught your speed. In California, the only way a Laser Gun is legal is if there has been a California Transportation Department survey of the specific section of road where ticketed within the last 5 years. Additionally, the average speed of the survey has to be within the posted speed limit, otherwise it is legally a speed trap. Most people do not know this. So, go to the county as request a copy of the Cal Trans Survey for that road. If it is older than 5 years, you are going to be found not guilty. But in the survey, it shows a graph of the speed of traffic on that road, and if you were within range of that survey, you can ask the judge to throw out the ticket.

Next, after the officer has made his case, ask him to give you all of his notes and copies for review. He may resist, but the judge will agree and ask him to turn it over to you. Take your time and review the notes. You may find  there are very few notes, or some things that are in error. Once finished, have a list of questions  not in the notes to ask the officer. For instance, was I wearing glasses that day? How many passengers were with me? What is the color of  the interior of my car? Did I have my hazard lights on? He will likely say he doesn't remember to some or all of the questions. Ask him if he remembers anything other then what is in the notes. If he says "no",  ask the judge to throw out the case because the state doesn't have a witness to the event. The notes are not evidence, but to help the officer remember, and if he doesn't remember  the case should be thrown out. You will likely win on this technique.

You should also get a report from the city of the number of tickets this officer wrote that month and where. It is likely they were written mainly where you got the ticket, more evidence of a speed trap.  You can ask the officer what percentage of people exceed the speed limit in that section, and other than randomness, how does he decide which car to pull over? This is to promote the case for a speed trap, which is actually illegal according to state law.

You should ask how busy the traffic was that day and if he says medium or heavy then you can say, "Since you were unclear on my signature and so many other factors of the case, how can we be clear you didn't mistake me for one of the other speeding vehicles?  Again, ask the judge to throw out your case on any and all of the reasons above.  

In the end you may win or lose, but the judge is weary of lame excuses and weak defenses so don't worry about irritating the judge, he will likely enjoy your robust effort as a breath of fresh air.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Leonard Kinkade December 28, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Following the above will just get you in trouble. Signing the ticket is your agreement to appear in court, instead of going to jail at the car stop, it's like an O.R. in the field. It is not acknowledging any guilt for the cited violation. Refusal to properly sign your citation can get you arrested. If you have a nice policeman he might put your name from your driver's license on the citation for you, or he could take you to jail. Don't place yourself in the situation where your vehicle gets towed, and you have to get bailed out of jail. If you feel strongly about fighting a citiation, make an appointment public defendner, or with a criminal attorney and pay the $75 to 100 dollars for a short consultation. He will properly explain your rights and what options you might have. Remember what President Abraham Lincoln once said "A man who represents himself has a fool for a client."
Paul Herzbrun December 29, 2011 at 07:54 PM
I've had a few tickets over the years but the one I "enjoyed" the most was while in Boston. I passed a police car on the right side at a stop light. The light was green and the cop didn't move, so I passed him. He pulled me over for illegal pass on the right. I decided to fight it. I took pictures of the intersection to show that there was nothing prohibiting passing on the right. I won. That makes me about 1 for 5.
GreenInOC December 29, 2011 at 08:45 PM
While I appreciate fighting a ticket issued incorrectly or unjustly, if you know you were speeding (ran a stop sign, etc...), shouldn't you just pay the ticket?
Tony English March 22, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The overall issue is these roads are over policed and safe drivers are being harrased for tax revenue, Obviously if you are speeding or driving drunk, you should be punished but if you are going the safe speed of traffic you should not get a $500 ticket.

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