Noticing the flashing police lights in your rear view mirror is bad enough. Facing the results of a speeding ticket are much, much worse. A first offense could increase your car insurance base premium by about 15-27 percent; a second minor conviction can inflate it an additional 40 percent. The rate increase doesn't last just a few weeks—increases last an average of three years. Depending on your driving record and your state's point system, your ticket may cost you your driving privileges. So just how much do you want to lose your license? Read on to find out just how you can beat a speeding ticket, in or out of court.
Stay Out of Court: Dismissal and Traffic School
While it may sound impossible, your state may allow you to simply pretend like your speeding ticket never happened. Find out from your state's DMV or traffic court if there are ways to dismiss your ticket. If you have a clean record and your state allows it, this may be an option. Some southern states defer judgment if you don't get any tickets for the next six months. Rhode Island will even consider dismissal, if the amount that exceeded the speed limit is less than 20 miles per hour over the posted limit and you have no vehicular violations in three years.
Your other option to beat a ticket and stay out of court may be attending a driving school. While each state's policies are different, generally, once you submit your certificate of completion to the court, minor convictions are erased from your record. While this option is more expensive than a simple dismissal, the cost is mostly in time. In some states, classes are offered only once a year or every 18 months, and class time varies between 6 to 8 hours. You may still be subject to paying a fine for your ticket and school tuition, which averages around $50 to $80. Some states offer traffic school courses online.
Talk to the Judge: The State v. Leadfoot
If dismissal or traffic school won't work for you, or if you truly feel you've been unfairly ticketed, it's time to put the court system to work for you. Going to court can intimidate anybody, particularly the inexperienced, yet just showing up gives you an advantage. Only 3-5 percent of all tickets are contested. Half of those who contest their tickets have their cases dismissed all together, while the other half receives reduced fines or plea bargains. A reasonable defense will steel your resolve, and increase your chances for success in beating your ticket.
Know Thy Case
Keep the copy of your ticket and, as soon as possible, document the circumstances under which you were driving and ticketed. Describe the who, what, when, where and why you were cited. Know who the officer is and what was said, and solicit the help of witnesses, such as passengers. Know the charges and study the law that is allegedly violated. Describe when and where the alleged violation and ticketing occurred. Cite anything that can be material, such as the flow of traffic, road conditions, or how the officer's view of you was obstructed.
Classifications of Common Defenses:
Necessity defenses are recognized in all 50 states. It means there was an emergency, not of your own making. Examples of necessity defenses are based on the premise that one had to speed up briefly to avoid an accident. Avoiding accidents such as being rear-ended by an aggressive tailgater, crashing into a car entering the highway, or getting rolled on by an out of control truck are examples of necessity defenses. However, speeding in order to rush to personal events or for personal reasons will garner no sympathy from the court.
Obstruction of Speed Limit defense means you are going to argue the speed sign was hidden. However, there are still default speed limits for un-posted roads. If, for example, you were driving in a zone, where the 35 mph sign was creatively painted into 85 mph, you are guilty if you exceeded the 35 mph. You need to check if the sign posting in the area in which you were cited is in compliance with state or local regulations.
Technical defenses challenge the method the officer used in clocking your speed. This requires pre-trial investigation of determining the method used by the officer, such as radar, laser or pacing, then challenging that method. You need to determine if the equipment was maintained properly and if it was functional in the range the officer used it. However, because of required maintenance and verification by most jurisdictions, the success rate of this defense if usually minimal.
There are 35 million tickets issued each year. Consider what would happen if all these were contested in court and how much money drivers are paying unnecessarily. By going to court, the only thing you stand to lose is your time, and the amount of the original fine. Statistics show, you are likely to either win or have the fine reduced.
Silently submitting by paying the fine without taking steps to contest it, will result in higher insurance and a sullied driver's record. Know your options when it comes to tickets. The next time those flashing lights are meant for you, rest assured that you have more of a defense than how well you can cry.