Let me begin by apologizing. If you’re hoping to find a succinct list outlining the ways to automatically receive a pardon from that traffic ticket, well, then we’ve misled you.
The fact is, the headache that is a speeding ticket can’t be alleviated with the aid of a quick five-step guide. Often times, a speeding ticket accounts for more than a one-time fine. When your insurance company discovers your knack for speed, they’ll tack on a significant insurance surcharge. That means you could easily end up dropping hundreds more in the long run.
However, although there’s truly no step-by-step way to sweet talk yourself out of a speeding ticket, there is a solution if you can remember one simple concept: you’re dealing with officers. Beneath their blue button-downs, they’re real human beings. Like everyone, they’ve rushed to a meeting. They’ve punched it to save the ice cream in the trunk. And like (most) humans, officers can listen to reason.
We’ve assembled a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the boggy world of avoiding traffic tickets. Remember this, always bolster your fight against traffic tickets with reason. Our guide is only speculation but like early-bird breakfast deals or the 2001 Seattle Mariners, we know that greatness is out there for anyone who’s willing to go the distance. Here’s our speculative how-to guide for avoiding traffic tickets.
Some advice: always have your drivers license and insurance information in your vehicle at all times. Oh yeah, and never bribe a law-enforcement officer.
After you’ve been pulled over:
1. Have low expectations
It’s easy to be surprised when you have low expectations, right? Maybe you have a moment to collect yourself before the officer walks to your vehicle. Now is the time to check your expectations. It’s best to accept that you’ll get a ticket. That said, owning up to your actions might be rewarded favorably. Just maybe you’ll be pulled-over by a police officer who is sympathetic to your humility. Now — go surprise yourself.
2. Turn your car off
Remove your hat and sunglasses. Switch on the interior lights. Make yourself presentable. I hope you’re wearing a shirt. Never underestimate the small things, right?
Now, take the keys out of the ignition, place them in a visible spot. I’ve heard of people placing their keys on the dashboard. It’s best to give every signal to the officer that you’ll cooperate and that you’re not trying to obscure anything about yourself. Do not get out of the car.
The whole point of this is to reduce the tension between you and the officer. You can imagine the kind of dangers that an officer has experienced. Try to offer the exact opposite.
3. Be polite
This means letting the officer speak first. It take a few minutes for the officer to complete his pull-over routine. When you respond to his questions, monitor your tone. It’s best to not be argumentative or sarcastic. Try to gauge the officer’s behavior. If it’s unlikely you’ll receive a pardon on the spot, you’ll want to leave the smallest possible impression on the officer. Then, you’ll have an advantage in court, when the officer can’t remember the specific details of your case.
4. Ask to speak to the officer about the violation
There are good questions to ask. For example, ask to see the radar. Many jurisdictions require the officer to show you the radar when asked. Ask for the date the speed gun was last calibrated and the location he recorded your speed.
What you’re doing here is compiling facts that you can use in court. If you sense that something is wrong (wrong intersection, wrong license plate, the gun hasn’t been calibrated in a year) don’t mention it to the officer. Instead, bring it up in court. Your case can be dismissed if the evidence is bad or there’s proof the officer misrecorded your information.
5. Make a case, not excuses
The bottom line is this: the officer is a real person. You’re trying to be persuasive. Making a case means showing how this circumstance is different from every other person who sped that day. Most times, making a case on the spot isn’t possible. Then, your best chance is in court.
6. Ask for a break
Now’s the time to ask for mercy. It’s important to make it seem sincere and show that it’s a big deal to you. Remember to be polite, never argue, always seem genuine. You’ve allowing the officer to be in a position of power. In some cases, they’ll respond by letting you go. Most cases, though, are better fought in court.
A few days after the violation:
1. Fight the ticket by mail
If you received the ticket in another town, you can opt to fight your ticket by mail. This is called “trial by deceleration”. This requires an officer to issue a written rebuttal. Many times, the officer will simply not write a rebuttal, which automatically drops your case.
2. Try to strike a deal with the officer before court
Remember: the officer can dismiss your ticket at any time. Call the officer, ask for a meeting. Before the meeting, do a little prep. Rehearse your reason for speeding. Outline the reasons the officer should consider dropping your ticket. Double check the details on the physical ticket. Make sure all the information is accurate. If you spot an error on the speeding ticket, bring it up in this meeting.
There are several ways to contact the officer. Their mailing address, email, and phone number are available on your city’s police bureau’s webpage. Most will be willing to meet with you. At the meeting, make sure you state your case. Then ask again for a pardon.
3. Contact judge and law clerk
The traffic ticket is important to you. Contacting the judge and prosecutor will show this. Here, you’ll try to restate your case. Side note: it’s best to enter these conversations with a healthy amount of humility.
4. Write thank you notes, restate your case
After the meeting, it’s wise to send a thank you note. It can be a simple gesture. Just say that you appreciate the time each official gave to your case. This is also a great chance to restate the reasons you’re innocent. Make sure the note is polite and professional. It can be a good idea to add a bit of personality to the thank you note. Don’t make this an argument.
Beware: occasionally, contacting officials will reflect poorly on your case. It’s good to gauge your presence with officials. Never overstate your case. If you sense that you’re troubling any official, back off. Send them a note and apologize for any intrusions.
Try to delay your court date. The longer you wait, the better your chance of having the case dropped. It’s unusual, but not unheard of, for an officer to be absent on court day. An officer no-show will dismiss your case. Additionally, the longer you wait, the more likely the officer will remember less about your specific case.
Sometimes, you can strike a deal with the officer. Usually this results in a plea bargain, which means you agree to pay the fine, as long as the ticket remains off your record.
1. Stand out
Take advantage of every opportunity to show that you’re serious about fighting the ticket. Learn the name of the court clerk and always be punctual. Take note: standing out doesn’t necessarily mean wearing formal clothes. Most times, dress code in traffic court is pretty casual. However, it never hurts to look sharp. Just showing up will greatly increase your chances. Traffic courts deal with dozens, if not hundreds, of cases every day.
2. Be aware of alternative punishments
In every case, you can ask for alternative punishment that keeps your ticket off the record. Driving school is a popular alternative punishment. Take note: leniency varies by court and case.
3. Always plead “not guilty”
You’ve made it this far. Plead “not guilty”. State your case. The court will issue a trial date. Bring a witness if you’d like. Make sure to show up on time!
Good luck! Did you find our How-To guide to avoiding speeding tickets helpful. Do you have any other strategies that work? Any good stories? Let us know in the comments below.