Validity of speeding ticket filled with errors?
February 3, 2009 3:09 PM   Subscribe

YASTAM (yet another speeding ticket) I received a citation for speeding the other day. All of the "driver" information is correct. (Just about) all of the vehicle information is wrong. Are there any outs?

The aforementioned license information is all correct: my number, name, age, etc. However, the car's license tag, year, make, model, and arguably color are all wrong on the citation.

Would this get tossed in court? Should I hire a sleazy ticket defense firm? Should I pay my steep fine and be a newly-reformed grand citizen? Is this worth fighting?
posted by those are my balloons to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It may be worth fighting, especially if this isn't your first moving violation, as your insurance won't go up. I had my first ticket this last summer, and the DA offered me a reduction to a defective equipment charge, right off the bat. So it may be worth at least sitting down with the DA before you decide on a further course of action.

In my jurisdiction, the fine is set from the beginning, and you cannot increase your fine by challenging it, so there's very little downside to doing so.

Were you handed the ticket by an officer? Was it automated by a traffic camera system?
posted by Picklegnome at 3:18 PM on February 3, 2009

You could always show up in court and point out to the judge that the vehicle information is wrong, saying "The officer must have run radar on another car and then mistakenly stopped me instead." If the judge buys that argument, great. Go and sin no more. If he doesn't buy it, pay your ticket and be done with it. Don't waste money on a lawyer.
posted by amyms at 3:19 PM on February 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Unless your state has some sort of statute mandating that the ticket be accurate, the only thing this is going to help is to make the cop look incompetent. As to whether or not the bad info on the ticket is enough to convince the judge that the cop got it wrong, there's no way to know.

For example... if you own a champagne-colored, 1998 Chevy S10 and the cop wrote down that you were driving a silver, 1997 GMC Sonoma, you're going to look like an idiot and the judge is going to be pissed that you're wasting his time.

If, on the other hand, you own a champagne-colored, 1998 Chevy S10 and the cop wrote down that you were driving AN AIRCRAFT CARRIER, you might have something to go on.

I would guess that the info on the ticket is not wrong enough to get you out of this one all by itself.

Seconding desjardins. If you were speeding, pay the fine. If you weren't, fight the ticket on substantive grounds.
posted by toomuchpete at 3:24 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: It was an unmarked police car, not an automated camera or anytihng.
This isn't my "first" moving violation, but my last speeding ticket was ~8 years ago.
posted by those are my balloons at 3:25 PM on February 3, 2009

Response by poster: toomuchpete... the ticket says '03 pickup, I'm driving a new four door sedan.
posted by those are my balloons at 3:26 PM on February 3, 2009

the ticket says '03 pickup, I'm driving a new four door sedan

Yeah...definitely fight it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:30 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell the judge that it's not your car and that someone must have given the officer a forged license.
posted by rhizome at 3:30 PM on February 3, 2009

Tell the judge that it's not your car and that someone must have given the officer a forged license.

I wouldn't go that far. However, I might say that I question that I was speeding and/or the speed writen on the ticket since some other car's info is present. Maybe that was the real speeder and I was pulled over by mistake.
posted by sbutler at 3:38 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Almost always go to court for speeding tickets. Usually, the worst that will happen is you'll have to pay the actual amount of the ticket + 30$ or whatever in court costs. Plus, you get to watch some actual legal preceding while waiting for your case which is kind of fun.

As soon as you are issued you court date immediately reschedule the date. Contact the court house or visit their website if you don't know how to already. Say you need more time to gather a defense.
The court houses commonly group all the tickets the officer issued for an "X" amount of time on the same day. If yours gets rescheduled to a different day the officer is less likely to show up. This has worked for me 1 out of 4 times. You plead not guilty, the state cannot present evidence and you're off scot-free. (This isn't a set in stone rule but it's very common)

The second best thing that can happen, is you can present your case with a not guilty and the judge will rule in your favor.
You're lucky because the circumstances of your citation CAN actually help you win. The description of the vehicle etc being incorrect will usually make the officer lose.
Take some time to write down all the information you can remember about the event. The time of day, date, traffic conditions, etc. Bring a photo of your car that is dated, your registration information, and even your purchase receipt if you want.

Look the above part up a bit more on google for building a good defense based on the vehicle description being incorrect.

The third best situation is, you can please guilty with explanation and pray that the judge will have some kind of mercy and will lower the fine\ give you probation before judgement. You can request taking traffic school or something but if you are over 19 they will probably say, "you should know better."

/IANAL, Just based on my own speeding tickets and my friends.
posted by zephyr_words at 4:08 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Did you sign the ticket?
posted by Neiltupper at 4:08 PM on February 3, 2009

Ask the "sleazy ticket defense firm" for specifics. They'll give you a free 3 minute consultation I'm sure. My view is that firstly, the court isn't a laboratory for the truth. They pack em in at 8am, get started when the judge arrives, and you're lucky if your number is called by 11am. Nobody wants any tricky-dick details like "it's not my vehicle." They just want to get lunch by noon and get home early.

What I would do is show up, plead no contest, play the game and once you're up there very respectfully point out the vehicle noted on the ticket is not yours --that there was some mistake that you didn't fully realize until reviewing the citation much later. State, almost verbatim: "the vehicle I was driving and made the speeding violation with is an xyz XLS. Here are the details if this needs to be corrected."

my last speeding ticket was ~8 years ago.

Oh. Do note that when you're up there. Definitely play it cool and be respectful. You might get lucky. Just play their little game... whatever.

Tell the judge that it's not your car and that someone must have given the officer a forged license.

That might get you caught up in a fraud case. Also known as a felony and unless you have a few years of life to waste and 5 or so thousand in dispensable cash to invest in legal fees I would strongly advise not do try that.
posted by ezekieldas at 4:10 PM on February 3, 2009

--Just read that your last ticket was 8 years ago. This is pretty subjective but you could probably just bring a copy of your driving record and request for probation before judgment if you don't want to try pleading not guilty.
My boss got a ticket for 70 in a 55 in VA where his last ticket was 7 years prior and got PBJ with a guilty with explanation plead.
posted by zephyr_words at 4:12 PM on February 3, 2009

Forgive the chatty nature of this but...

I really like just about everything zephyr_words noted but I don't understand this part:

The description of the vehicle etc being incorrect will usually make the officer lose.

I want to maintain my suggestion that you should be 1) totally respectful 2) totally come clean. What zephyr_words noted is smart, all good moves in the game but I think getting off on technicalities is way overrated and much less frequent than we're led to believe.
posted by ezekieldas at 4:23 PM on February 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Do not plead no contest unless you first ask for (and receive) deferred adjudication. No contest means that you accept the ticket as accurate. No contest is the same thing as guilty in traffic court.

Deferred adjudication is like probation, in that if you go X amount of time (where X is defined by local statute) without a speeding ticket, then the ticket is dismissed without prejudice, doesn't go on your record or against your license.

For the record; IANAL, but I've visited traffic court on more than one occasion. I've never left the court with the ticket on my record, I've never pleaded no contest, and I've always been able to get the ticket dismissed on a technicality (once when my Formula was listed as a Chevy pickup), or asked for and received deferred adjudication.

Make sure you get copies of your driving record from the state license board. You'll need them.

If you haven't taken defensive driving in a long time, you might consider requesting DD instead of DA. DD will give you a 10% deduction on your insurance rates, and you can do it online now.
posted by dejah420 at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell the judge that it's not your car and that someone must have given the officer a forged license.
Wow, that's absurdly bad advice.

The cop shows video of him pulling your car over, and congratulations, you've parlayed a petty traffic ticket into perjury.
posted by Flunkie at 4:52 PM on February 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've gone to traffic court and won on a technicality. In that case, I made an illegal u-turn but the officer wrote the wrong u-turn statute on the ticket. I admitted what I HAD done, but pointed out I had not done what I was charged with.

Just go with a simple, "I do not own a car that matches the description on the ticket and I was not driving one at the time, so clearly I am not the guilty party this officer intended to charge." Along with documentation that you do not own such a car, it should be enough to get you off.

I don't think it is worth the expense of a lawyer.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on February 3, 2009 [4 favorites]

Tell the judge that it's not your car and that someone must have given the officer a forged license.

Yeah, don't lie to a judge, that is an amazingly stupid suggestion.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:57 PM on February 3, 2009

Everything furiousxgeorge said. Those words.

Also, reschedule the court date. And if the officer still shows up, you'll probably win as long as he doesn't have video evidence. If he does have video evidence, which proves it was you but not the vehicle described, furiousxgeorge's line might still work - obviously, he pulled over the wrong guy.

"I do not own a car that matches the description on the ticket and I was not driving one at the time, so clearly I am not the guilty party this officer intended to charge."
posted by Picklegnome at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2009

If the cop was wrong about the make and model of the vehicle, what else was he wrong about?
posted by wfrgms at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2009

I'm not your lawyer (IANYL) and this isn't legal advice (TINLA) - just common knowledge and common sense:

Lying is a very bad idea. Generally, being earnest (but not long winded) about the situation is a good idea. Generally, judges appreciate honest and clear answers. However, it is not your job to provide the prosecutor or judge with information to incriminate yourself. Bringing up the errors on a citation may help your case, but it may also be ignored. Bringing documentation of your car's actual information (i.e., VIN, color, model/make, etc) could also help.

The incorrect information about your car is what some might call "a good issue" but whether that translates into the ticket being dismissed or not depends on many things that folks a web forum cannot predict or answer. A bright judge/commissioner would follow up on your mentioning of the problem by asking about other details during your hearing. But they might not and the questions might not be very good. Who knows?

Further, some folks here seem focused on "video evidence" but I'd be more concerned about the radar detector log and calibration. However, these are not really your issues, the incorrect car info is. On a side note, different jurisdictions have different policies about when to record video of a stop and when/how to keep radar detector logs.
posted by unclezeb at 5:34 PM on February 3, 2009

The cop shows video of him pulling your car over, and congratulations, you've parlayed a petty traffic ticket into perjury.

I'm not suggesting he lie, but I wasn't too clear in my answer. My approach is similar to Picklegnome's: The car on the ticket is not the OP's, and if the officer maintains that that's the car he pulled over, then the officer must have accepted a fake license and a forged signature. This is the opposite of an officer asking you why you were pulled over: it gets you to start the chain of facts. In the case of this ticket, the officer has submitted a document to the court that does not represent a vehicle that the OP owns. That is their starting point. For all the judge knows, the OP received a ticket in the mail with some strange vehicle on it, and that is the sum total of the facts of the case. If the officer produces a video, then the OP can establish that that ticket was never written.

Furthermore, this is no worse advice than those suggesting that the OP "come clean." Confessing is never in a defendant's best interests. Also, be aware that in some (many? California is this way now) places do not even require that the ticketing officer show up for a ticket being fought, the law says that any officer can show up in their place. Since the word of the officer is presumed to be true and factual, even if the officer in court is not the one who wrote the ticket, the facts on the ticket itself are the only leverage the OP has.
posted by rhizome at 8:05 PM on February 3, 2009


That makes more sense, just keep in mind there is no reason to speculate about how the cop ended up with the wrong info on the ticket. Suggesting he accepted fake or forged documents is a pretty serious charge.

I don't think he has to worry about incriminating himself by admitting he may have been speeding (though he certainly should not volunteer it), but even if he does admit speeding he certainly didn't do it in the case he is accused of, driving this strange car.

In my case I just offered that I was charged with the wrong statute and the judge asked if the cop had any response to this, which he didn't.

If his case goes like that, he will offer that he was not driving the car described so it could not have committed the crime as charged. The cop will either lie, in which case, well there has to be an appeal process and that is the time for the lawyer. He will tear it apart. Otherwise, I just got an instant dismissal when the cop had no response.

The cop will be dealing with a lot of cases, he won't be able to remember specifics and I doubt he will have a video or anything on hand to back himself up. He will just go with what is on the ticket.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:11 PM on February 3, 2009

Do go to a judge, but don't lie about it. Just point out all the errors on the ticket. I have seen tickets thrown out for a single error in the 2 times I've been in traffic court, so it's worth a shot. If the judge gets pissed at you for 'wasting his time', so what? You have a right to challenge a ticket given to you and it's the judge's job to listen to your complaint. He should be pissed at the officer who couldn't manage some basic accuracy on the ticket he or she wrote.
posted by mattholomew at 4:40 AM on February 4, 2009

Also, forgot to mention, definitely bring your registration/any other information you have that documents the correct information on your vehicle.
posted by mattholomew at 4:41 AM on February 4, 2009

I got out of a ticket on far less of a technicality than that. I got an expired-meter ticket--the officer had written down the meter number next to the "expired meter" checkbox, but didn't actually check the box. In traffic court, I was respectful, but claimed ignorance about the cause of the ticket. The judge rolled his eyes, said it was my lucky day, and dismissed the charge.

Go to court, don't admit to speeding, express confusion about the circumstances, point out that you don't own such a car or such a license plate, and you're golden.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:54 AM on February 4, 2009

Definitely fight it, but don't lie. You should also understand what your goal is here. Getting the ticket fully dismissed or just a lesser charge that doesn't carry points?

If you explain your side of the story to the prosecutor, you might get the ticket bumped down to something other than speeding, that doesn't get points tallied against your driving record. IMO, that's a win.
posted by PsuDab93 at 6:13 AM on February 4, 2009

I think it's worth considering how much work this is going to take on your part. I agree with all of the suggestions that you have a pretty good argument since the officer's ticket is so far off, but figure out how much fighting the ticket will cost you in time and money. If you're a student with a free afternoon and traffic court is in your home town, by all means fight it. If traffic court is in the next state and you have to take an entire day of work off to fight it, balance the economics of the situation against your feelings.
posted by craven_morhead at 6:52 AM on February 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

It sounds like there have been multiple citations for speeding? If so, why not consider that you've broken a law established for human safety, and pay the ticket. Seriously, driving is a social activity, and you have no right to speed. If you're in the wrong, pay the ticket, and change your behavior.
posted by holycola at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2009

Response by poster: There were "multiple citations" in that I received one previously, eight years ago as a teenager.
posted by those are my balloons at 10:10 AM on February 7, 2009

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