Should I get a ticket if the sign wasn't visible?
May 25, 2009 8:16 AM   Subscribe

First speeding ticket. Should I go to court and try to fight it or just pay out and take the hit?

I was leaving my school from the east entrance (there are two) headed west and got clocked as going 41 in a 25 mph school zone (normally the speed limit is 45 mph). The officer pulled me over and gave me a ticket for doing 34 mph, just $160 and 1 point. Had he not lowered it, it would have been $300 some and 4 points.

However, there are some other reasons why I think I may be able to get out of the ticket:
  • I am normally a very good driver, I keep speeding to an absolute minimum (2-3 mph over)
  • This is my first infraction of any sort
  • No accidents
  • MOSTLY: The flashing sign that tells you that the speed limit is 25 mph is 275 yards west from the exit where I turned out of
I think that I may be able to get out of the ticket because the speed limit sign was not visible.

If the judge were to say that I should know when the school zone time were, here's my defense to that:
  • In the morning traffic is so thick coming into school that nobody really goes over 10 mph anyway, so the speed limit signs don't do very much anyway.
  • In the afternoon, I make it a point to either leave before (last period) or after all of the traffic is cleared out (and I'm guessing the school zone flashing lights are over, but I'm not sure because you can't see the signs) [reason why I was leaving at that time below]
  • I had just finished a calculus final, and my brain was a bit frazzled to remember the non-visible flashing lights. Had there been a sign telling me school zone, I'm almost positive I would have slowed down.
  • I'm almost positive that the sign has to be visible for the ticket to be valid
I don't know if it matters why I was leaving then, but I was taking my brother and his friend to a sports practice across town immediately after school, otherwise I wouldn't have been leaving at that time anyway. I don't normally take them, but my mom had chemotherapy that day so she needed me to give them a ride.

I am not familiar with the "get a ticket, go to court" gig. I've never done this before. If I were to go to court, could the court argue that I was actually going 41 when the cop only wrote on the ticket 34? I would much rather just pay what I have now than possible face paying that much and that many points. Or is my defense solid enough to not worry about it?

Last minute pertinent information:

I am already planning on calling and rescheduling my court date (thanks past MeFi's!). I live in Colorado. I am 18. Again, the normal speed limit in that area is 45.
posted by panorama to Law & Government (44 answers total)
If you have the time to spare, it might be a good exercise to contest it, just so you learn how it all works. Expect to lose, in other words, but at least you'll know the ropes after that.
posted by rokusan at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2009

Seconding Rokusan. Do take it to court if you have the time. At the very least, it will be educational. My personal experience is that judges are lenient if you go to the trouble of respecting the institution and going through with the process. This doesn't mean you'll get off necessarily but you may well get your fine and/or points reduced.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 8:22 AM on May 25, 2009

You're guilty of speeding. Pay the ticket. If you take it to court you'll lose and will incur court charges as well. Learn the lesson and don't speed. Local jurisdictions are tight on money and are clamping down on traffic violations to fill their coffers. NTM the cop already gave you a break. Don't be a dick.
posted by torquemaniac at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2009 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the quick replies. I would be totally all right with going to court and expecting to lose. However, aren't the two parts of evidence presented against me 1) the cop and 2) the radar gun that said I was going 41?

I don't want to probably lose if the fine is for going 41 - I would much rather just pay the ticket for what I have now. Or would the judge not be able to raise the penalty from what it originally was?
posted by panorama at 8:28 AM on May 25, 2009

Don't use any of those school zone excuses. A posted sign is there for a reason. 20MPH during school hours. Not when you think it is safe to do otherwise. Go, plead your case about the sign being in the wrong place, suggesting that for safety sakes they should add another sign. Then plead your clean record. Accept the fine, but ask for dismissal of the points.
posted by Gungho at 8:29 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

The cop might ask for it to be raised to what you were originally clocked at, especially if he/she is annoyed at having been dragged into court. That happened to me once, and the proceedings quickly changed from me trying to get out of ANY fine to me trying to avoid the higher fine.
posted by goatdog at 8:31 AM on May 25, 2009

there are some other reasons why I think I may be able to get out of the ticket

Uh huh...

Look, as a reformed lead-foot with probably dozens of speeding tickets under my belt let me tell you one simple truism:

YOU WILL NOT GET OUT OF THE TICKET. Not ever. It doesn't happen. Period.

Consider just some of what has to happen for any traffic ticket to be thrown out:

- The cop has to be proved incompetent at a job for which he is highly trained.


- You have to prove yourself a better judge of speed, conditions, circumstances, and judgment than the highly trained professional who wrote you the ticket.


- The magistrate has to rule in favor of you, thus depriving his jurisdiction of needed funds, while also indicting the judgment of the highly trained professional who wrote the ticket.

It's not going to happen.

All of your rationale for why you could "beat this" are bull. So what if traffic crawls in the morning hours? The signs aren't there to denote the proper speed, they are there to generate revenue. So what if this is your first ticket? You're 18. It's probably the first of many. Further, every judge and cop in the world knows that "first time offender" is a synonym for "first time caught." So what if your calculus final fried your brain? If you were so frazzled that you ignored the speed limit, maybe you shouldn't have been driving... and so on.

You can over think it all you want. You can imagine scenarios where you pull dramatic "Ah-ha!" moments in traffic court, but it doesn't change the fact that in the eyes of the court you're some 18-year-old punk, peeling out of his high school parking lot, and blowing past a conditional 25-mph sign.

Further, the cop has already done you favor on this one. He could have just left you with the 41-in-a-25 charge.

That said, you should still go to court, hat in hand, and you should do this:

1. Show up early and try locating the cop. Remind him of what happened (he won't remember your face), tell him you're a broke teenager and need help with the fine. He may knock more off, or refer you to the judge.

2. Talk to the judge beforehand. Sometimes traffic court is very informal. Explain to the judge that this is your first ticket, you made a mistake, but that you're a broke teenager, ask for a further reduction.

Plead guilty, pay your fine.
posted by wfrgms at 8:34 AM on May 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

In my last experience in traffic court, in Chicago years ago, the judge called up the more serious cases--high-speed violations and the like--and heard them individually. (One guy explained that he'd gotten a cramp in his leg, which forced the gas pedal down. The judge said he hadn't heard that one before and dismissed the case with a laugh. But he upheld the other serious transgressions.) He then addressed the remaining people with less-serious violations and dismissed us all with a warning. I didn't even have to face him one-on-one.

So yes, it may be worth your while, especially if you're in a big-city court (Denver?) where they've got to get through a lot of cases quickly.
posted by stargell at 8:35 AM on May 25, 2009

good advice above.

But just a note, I don't know how it is in Colorado, but where I was licensed, you are expected to know the school zone speed limit as part of the licensing process (it a possible question on the written test). In any case, this is actually the sort of thing you can be expected to just know; so, claiming ignorance in this case may not work all that well.

Personally, I'd be worried that because of this, the judge might not take it easy on me if a argued about signs.

I'd be far more inclined to use the defense my friends used when they were in high school, "I'm very sorry, it was a temporary lapse in good judgment. I won't let it happen again." It worked for my friends; I think because in the judges eyes, their honest acknowledgment of the mistake, coupled with assurance it wouldn't happen again, was enough to say that further punishment wasn't needed. Of course, that was in a smaller district.
posted by NormandyJack at 8:43 AM on May 25, 2009

You can beat a lot of traffic tickets just by showing up. Cops hate to show up for court. They'd rather be on the road -- they can hand out 5 tickets in the time it takes to testify against you. And you have the Constitutional right to confront your accuser in the US, so to get a conviction, they have to be there to testify against you.

And then if the cop shows up, you can go through your explanations. You may not win, but the judge may reduce the penalty.
posted by musofire at 8:44 AM on May 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

You will not have the fine knocked down. This is how municipalities make money. You may even have more fees tacked on. However, unless you've got a real asshole of a judge, you may be able to have the point removed. Generally what happens is the charge is changed from a moving/points violation such as speeding, to a non-moving violation such as "excessive vehicular noise". The fine would be the same as the speeding, with a "court costs"fee added for the effort of changing the thing around. Net gain:one less point.

Go to the court date. Explain that it's your first offense. Explain that you've heard of people's insurance going through the roof for even one point increase, and that you're interested if at all possible, in not incurring the points. Ask what needs to be done for this.

Actually, call the circuit clerk (or equivalent) with the above spiel. Be as absolutely respectful as you possibly can. Play a little dumb, but make it clear that the points (really, that's the big thing) are your main concern. THey will usually work with you on this, as long as they get their fees.

You were speeding, no doubt about it. DOn't try to wiggle out of that fact. There is no conceivable flavor of bullshit they haven't heard; but if you fess up and try to lessen the penalties (points), you may have something.

(full disclosure: I had a *TON* of speeding tickets up til about 25, when I got smart and slowed down for the most part. One time my lawyer fucked up and didn't call the court, and abench warrant was signed. I called on my own and learned that for ordinary speeding tickets, the courts will be more lenient if you take care of it yourself rather than pay some jackass lawyer to be a thorn in their side.)
posted by notsnot at 8:46 AM on May 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

I don't know where you live, but in Canada I know people who have gotten off because cops don't feel like showing up to court if you contest a speeding ticket so it automatically gets dismissed.
posted by Sargas at 8:51 AM on May 25, 2009

I have tried every method you could possibly imagine to get out of speeding tickets. I've even bought books on how to do it. None of it has worked. Don't be the guy who puts on the business suit and goes in trying to argue your case by saying the radar gun was not calibrated or whatever. You will look like a pompous jerk at best, and ignorant and naive at worst (see my previous AskMeFi, where I come off as both). Even the arguments you give, which seem logical to you, won't work.

Basically the only thing that has ever worked for me or anyone I know was the cop not showing up to court. There are ways to finagle your way into that situation, but the ones that tend to work are borderline illegal, so I don't recommend trying them. However, you should still go to court in the off chance that something like that does indeed occur.

One time I went they had rounded up about 100 of us and were herding us through a line where we would basically say, "I'm guilty," to one clerk and move on to another to pay our fine. There were no police officers present in the room. I was probably around tenth in line, and I asked to face my accuser. The clerk called out asking if there were any witnesses against me. Obviously there were not. She told me my case was dismissed and I could go. Every single person behind me in line did the same thing. It was pretty hilarious. Point being, the court assumed we didn't know our rights and tried to take advantage of it, so you should know yours before going in. I doubt you'll get as lucky as I did that time, however.
posted by joshrholloway at 8:57 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went to traffic court in 4 different jurisdictions between the ages of 16 and 19. In most cases I got to watch a few dozen other speeders plead their cases before being called myself.

You aren't going to get to say all of what you've presented as a defense here. A quarter of it, max -- so pick and choose. If you were a few years older and did not attend the school whose zone you sped in, I would say that your defense about the insufficient signage was a good one. But as it is, the judge is not going to believe that you didn't know you were in a school zone -- saying this will almost certainly piss him or her off.

This is what I would say: "Your honor, I realize now that I was speeding. But because I normally leave school at a time before the school zone is in effect, I had forgotten that the speed limit was not 45 but 25 -- and due to the locations of the signs, I had not actually driven past one. Since this is my first offense, I am hoping that I can attend a driver improvement program instead of having the ticket on my record."

DIP may be called something else in your state -- check it out, and find out whether it's commonly used as a first-ticket substitute in your state/county. A diagram and photos of the road, school zone signs, and school parking lot (emphasizing the opening you pulled out of) would be helpful. Most cases will be resolved in under a minute -- if yours goes as I outlined, maybe two. Keep that in mind and be brief -- rambling will irritate the judge and police officer as they just want to get through the cases.

That said, expect the officer to mention that you were actually going 41 mph. There is some danger that you'll end up with a more severe ticket rather than traffic school. What you have going for you is that you were still well under 45 (and I hope you weren't gunning the engine so that you would've been over 50 in a few more seconds). Some insurance companies don't penalize you for a first ticket if it's 9 mph over or less -- check your policy. I would be more concerned about the ticket cost impact on your insurance than with the points against your license since you aren't a habitual speeder. If the 41/25 ticket would make your insurance too expensive for you to drive, you might not want to go to court at all. You can probably get an anonymous new-customer quote from your ins co. online with no ticket, with a 34/25 ticket, and with a 41/25 ticket to get an idea of the % differences -- make sure to put in your age, gender, and other demographic info.
posted by ecsh at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2009 [4 favorites]

...about the ticket cost AND impact on your insurance... (sorry)

On preview: in states where I've lived, insurances cos. ask about specific tickets and don't use the state-assigned number of points on your license. I have no idea whether that's the case where you live, so check it out rather than following anyone's advice blindly.
posted by ecsh at 9:12 AM on May 25, 2009

* I am normally a very good driver, I keep speeding to an absolute minimum (2-3 mph over)
* This is my first infraction of any sort
* No accidents
* MOSTLY: The flashing sign that tells you that the speed limit is 25 mph is 275 yards west from the exit where I turned out of

None of these are relevant. At all. Not even slightly. You cannot seriously be saying you didn't know it was a school zone (didn't see the sign) when YOU WERE LEAVING THE SCHOOL.

* In the morning traffic is so thick coming into school that nobody really goes over 10 mph anyway, so the speed limit signs don't do very much anyway.
* In the afternoon, I make it a point to either leave before (last period) or after all of the traffic is cleared out (and I'm guessing the school zone flashing lights are over, but I'm not sure because you can't see the signs) [reason why I was leaving at that time below]
* I had just finished a calculus final, and my brain was a bit frazzled to remember the non-visible flashing lights. Had there been a sign telling me school zone, I'm almost positive I would have slowed down.
* I'm almost positive that the sign has to be visible for the ticket to be valid

None of those are a good enough reason to speed - no-one cares about your final exam, it doesn't make speeding any more safe and in fact quite the opposite if your brain was 'frazzled'. You are openly admitting you were distracted and not paying attention - you cannot attend a school and not know that the sign (which you must drive past every day) is there. Your normal leaving time is also completely irrelevant.

Don't contest this. You'll look like an idiot. You were speeding and you feel silly. Big deal, we've all done it (I did it last night and felt stupid but got away with it) Pay the ticket and accept you were in the wrong, as you most certainly were. The officer was already more lenient than he needed to be by dropping the speed for you. Be grateful and pay up.
posted by Brockles at 9:15 AM on May 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

My insurance agent said it was always worth while to go to court, accept the fine, but ask for the points on the license to be dropped.
posted by at 9:18 AM on May 25, 2009

Holy moses dude, you were lucky enough to have the cop reduce it from 4 points and a huge fine to a tiny fine and one point, and you still want to try your luck? No way this is going to work, especially with the bull excuses you list. None of them are in any way valid in this situation. You are on that road many times, you KNOW what the limit is. The ONLY thing that carries a tune is the location of the speed limit sign, the entire rest of your story is nothing they haven't heard before and thus they don't care one bit about the sob story.

If you DO go to court, I would almost guarantee the police officer will show the evidence that you went 41 and thus your ticket will go back up and the points would be back on. The officer is sure not going to perjure himself for your benefit.

It would be worth going to court if the situation was not this one, if the situation was where you were doing 34 and got caught doing 34. This is because in that situation there is relatively nothing to lose other than getting off work and possibly a court fee. But this is not your situation at all.

Honestly, you lucked out here BIG time. Don't risk it. Pay the fine and learn from this lesson.
posted by Meagan at 9:20 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

//YOU WILL NOT GET OUT OF THE TICKET. Not ever. It doesn't happen. Period.//

This is simply wrong. I have a friend who is a lawyer that specializes in traffic court. He makes his living helping people beat traffic tickets, and he wins often.
posted by COD at 9:22 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

About the cop not showing to court: check your local laws; here, they don't have to show up for small offences.
I'd say pay the fine. He was nice with you, don't stretch your luck.
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:44 AM on May 25, 2009

As a former deputy jailer, I have heard tons of "how to beat a ticket" advice and there is only one way I have ever seen it work: at the scene of the pull-over.

Admit that you were distracted, etc. Don't admit to a specific speed, but admit that you may have lapsed in judgment. Respectfully address the officer. Apologize. Refer him to your otherwise stellar driving record. And (most importantly)... ASK to be given a written warning. ASK. You are appealing to the better nature of the officer. He does have the discretion, in many cases, to decide between a ticket and a warning. Ask. Apologetically, respectfully.

Once that ticket is written, it may not be impossible to "beat", but you'd damn well better be innocent and willing to hang on to prove it. It can cost you a lot of time. If you're not innocent, pay your fine and stop speeding around schools. Some of us have kids there and would rather you learn your lesson now.
posted by skypieces at 9:51 AM on May 25, 2009

One thing you might look into is the possibility of diversion or pre-trial settlement. Where I live, instead of or before going to court, you can meet with a representative of the court to discuss a possible 'settlement'. What usually happens is that you agree to pay an administrative fee equal to what the fine would have been, and the county agrees to drop all charges after a year as long as you don't get any more tickets during that time. Assuming you don't get any more tickets, there's nothing to report to the insurance company, since officially, you were never charged. You're out the admin fee, but that's a small thing compared to the accumulated hit of higher insurance. It's good for the county, because it's a lot cheaper to deal with a court officer for a few minutes than it is to go to trial--and the county still collects the same revenue they would have before. The deal isn't offered to people with a history of prior tickets, is pretty much at the discretion of the court. If there's no deal, you still have the right to contest in court.

Of course, this is where I live, not where you live, add all IANAL disclaimers, etc. You still might want to ask around and see if there's a similar option in your area.
posted by gimonca at 10:00 AM on May 25, 2009

Obviously, laws are different from one jurisdiction to the next, but I think the placement of the sign will not help you.

Someone I know got ticketed for doing 35 in a 25 zone. We went back to the area, and there were NO speed limit signs ANYWHERE for about 5 blocks. We took pictures of the street where it happened, showing no signs. It didn't matter, because one of the laws on the books stated that the speed limit on all city streets was 25, unless otherwise posted. I would bet that there is a similar law about speed limits within x feet of a school during certain hours.

Sign or not, as a licensed driver, you are just expected to know this. I can hear the judge saying "You didn't see a sign, but did you see that bigass school you just came out of?"

This is not snarkiness, but I'm playing devil's (cop's/judge's) advocate:

None of what you would say to the judge (even if you got a chance) makes any difference. The 10 mph speed of traffic, the times you normally leave, the frazzled brain from a calculus test, are all beside the point. If the law is written in the books, you are supposed to know it, and the judge will say so. He may only let you give a yes or no answer to whether the speed you were clocked at is accurate. I can't imagine a judge would let you go on about your test or normal schedule, or 10mph morning traffic. The judge deals with this all day every day, and it's a fantasy to think you will outwit him/her, or that you will come up with an argument so stunning that the rules will be ignored just for you.

As to the other things, again, playing devil's (cops/judges) advocate:
I am normally a very good driver, I keep speeding to an absolute minimum (2-3 mph over)
Even 1 mph over is speeding. You are admitting to speeding on a regular basis. The speed limit is the speed LIMIT, not the speed average, or the speed suggestion.

This is my first infraction of any sort
Congrats! Everyone has a first ticket! This one is yours. Frame it and put it on your wall, but being the first doesn't mean you shouldn't have gotten it.

No accidents
Great! Let's try to keep it that way by making sure you don't speed or break any laws. Getting a ticket is a great way to help you be more vigilant in the future. Pay the clerk on your way out.

So, I'd look at the written laws before even considering fighting it. I'm certain there is a law that says "speed limit is 25 mph within x feet of schools during the hours of x to x" regardless of signage.

You've already gotten a break. I'd be thankful for that.
posted by The Deej at 10:08 AM on May 25, 2009

My experience (in Illinois): I got clocked going 60 in a 45. I had zero excuses - I knew the speed limit. I was just late for work.

I went to court and told the judge that this was my first ticket ever (true). He slashed the fine in half and gave me 100 days supervision (basically, if I didn't screw up again within 100 days, it wouldn't appear on my driving record). Go to court, dress nicely, and be very polite.
posted by desjardins at 10:10 AM on May 25, 2009

Each time I've gone to court, the ticketing officer always shows up and I plead guilty with explanation. The last time I called to reschedule the date, my jurisdiction blocked that scheme by requiring a written letter with an acceptable reason before they'd reschedule. The judge issued a probation before judgment, lowered the fine and removed points.

That said, other posters make a good point that the officer already lowered your fine so there's a chance your fine won't get changed in court or worse, could increase and then you'd be out more money and points plus half a day in court. Maybe you could check your insurance coverage and see how your rates would be affected by one point versus (potentially) four. The CO division of insurance might be able to give you rate information if you don't want to contact your insurance company directly.
posted by hoppytoad at 10:16 AM on May 25, 2009

Hire an attorney and have them fight this for you.
posted by jeffamaphone at 10:31 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Become familiar with the rules in your jurisdiction. Where I live, you are allowed one traffic ticket deferral every seven years. All you have to do is ask for one by going to court or applying by mail. In my case, I would pay court costs but have the ticket drop off my driving record if my record stays clean for a year. If you have something like that where you live, do that. If you can ask for traffic school instead of points and fine, do that. Otherwise don't bother, as others point out above your excuses are weak and you will lose.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:36 AM on May 25, 2009

Some people are commenting in this thread as though the school-zone sign in question has posted times; it does not. It's "when light flashing." If the light isn't visible, there's no indication that the lower speed limit applies.
posted by oaf at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Perhaps we could tar and feather the OP for asking a question while we're at it? Sheesh. I went to court and plead guilty, paid a fine, had points dropped a couple of times. Once it required a one-day "driving safety course" thing that was a day-long seminar.

No need to go through four zillion excuses, though, and certainly don't make it your defense that you only speed a little bit normally and were really distracted while driving. When the judge asks you for your explanation, keep it simple. You were leaving school at a non-typical time and didn't see the sign reminding you that the speed limit was reduced. Tell the judge that you're sorry that you were speeding and that you certainly won't be making that mistake again. Mean it. Dress nicely, don't even give a whiff of being entitled, and thank the judge for his/her time no matter what the verdict.
posted by desuetude at 10:41 AM on May 25, 2009

Most of the advice above doesn't do a thing to answer the question, "Should I go to court and try to fight it or just pay out and take the hit?"

You should go to court and try to fight it. But not by yourself…get a lawyer, and get a lawyer who does traffic court for a living.

Of course you're guilty, so we'll put that issue aside. What you want to do is not "beat" the ticket, but mitigate it's effects. And that's where the lawyer comes in. In the various states and various courts there are myriad arrangements that ease the consequences of a ticket, and this is what you're going for. You may be able to plead to a lesser charge. The court may have a "judgment continued" option where everything is put on hold and goes away if you keep your nose clean for a year or two. You may have an option of traffic school in lieu of a conviction. You might have a prosecutor who owes your attorney one. You might have any number of options…if you get an attorney.

Will the attorny cost you? You bet, but maybe not as much as you think in the long run, given the increase in your insurance rates if you're convicted, or the spectre of having a previous conviction should you get another ticket.

And here's a little secret: the legal profession is a self-perpetuating, mutual back-scratching club. Just the fact that you show up with an attorney tells the judge and prosecutor that you've paid your extortion money and done your little part to keep the gravy train on the track. Chances are the perps with attorneys will go to the head of the line in a traffic court clogged with hundreds of cases, and when your case is called, you may find that everything was pre-arranged, there are a few seconds of formalities, the judge's gavel comes down, and you are ushered out to the clerk's window to pay the court costs before you even know what's happening.

Be smart. And best of luck.
posted by dinger at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Depends where you are - here in Ontario, every person I know who has gone to court over a traffic ticket has had the fine reduced greatly and the points knocked down too.
posted by sid at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2009

I was told by an attorney once to always go to court for a ticket if at all possible. Quite often the judge will either reduce the fine, or more importantly, reduce/remove the points. The points are what will jack up your car insurance, so if you plead guilty with explanation, are humble and repentative, the judge or magistrate may take pity on you and knock the point off. Good luck!
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:39 AM on May 25, 2009

Taking a ticket to court is an option provided to people who have a legitimate issue with the charge laid. I think it's kinda crappy to use it for your own personal gain when you know you are guilty. You'll be wasting other people's time and taxpayer's money - The officer has already given you a break by reducing the charge and you pay him back by dragging him into court?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2009

Mod note: few comments removed - wisecracks and insults don't help people find answers, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:07 PM on May 25, 2009

Go to court, just for the off chance of it being reduced or dismissed.

The talk of insurance companies giving you one "freebie" is total crap. They still will indirectly raise your rates, even if it isn't your fault, because you will lose your "clean driving" or "no claim" discount.
posted by jeffmik at 3:30 PM on May 25, 2009

You didn't actually say: were you exceeding the speed limit?

You'll have to check the law very specifically as to how its written. You might have a shot with the lights flashing thing, and the fact that you were leaving the school zone, not entering it. It is possible that you weren't breaking the law.

But if you were breaking the law, fess up and ask for supervision, reduced fine, etc.
posted by gjc at 4:57 PM on May 25, 2009

Check to see if your court office has a first-time offender's deal. In my county (Cascade, MT), they will charge you ~$89 and not record your ticket (no points) as long as you don't incur any moving violations for three months.
posted by fleeba at 6:24 PM on May 25, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies. I appreciate the people that tried to helpfully answer my questions, but am a little annoyed at the MeFi'ers who take the time to insult me. I never said I wasn't guilty, and I have several friends who make fun of me because I am otherwise a very good (not speeding at all) driver who got a ticket while they chronically speed and have yet to get one. And no children walking were in danger as it is a rural school that doesn't even have sidewalks because nobody walks to or from school.

However, some Googling about first time ticket bargain laws in Colorado didn't turn up any results. Can anyone point me to a site online and/or who I could talk to about such a thing?
posted by panorama at 7:41 PM on May 25, 2009

This guy says you may be able to drop off the last point if you go into court. He also lays out a lot of other information on a really terribly formatted web page.
I'd just like to say there is nothing wrong with fighting a traffic ticket and you should not be shamed into paying it by anyone.
You could go through this website to talk with someone, although I have no idea if it is good or not.
Where I live there is a fantastic attorney that rarely loses traffic court cases. It was a flat $300 fee for her services, and I was sent paperwork a couple months later letting me know I was free and clear.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:59 PM on May 25, 2009

Driving school. Here in Santa Fe you can go to court and ask for safe driving school. You pays a smaller fine and another $50 for the schooling. A Saturday is sacrificed to the system and the ticket is purged from your record. I do this cause my wife really hates the idea of our rates climbing due to my heavy foot (or in the recent case- a loose evaluation of the difference between orange and red). So because of my clean record my insurance company waived the $250 deductable when my parked car was hit and run. That was worth a Saturday afternoon. Of course, YMMV.
posted by pointilist at 9:19 PM on May 25, 2009

Panorama: Finding a lawyer shouldn't be too difficult, but you should realize that you're probably not going to find a "bargain" lawyer. The prices for what is a fairly routine process are going to be fairly consistent. There's no equivalent in the legal profession to "barber school".

That having been said, if you or your parents have had any contact at all with an attorney in the last few years, even if it was to do a will or a real estate settlement, call that office first for a referral. Failing that, ask any of your friends and acquaintances who they have used in the past. As a last resort, head down to the courthouse and find out who the traffic court regulars are.

This ain't rocket science for an attorney. You want a traffic court specialist who knows the judges, the prosecutors, and hopefully the cops. That's the man (or woman) who will grease these skids for you.

Just one last little piece of advice: don't lost too much sleep over this. Everybody knows good people get tickets every once in a while. When you get to court, no one's going to confuse you with one of the regular scofflaws who have records a mile long. You screwed up a little bit, you got caught, you have a hassle to deal with. Happens to a lot of decent folks.
posted by dinger at 4:13 AM on May 26, 2009

I also live in a rural area and I got pulled over for speeding though not in a school zone I decided to fight the ticket to keep my record clean and I had to postpone the court date because I was out of the country. I did not get a lawyer but I read up on what to do. Court was very relaxed. The judge asked why I had rescheduled and then asked me about my vacation. I ran into the policeman before my case was called. He basically showed up and had all his cases on one day so he was working the room to see if people wanted to cut deals. I was clearly agitated and said something stupid like "I'll do anything to keep points off of my license. This is my first offense" and he agreed to change my ticket to a parking violation so I'd still pay the full fine but not get it on my record. I said that was fine and that's what we did.

It was my first and only moving violation which I think helped my case considerably. Most of the time in court they don't really care much about extenuating circumstances, they care whether you did it. So, if you don't wind up hiring a lawyer I'd see if you can talk to the officer who pulled you over and see if you can get some sort of reduced violation. The money from these tickets are revenue for small-town America so you might get further saying you'll pay the fine but you're scared to get points on your license. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 AM on May 26, 2009

In Maryland you can get probation before judgement, which essentially lets you pay the (sometimes higher) fine and do traffic school, but you get out of points. I got caught doing 90 in a 65 and was able to pay a $200 fine and a day of traffic school rather than $100 and 2 points or somesuch. Definitely a good deal, if you can make it. I think judges are more concerned with repeat offenders rather than first timers.

As an aside, I suspect the whole "cop not charging you with the maximum offense" is a sales technique so when you ask them to give you a break they can say "Sir, I'm already giving you a break. I could've cited you with reckless driving. Blah blah blah" Which is what happened to me a few weeks ago.
posted by electroboy at 11:30 AM on May 26, 2009

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