how to plea down a cellphone ticket
September 6, 2005 7:38 AM   Subscribe

My wife got a ticket for talking on her cellphone in a moving car. Will this affect my insurance rate due to the fact it is a moving violation?

Has anyone had any success in trying to plea down this kind of ticket to a non-insurance affecting violation?
posted by any major dude to Law & Government (18 answers total)
Do you live in a state with a point system? If so, then any points you receive will probably affect insurance costs.
posted by knave at 7:48 AM on September 6, 2005

Insofar as your insurance premiums are based on your risk of accident, it surely will affect your rates. Even if the moving violation as such doesn't increase your rates, the insurance company now knows that she engages in behaviour while driving that increases her risk of accident. They'd be foolish (and unfair to other drivers) not to take that into account when calculating premiums.
posted by duck at 8:00 AM on September 6, 2005

In DC a cell phone ticket is two points on your record.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:09 AM on September 6, 2005

Challenge it in court. You'll almost certainly be able to get it bumped down to a non-moving violation.
posted by bshort at 8:33 AM on September 6, 2005

I really wish AskMeFi had a reminder in the posting question section to ask people to say what State they are in if they're a US poster....

If you're in California the BoingBoing folks have mentioned a ticket clinic company recently. There's never any shortage of places that do this, however, and in all likelyhood you're going to start getting mail from them Real Soon Now - often they subscribe to services that inform them about court filings.

If you just want to go youself I used to know people in Miami who could go and plead nolo contendre with an explanation and request if they could pay court costs and the fine without points. In your case I'd say showing they you've Learned Your Lesson and bought a hands-free device would go a long way towards getting that lenience.

And if you didn't notice, be prepared to pay court costs when you challenge. You're not on the hook for them if you win but if you're overruled you'll be paying that ticket plus several hundred dollars for taking up the court's time as well.
posted by phearlez at 8:52 AM on September 6, 2005

What exactly was she charged with?

Based on the way insurance companies generally work, I'd expect an increase. But, of course, the insurance company is free to set their own rules on this
posted by winston at 9:06 AM on September 6, 2005

1) If you can't get the ticket reduced to a non-moving violation in court, and 2) your insurance company actually has a reason to run your MVR, then yes, you'll probably be surcharged by your insurance company.

Okay, it gets a little muddy with the variables, here. Whether or not you're actually surcharged will also depend on whether you've got points on your policy already. If not, and depending on which insurance company you're with, you probably won't be charged for the first violation. If, say, you already have a point or two, you'll probably see a premium increase.

The experience period for this sort of thing is three years from the conviction date - or from the violation date, depending on what state you're in, so you could see a slight increase for quite some time.

Again, this will depend on whether your insurance company has a reason to pull your Motor Vehicle Report. If you're a current policyholder, especially if you're preferred by your company (meaning you're not in a casualty company due to a bad driving record), it's not likely that they'll pull your MVR (and not that you would, but don't volunteer the information to them, unless you have that sort of conscience!).

To summarize and make a long answer even longer, as a person who may or may not be an insurance agent, I advise you (in a totally non-professional capacity) to 1) try to get the ticket reduced in court if you can, 2) don't call the insurance company and volunteer the information, and 3) relax, because they probably don't have any reason to pull your Motor Vehicle Report right now anyway. It costs them money every time they do.
posted by mewithoutyou at 9:44 AM on September 6, 2005

Also, it depends on how long she has been ticket- and claim-free with that insurance company. I have State Farm. My record is not spotless, but it's pretty good. I have never had my rates go up due to a single ticket. Last year when my son totaled a car a month after getting his license, our rates didn't go up.
posted by Doohickie at 10:05 AM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, if it helps my wife has a spotless record but I do not - four years ago I got a ticket for no seat belt (I'm with Geico and they hold you liable for 5 years until they clean your record). Does it make a difference if my wife's record is clean but mine is not if we are on the same insurance? Also I'm in NY State.
posted by any major dude at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2005

If I were you, I'd try to fight it in court.

In order for your wife to actually break new york Traffic Law Section 1225c she needed to be 'engaged in a call'. How can they prove that she was actually talking on the phone at the time? They would need to subpoena you're phone records, and if they do, there's a chance you could suppress those records if they don't bring in an expert witness to read them.

They can't directly ask her if she was on the phone or not, because of the 5th amendment (if they try, she should plead the fif).

But yeah, if you don't self incriminate, then I think it would be hard (and definitely a waste of time on their part) to prosecute you successfully.

Hopefully you're wife didn't already admit what she was doing to the cop.
posted by delmoi at 10:53 AM on September 6, 2005

"four years ago I got a ticket for no seat belt"

Since you're past the experience period, it might not make a difference that you had that ticket - you're no longer paying for it (surcharge drops off three years from the date that the ticket is received), but they do use the information for underwriting purposes for five years. GEICO counts all drivers on the policy when looking at points - if the seatbelt conviction carried a surcharge, then her cell phone conviction would carry the next one up - 2 points, say, if you were already carrying one.

GEICO will not pull your wife's MVR without cause (an accident, a move-up review, etcetera) - in fact, even at renewal they'll only pull it if it's been years since it was last reviewed, unless you're in GEICO Casualty, where it might be reviewed at each renewal. If you're in GEICO General (the preferred company for non-Military), they can go years without reviewing the MVR.

A reduction would be nice if you can get it, but I wouldn't worry too much about it if you can't/decide not to take it to court.
posted by mewithoutyou at 11:10 AM on September 6, 2005

delmoi, wouldn't the cost of a legal defence be more than any increase in insurance rates? (I don't live in USA, hence the question.)
posted by madman at 11:36 AM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: I signed up with Geico 1 year ago and at the time I was told that my seat belt conviction that was over 3 years old would continue as a surcharge on my policy until 5 years from the date of offense. I haven't seen a reduction in my rate so I assume that is still continuing. My wife is going to fight the ticket since she's in her mother's town anyway. mewithoutyou, would a fine with no points be enough to keep it off the insurance radar?
posted by any major dude at 11:40 AM on September 6, 2005

any major dude, without access to your policy, I can't verify this for sure, but i'm almost 100% positive that you're not paying for the seatbelt conviction, and if you received it over 3 years before you signed up with GEICO, then you never were. If for some strange reason, you are paying for it, it's a mistake (hence the reason that I'm only almost 100% positive - there's always room for error on the part of the sales agent. If someone told you that you're supposed to carry a surcharge after 3 years, they were incorrect). The five year thing is an Underwriting caution only. Past three years you're not being surcharged points. You might want to check on that!

Unfortunately, even if it doesn't add points to your wife's driving record, if GEICO does review the MVR and they see the conviction, it'll be added to the policy. If it is the only conviction other than the seatbelt violation, you will probably not be surcharged, as they often give a pass for the first chargeable conviction as long as it's not a major violation. That said, there isn't really any sort of 'radar' wherein the ticket would be communicated to the insurance company by the DMV. If she doesn't mention it to GEICO, and GEICO doesn't run the MVR, this shouldn't cause a problem.
posted by mewithoutyou at 11:56 AM on September 6, 2005

Response by poster: mewithoutyou: when I signed up for the policy at first I didn't tell them about the seatbelt because I didn't think it was a moving violation and it was already past 3 years which other insurance companies told me wouldn't have any affect on my premium. They ran a check and told me that most insurance companies only go back 3 years but Geico goes back 5 and then they gave me a rate $200 higher than the first rate they gave me. The rep told me that the cost would go down once the offense reaches the 5 year expiration as long as I keep my license clean. What I'm worried about is that this annoying ticket will be considered a second offense in 5 years and give them a reason to increase my premium even moreso.
posted by any major dude at 12:08 PM on September 6, 2005

Plead guilty, and take the driving school option from the judge. Then it's not on your record and you can claim the insurance discount for it. I’d first check before by asing the insurance carrier if any discounts are given for driving school. They don’t need to know why.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:02 PM on September 6, 2005

delmoi, wouldn't the cost of a legal defence be more than any increase in insurance rates? (I don't live in USA, hence the question.)

You don't need to hire a lawyer for this, it's very straight forward. You show up, you say that the prosecution needs to prove you were 'making a call', rather then just holding the phone up to your ear. If they ask you if you were making a call you plead the fifth, they probably won't even ask.

I'm not saying it would be foolproof, but you should be able fight it pretty easily without hireing a lawyer.

Stick up for your rights!
posted by delmoi at 2:21 PM on September 6, 2005

Stick up for your rights!

Umm...your right to engage in illegal and dangerous behaviour and then evade the consequences?
posted by duck at 6:47 PM on September 6, 2005

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