not usually a speed demon..
May 26, 2014 2:32 PM   Subscribe

First speeding ticket. What should I know and expect from this point forward?

Lucky me, got my first speeding ticket. For going 20 over the posted limit. Officer just handed me the ticket, no questions because he got me via radar.

I am expecting that I won't get out of this one but in my defense I was just pulling out of an on ramp from a rest station and there weremultiple trucks to pass and was on a decline.

I am planning to appeal and be prompt. What should I expect and does anyone have advice to lend? More specific questions I have are:

How do I know if points are involved?
Will this affect my insurance rate? Again I plan to promptly respond and settle this issue whether with payment or scheduling court date.

As background info, it is my first offense and have a clean record otherwise. I live in MA.
posted by melizabeth to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In re points, from the Code of Massachusetts Regulations, it looks like you're okay:
(5) Minor Traffic Law Violation. Two Surcharge Points shall be assigned to each minor traffic law violation, as defined in 211 CMR 134.10(3)(d), that is within the Experience Period of the Policy. No Surcharge Points shall be assigned to a minor traffic law violation which is the first traffic law violation, as determined by Surcharge Date, within the Policy Experience Period if the disposition of the violation was non-criminal under M.G.L. c. 90C.
Emphasis added.

Your license will be suspended if you have three minor moving violations in a 24-month period (or way more in a longer period). What's the ticket, $50? Your time is almost certainly worth more than that, counting the hours you're going to spend going to court, waiting for your case, worrying about it, etc. Pay it. You were going too fast. Next time you're passing a bunch of trucks on a downslope after just getting onto the freeway, think Is the fifteen seconds of time I'm saving worth fifty bucks? and tell yourself No.
posted by Etrigan at 3:17 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this is just a pay it and forget it situation.
posted by saradarlin at 3:22 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Unless your life is totally booked solid, contest it. There is no downside and it there the possibility of not getting points is worth an afternoon.
posted by sammyo at 3:23 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

What should I know and expect from this point forward?

You should know that you have violated the law and that you are admitting that you have violated the law on a public forum. If you go to court and argue that you did not violate the law, you will be committing perjury. Since I will not advocate violating the law (once or twice), the only ethically appropriate actions in the future are to pay your ticket (preferred) or argue for mitigating circumstances on the violation. In general, this will result in either a in-person hearing with a judge or a by-mail exchange depending on your locale. If you argue for mitigating circumstances, you will likely be offered some sort of deal with respect to the ticket, although that is also locale-dependent. Some locales are more generous with their response to tickets, and some use them as a revenue-maker and hence, are less generous.

in my defense I...

I am not aware of any state where passing trucks is a valid defense to speeding. I am not aware of any state where being on a decline is a valid defense to speeding. I do not believe this is an actual defense to your ticket.

What should I expect and does anyone have advice to lend?

My advice is to pay your ticket and not appeal your ticket. I have given reasons for this, but they have been deleted. If you would like my reasons, feel free to memail me.

Will this affect my insurance rate?

Likely yes. Your insurance company will review your record each time you renew your insurance contract. Statistically, you are now a riskier driver, and the insurance company will need to increase your rates to compensate. If your rates did not increase, the rest of the insurance pool would have to be charged more to compensate.

Again I plan to promptly respond

This is a good thing. In general, your ticket will require a response within 20-30 days, and after that, the fee will start to escalate. Regardless of what you choose to do, responding promptly is the correct course of action.
posted by saeculorum at 3:45 PM on May 26, 2014 [9 favorites]

Just pay the ticket and move on. You were speeding. You got ticketed. There's no real recourse here.
posted by Sara C. at 3:46 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

[If all you have to say is "don't speed" you are not answering the question.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:54 PM on May 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Typically for the first offense you have an option of traffic school, where in exchange for four to six excruciatingly boring hours of your life and full payment of your fine, the penalties (conviction record, insurance points, etc.) are reduced. In some states, if you manage to stay out of trouble for a 12-month period after traffic school, they will remove the ticket from your record.

IANYL, but if you've never had a ticket before and don't intend to get one again soon, you're usually best off just paying the fine and doing any mitigation available to you (like traffic school). It's usually only worth fighting if you're looking at a suspended license or if you have very, very clear evidence that the ticket was improper.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:10 PM on May 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Fight it. If you pay the ticket, your insurance is definitely going to go up for years to come. And if you try and switch insurance companies, what do they ask you? Something like "In the last 5 years, have you had a moving violation?" At least if you fight it you have a chance you will win.

I think the fact he pinged you while you were passing trucks introduces the possibility that the radar return was from one of those trucks.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2014

I would take a class if offered or pretrial conference and get the prosecutor to amend to a non-moving violation like a broken taillight in exchange for paying more money. Both of these are routine in my state; I can't speak to yours. If you're uncomfortable with the pretrial conference you can have a traffic lawyer handle it.

I've only heard of people actually winning in court if the witness (cop) doesn't show or they were literally ticketed for going "over" but were actually in a higher speed zone and weren't going over. 20 over means you are 100% guaranteed to be found guilty.
posted by michaelh at 7:01 PM on May 26, 2014

I think the fact he pinged you while you were passing trucks introduces the possibility that the radar return was from one of those trucks.

If the radar return was from one of those trucks and was 20 mph over the speed limit and the OP was passing those trucks, that means the OP was speeding even more than 20 mph over the speed limit.
posted by saeculorum at 7:34 PM on May 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

The traffic ticket hearing experience tends to vary depending on a variety of factors including where in the Commonwealth the motorist was cited and the severity of the citation.

A motorist can usually expect (at least in the eastern part of the state, I don't know what they do out past Worcester) to find themselves appearing before a Magistrate. At the Magistrate level, the 'prosecution' may be handled by a police prosecutor. The police prosecutor is a cop (usually not the cop who wrote the citation) who presents evidence to the Magistrate. Magistrate quality varies wildly in the Commonwealth. Wildly. If the motorist doesn't like the decision of the Magistrate, the motorist must tell the Magistrate at the hearing that the motorist intends to appeal to a Judge.

Mass uses a SDIP program which breaks citations down into minor and major categories. See for more info.
The Mass SDIP program 'forgives' the first minor traffic violation in five years. See

The ROI on hiring an att'y for this thing is far from certainly positive.
posted by mattbcoset at 7:35 PM on May 26, 2014

If you were ticketed for going 20 over, there is a possibility of the judge simply reducing the ticket to a lesser speeding offense because it's your first offense and you bothered to show up. I've never contested a ticket in MA, but the judge reduced my first speeding ticket (20 over, reduced to 0-9 over) in SC without me having to say a thing. I showed up, apologized for "driving like a jerk," and he reduced the ticket because I "seem like a nice young man." YMMV, obviously.
posted by cheerwine at 7:36 PM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

You may be able to dispense with the ticket and subsequent points, by taking traffic school. Is that an option on the ticket? Can you call the court to find out?

I have always shown up to court for traffic tickets, even when I knew I was wrong. I appeared contrite, apologetic and have appealed to have the charge reduced. Once, the police officer even said, "I agree, it was a tricky area and she's very nice. I know she won't do it again."

So, go to court and plead nolo contendre. I'd say you have a 50% chance of getting it reduced and no points.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:08 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Why are you looking to fight this? You don't say.

Is it lack of money?

If it's money forget fighting it unless you're unemployed. The time alone is not worth it.
posted by Kruger5 at 7:58 AM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I sat in traffic court to defend a ticket for running a stop sign at a corner which didn't have a stop sign. One thing I learned was that telling the judge "Yes, the illegal thing happened, but I had a good reason/couldn't help it/didn't realize" is the same thing as "Yes, I plead guilty to doing the illegal thing, because it happened exactly how the cop said it did when he wrote the ticket." Every person who tried to excuse themselves for something that actually happened as ticketed still got a ticket.

Having a good reason for doing the illegal thing does not excuse the illegal act in the court's eyes. The person in court the day I was there, who was ticketed for running a red light because the road was too icy to stop, still got their ticket for running a red light. The person who was speeding slightly on a street where the speed limit was poorly marked still got their speeding ticket.

However, your insurance company is the only one who can tell you what this will do to your insurance rates. Ask them: if it turns out to be an expensive bump, you may want to try contesting it. But, if insurance is unaffected, what to do about the ticket itself, for something you intend to walk into court and freely admit choosing to do based on the circumstances? Pay the ticket and move on, one ticket in x years is expected for anyone driving a car.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:45 PM on May 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

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