can i win
January 23, 2007 11:22 AM   Subscribe

should i contest a moving violation?

Last week, I got a ticket for following too close. My defense would be that the vehicle I was too close to was weaving btwn the lanes. I don't think I'm really innocent, but its a defense that is true that i could say in front of a judge and it sounds reasonable. my carpooling friend would vouch for the fact that this happened.
My questions:
1. (i live in new york, got the ticket in new york) i understand that this ticket would get me 4 points on my license. does anyone know if that will raise my insurance rates? (i currently have no points)?
2. do i have a reasonable shot at success? I know if the officer doesn't show i win, but other than that?
I guess i would contest it if the answer to #1 is yes and the answer to #2 is 50/50 ish.
posted by alkupe to Law & Government (27 answers total)
IANAL or in NY, but it seems that if the driver was weaving between lanes -- or behaving erratically in any way -- you'd want as much space between you and him/her as possible. So even though the driver's lane changing caused the problem, you could be found liable in the eyes of the law because the smart thing to do is increase the distance between vehicles, not close it up.

Of course, this is only my logic and the hive may shout me down, but there you have it.

Still, if you've got the time to fight it, you've got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Don't know about the points = higher insurance premiums. Good luck.
posted by CMichaelCook at 11:36 AM on January 23, 2007

Is your defense accurate or made up?

1. Yes, a moving violation will get you points.
2. I'm not sure if an officer not showing up automatically equals win. It's one of those rumored things in Massachusetts, that doesn't always pan out. YMMV.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2007

(speaking from my Massachusetts experience, that is)
posted by jerseygirl at 11:39 AM on January 23, 2007

I don't know about anywhere else, but in the towns of Niagara, North Tonawanda, and Wheatfield here in Western NY, you can go to court, plead not guilty (you don't have to explain yourself even), go to traffic school, and end up with no points on your license and a slightly reduced fine.
posted by Verdandi at 11:41 AM on January 23, 2007

If the officer doesn't show up the ticket is usually voided. Contest it, because 4 points could raise your insurance significantly.
posted by electroboy at 11:42 AM on January 23, 2007

hey jersey girl, i wasn't asking if a moving violation would get me points, rather the question is whether 4 points would raise my insurance rate.

my defense is accurate. to better understand it, i thought he was changing lanes so i sped up to pass him (i was on the left). then he was on the dotted line and decided not to change lanes and returned to our lane. Then i was too close to him, then i got pulled over.
posted by alkupe at 11:43 AM on January 23, 2007

This page is moderately helpful. If you get 11 points in 18 months, you lose your license. And even 4 points will probably make your insurance company raise your rates.

If you contest: get your story straight, wear a suit and tie, and speak respectfully to the judge. Worst thing that can happen is he lets the ticket stand (unless you make him angry.)
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:45 AM on January 23, 2007

And.... points on your license raises your insurance.
posted by jerseygirl at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2007

OK so you're sure of this? any points = raise in rates. Or you're guessing?
The page says "sometimes all it takes is one speeding ticket to send your rates through the roof."

Anyone got some direct knowledge of this?
posted by alkupe at 11:52 AM on January 23, 2007

alkupe - it's going to depend on your insurance company, so you should call them (frame it like a hypothetical, if you want to). I got 1 ticket in California = 1 point on my license. My insurance company said my insurance would go up a hundred dollars or so, but I went to traffic school to get the point off my license, so nothing happened.
posted by muddgirl at 12:00 PM on January 23, 2007

Call your insurance agent and ask them then. Tell them you did receive a citation, wrongfully in your opinion, and you're thinking of fighting the citation. Ask what the fallout of 4 points on your license would be.
posted by jerseygirl at 12:01 PM on January 23, 2007

my defense is accurate.

It will be your word against the cop's, but you won't win by not fighting it.
posted by mendel at 12:15 PM on January 23, 2007

I don't think I'm really innocent

I think you've answered your own question, there.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 12:24 PM on January 23, 2007

ok, so i've got dirtynumbangelboy saying don't contest it cause i did the crime and mendel saying i've got nothing to lose (assuming i have the time) by contesting it...
still looking for someone with direct knowledge to speak up.
dirtynumbangelboy--i've heard from many that its worth contesting even if you did it. you can get it dismissed, reduced, or get a better deal on the fine. But you have hit on why i am reluctant to contest it.
posted by alkupe at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2007

It seems that if the driver was weaving between lanes -- or behaving erratically in any way -- you'd want as much space between you and him/her as possible.


Your "defense", such as it is, only weakens your position, in my opinion, damning you for sure. It's not a bad idea to try to contest the points, but try to craft an argument that actually makes sense and will convince a judge.
posted by jdroth at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2007

i was speeding up to pass because he was changing lanes, but then he didn't change lanes. This is my defense. perhaps that sounds better?
posted by alkupe at 12:36 PM on January 23, 2007

i was speeding up to pass because he was changing lanes, but then he didn't change lanes. This is my defense. perhaps that sounds better?

Not really, no. It was still on you to wait until you had a safe distance to begin passing.

But I'd still contest it, especially if what Verdandi says works out to be true in your case as well.
posted by limicoline at 12:45 PM on January 23, 2007

Having done this before, I say it's unlikely that you'll win. The cop will most likely show up (afaik, they get overtime pay and time off to go to court). In all the times I have fought tickets, I have never seen a case dismissed for a no show (and my name gets called last). In cases where its your word against his (like this one), the court will side with the cop. Obviously there are exceptions to all of this.
So I'd say contest if you have the time and patience to be in court (twice). Is is really worth your time? Also make sure you're not the type to forget court dates (cos that will only make things worse).

The insurance part is moot since you have no points (which means you get to go to traffic school and not have this on your record).

PS: You can do traffic school even without going to court. Just check the appropriate box in the coutesy notice that you'll get in the mail.

posted by special-k at 12:53 PM on January 23, 2007

ok, so i can do traffic school. didn't know that was an option for nyc.

that would answer my question, since it keeps the points off my license.
thanks all.
posted by alkupe at 1:10 PM on January 23, 2007

Always contest. ALWAYS. Even if you don't have it dismissed, 90% of the time it will be reduced and or traffic school will be offered. Pain in the ass but it will save you points. And speeding up to pass makes sense to me.
posted by vronsky at 1:11 PM on January 23, 2007

90% eh? that's quite a promise vronsky.
posted by alkupe at 1:24 PM on January 23, 2007

I'm not sure if it works this way in NY, but in Maryland (Ann Arundel County), the judge advised us that if we plead guilty, and hadn't had a similar ticket in the past 3 years, he would reduce the fine and give us "Probation before Judgement," meaning that there would be no points.

So that's what I did, got 1/2 fine and no points. You may want to call the court and ask if this is possible.
posted by joecacti at 2:03 PM on January 23, 2007

My wife got her ticket completely dismissed, even though the cop showed up.

It was an obvious end-of-month quota case. She was ticketed (for multiple hundred $$$) for failing to pull into the other lane when a cop car was on the shoulder.

She saw him, he had lights blazing, but she needed to exit. How was she supposed to exit without getting into that lane?

We thought up that excuse after she got the ticket, by the way. She actually didn't know it was illegal, as it is a new law.

So, the facts were:
- Cop showed up
- She really did break the law
- She was filmed doing so
- We had a reasonable line of reasoning

The fact that we won tells me that it is worth contesting, whether you are actually guilty or not. Just have a reasonable sounding excuse. I like the speed up to pass excuse, myself.
posted by Invoke at 2:21 PM on January 23, 2007

"90% eh? that's quite a promise vronsky"

not a promise, but certainly that has been my experience. Different states may vary of course. But again, always show up and always plead not guilty. The only exception I can think of is drunk driving and a person with a habitual record.

I really wish someone had told me this when I was younger. Would have saved me points and money. I used to just mail mine in, thinking I really had no other options. Once I started appearing for the courts it was like, oh, this is how it really works.
posted by vronsky at 4:30 PM on January 23, 2007

First off, always contest it if you can.

Second, get a better argument, because as mentioned above, it will quickly be pointed out that you should have put more distance between yourself and an erratically driving car.

I'm not sure if an officer not showing up automatically equals win. It's one of those rumored things in Massachusetts, that doesn't always pan out. YMMV.

This is not necessarily true. Even if the officer that issued the ticket does not show up, the court usually has on call a representative of the force, and that's all they need. It sucks, big time. I know this because I had this exact scenario happen to me when pulled over for speeding in MA.

That said, if you show up what they'll occasionally do is remove the fine, but keep the points, which doesn't really help vis a vis insurance premiums, which will go up if you have four additional points on your license.

When I initially signed up for insurance in my state (ME), I mistakingly thought I had no points on my license. They gave me a quote that was great, then an hour later called me back and told me it would be an additional $200 because I still had a couple of points. So yes, they do matter, and will cost you. If you have the option to take traffic school and reduce (or eliminate) the points, obviously take it.

Long answer short: yes.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2007

IANAL, but I recommend that you look up the statute you were cited on. You can find your state's statues annotated (or whatever they call it in New York) at the local public library.

In 1997 I was cited in Vermont for "driving too fast for conditions" when my car ended up in a ditch. I was traveling 35 in a 55mph zone and hit ice. Though my ticket was dismissed because the officer failed to show, the judge indicated that he was impressed I bothered to look up the statute in question. It turns out that the statute left the decision of a reasonable and prudent speed up to the driver, which means the officer was not able to decide what that speed was for me. The judge indicated that he would have dismissed the ticket anyway (it turns out he was a family friend, so your mileage may vary).

Be informed. That aside, you will probably loose and waste your (and the court's time) by contesting this. Just start distrusting most police officers for being douchebags. Oh, and stop tailgating/following too close.
posted by sablazo at 5:19 AM on January 24, 2007

In Mass the officer has to show up in court in person. On the first visit (to the Clerk Magistrate) only a representative of the officer needs to show up.
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:11 AM on January 24, 2007

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