How to deal with a speeding ticket, given the notoriety of this particular ticketing police force?
May 18, 2008 8:45 PM   Subscribe

How does a driver with a squeaky-clean record (previous to this) handle a speeding ticket from a town that has national notoriety for a history of shady ticketing practices?

I've never been issued a speeding ticket before, and was issued a ticket this past Saturday, about 45 min outside the city I live in. Details: 83 in a 70 mph zone, on the interstate on a clear day. I was tagged by a laser, as opposed to a radar gun, apparently, as well. The fine is approx $210, and the officer said I can probably attend driving school to get points removed from my license -- this school costs about $125, on top of the fine, of course.

I'm looking for any advice about what to do about this ticket, and whether to contest it in court. I've gotten such a wide variety of conflicting answers in my internet search and chats with locals. I don't know what court fees will cost, yet. I suppose I can find this out A lot of people asking this question online seem to have multiple offenses, and dont mention this driving school option, so I guess I'm trying to weigh the court/contesting route against paying for everything like fine and or/the school. I'm also a freshly minted Ph.D. with no signed contract on a job yet, so, yeah, money is a bit of an issue.

But, perhaps even more of an issue is that I found out from local friends that this particular city is a notorious speed trap. Then, in looking this up on the internet, I found several articles that chronicle the speed trap reputaion, and the town's move to remove the mayor, based on mandates regarding ticketing, and possible racial profiling.

See here:
local paper: State sues to remove mayor and another
New York Times

This confuses me even more, in terms of my ability to contest or argue down my charges/fine. On one hand, this news makes me want to argue against it more. (I'm not hispanic, but I'm multi-ethnic. Apparently hispanic looking enough that people will walk up to me and speak spanish. "Solomente un pocito espanol! lo siento!")

Then again, I think to myself, "Without documented proof of your speed, how can you ever beat this?" In general, I'm NOT an ass or speed demon on the roads, like a lot of people. However, I'm getting tanner with every sunny day. This can't possible help me showing up in court, I'd imagine.

Thanks in advance for the help.
posted by NikitaNikita to Law & Government (19 answers total)
Most of the people I knew in high school got speeding tickets, and most of them went to court rather than pay the fines. The standard responses were "I didn't realize I was speeding" and "I was on the interstate keeping up with traffic, and didn't take note of my speed." Nearly all of them (within 15 mph of the limit) were let off the hook. This might be easier to do when you're 17, however, and not dealing with a sketch judicial system. I've never had a ticket, but my suggestion would be court.

Good luck!
posted by phunniemee at 8:53 PM on May 18, 2008

Response by poster: Oh, your comment made me realise I should add that I'm a 29 year old female. If that makes any difference too, as it does in terms of car insurance stuff... Thanks.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:59 PM on May 18, 2008

You don't actually say whether you were speeding, or how fast *you* think you were going.
posted by amtho at 8:59 PM on May 18, 2008

Two questions and one comment.

How fast were you going?

Who pulled you over? State, County or City?

A 70mph Interstate is not a speed trap. It may be an area of heavy enforcement but I don't think anybody can realistically say the prevailing conditions made 83mph seem appropriate.
posted by tickettrader at 9:04 PM on May 18, 2008

When I was pulled over for speeding in CT, I learned by reading the back of the ticket that I could plead Not Guilty by mailing in my plea. What happened was that I recieved a court date and was required to go to traffic court. But before appearing for a judge, there was a pre-screening process that involved a settlement offer from the state that amounted to about half the $280 ticket. The court officer presented this as my best option, saying that I had the option to go on to appear before a judge with my Not Guilty plea, but that the state won 99.99 (or some incredibly high) number of these cases so it was not recommended unless I had strong evidence. I didn't (I was in fact guilty of speeding, though there were circumstances I wanted to object to, such as being pulled over by a totally unmarked car). So I settled for half the amount.

I'm not sure how common this is in other states, but this was better than just paying the full amount, in view of the fact that I probably would have been found guilty in court. It might be worth exploring a Not Guilty plea and then seeing what responses you are offered.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on May 18, 2008

I have successfully received a VERY reduced fine/points by going in to court as a nice, clean-cut, humble young lady who may have gotten a little carried away and exceeded the speed limit by an unknown amount but who is legitimately sorry and has never gotten a speeding ticket before and therefor does not want to ruin a perfect driving record please your honor. I'd say go to court.
posted by desuetude at 9:44 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've received a number of speed-related traffic citations, and I've done a mix of fighting and accepting them.

For minor violations, it's routine for the court to offer a plea to a lesser charge (typically to 6mph over the limit). It's not routine for them to waive it entirely. So if you're going to fight, remember that you'll likely have to go to Coopertown on a workday, and spend an unspecified amount of time waiting to get the ticket reduced in severity.

This may or may not be worth it, depending on your income level, your distance from Cooperstown, and the value of your time.

As for the notoriety of the town, that's fairly irrelevant. If it was going to cost you your livelihood, then it might be worth going for broke with an all out assault on the towns policies as a whole, but the reality is that such an assault would cost a small fortune. It simply doesn't make sense if you're looking at a $200 ticket, and a possible minor bump in your car insurance.
posted by Project F at 10:43 PM on May 18, 2008

A little trick I picked up:

Call in to the courthouse to get the trial "continued" (aka moved to a later date) because you are going to be out of town on that date. Then when that comes up again, get it continued again. Do this a couple times, then finally show up. There is a decent chance that the citing officer will have misfiled his documentation.

Since his function in the courtroom is as a witness, and his only evidence in that ticket, the judge and the DA both are pretty pissed at him for blowing it and wasting everyone's time. At that point, the judge is normally willing to work with you because clearly the officer is shoddy and negligent.

You say that you were going 1-9 mph above the posted speed as opposed to the 10-19 bracket that you are in now and the penalty will be smaller and so will the number of points on your license.

You can try to bend this conversation anyway you want, but some may be riskier than others.

Good luck!
posted by milqman at 11:26 PM on May 18, 2008

Sounds to me like you were speeding and got caught. Pay the fine. The courts have enough real work to do without handling crap like people trying to weasel out of a ticket.

Unless of course you have some sort of legitimate reason why you think you should not have got the ticket...
posted by H. Roark at 12:29 AM on May 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you were speeding, pay the fine. If you're bothered about the points on your license then go to traffic school.

At no point in your rather lengthy post do you say you weren't speeding so is there a reason you think the law shouldn't apply to you?
posted by missmagenta at 12:54 AM on May 19, 2008 [4 favorites]

Don't sweat the "do the crime, pay the fine" folks above; they'd probably screech if theygot ticketed for jaywalking or some other obscure thing.

Call the court. Do not whine about being a ticket virgin, because they will not believe you. However, be as folksy as you can without being obvious, and say you would prefer not to have the points on your license, becuase it would make your insurance go up. Ask what options you have? Often you'll be able to plead guilty to a non-moving violation (excessive vehicle noise, i.e. no muffler), pay the full amount of the speeding ticket plus court fees (extra 100, though you'd have had to pay this to fight it, too), and off you go.
posted by notsnot at 4:10 AM on May 19, 2008

There are lawyers who specialize in traffic cases who can often get a ticket dismissed on grounds that wouldn't even be noticed by someone who hasn't dealt with a few hundred tickets. It might be worth looking into one of them, though for the truly notorious speed traps it may be that the local court's part of the racket. I don't know what they'd charge, but if you know someone who knows a lawyer in town they might be able to let you know if that would be worth your while.

(Some of these speed trap situations become almost comical -- I seem to remember one town in Ohio that was so notorious for abusing speeding tickets that the state police would arrest any of the local cops they saw on the interstate highway passing through the town.)
posted by Zonker at 5:28 AM on May 19, 2008

Is there a good way to get out of a ticket when you got it in another state and you can't possibly make it to the trial? I got a speeding ticket in Indiana a few weeks ago. I live in Georgia. I don't care about the fine, but I really don't want my insurance rates to go up.
posted by galamud at 6:15 AM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: To answer the question about whether I was speeding, I have to honestly say that I don't know. I know I can get nervous when trying to pass a truck or something, and yes, I will speed up to get out of spots that seem risky to me. However, it's also not as if I was blowing by everyone on this (two-lane) highway. Just 15 minutes prior, a driver almost hit me, while passing me in the right lane and shifting into the left.

Anyway, simply put, no, there was no particular reason I was looking at my speedometer at that time. All I can say is that I was driving what I considered an average speed, given the fact that I was both passing some slower vehicles, and being passed for other cars. Without a) being on cruise control or b) having a GPS, I have no record of my speed. Thanks.
posted by NikitaNikita at 6:37 AM on May 19, 2008

What kind of answer are you looking for? The ethical one? In that case, most of what you've written is completely irrelevant to your guilt or innocence ("notorious speed traps," the mayor, etc.). It reads like the rationalizations of someone who doesn't want the law to apply to her. Pay the fine. Or do you want the answer that will lead to you paying as little as possible? In that case, it'll depend entirely on your jurisdiction, as well as, probably, the mood of the judge.
posted by smorange at 7:08 AM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: Places that use speeding tickets as revenue streams are very good at getting people to pay the fine. Ticketing is only the first part of the job, they need to enforce the ticket to get paid.

If you got ticketed and don't dispute the speed, then take the traffic school. You said you don't know how fast you were going. The cop may have cut you a break on the speed he documented - a common practice if you are respectful to the officer. (I got a ticket two weeks ago and the officer took about 10 miles off the speed which allows me to go to traffic school. Nice guy!)

Traffic school.
posted by 26.2 at 7:33 AM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: Since you don't claim actual innocence, the answer to your question is: You pay the ticket and/or take traffic school while realizing you added to the national notoriety of the town in your own little way.
posted by whoda at 7:55 AM on May 19, 2008

Best answer: Don't sweat the "do the crime, pay the fine" folks above; they'd probably screech if theygot ticketed for jaywalking or some other obscure thing.

Gotta disagree with you there, notsnot - there's a reason I drive the speed limit. It's not because I don't want to go fast like everyone else. It's because I don't want to get traffic tickets - and it's the reason I never have. So (in principal) I have no sympathy for those that do speed and then get them.

I do feel for you though, Nikita, and I know how unfair it seems when everyone else was doing worse things around you... but you were speeding.
posted by GardenGal at 8:32 PM on May 19, 2008

Response by poster: After thinking about this some more, considering all the advice, and talking to the court clerk, I decided this morning to pay and do traffic school. They said as long as I go this route before the court date, they would reduce my fine, which helps financially, and expunge my record. The chances of getting anything lesser than this by going to court seems slim, and as many of you pointed out, I dont know what speed I was doing. Guilt is guilt, law is law in this circumstance, regardless of shady profiling or whatnot. It'd be different if this is the n-th time I got ticketed in the region, and I knew that I set my cruise control to 70. Thanks for helping me realise I was being a bit whiny-pants -- I'll save the legal/ethical fights for people who actually can confirm their innocence, thus have more of a reason to fight the issue.
posted by NikitaNikita at 8:29 AM on May 20, 2008

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