Fight a speeding ticket on the grounds of inaccurate radar?
July 21, 2008 1:32 PM   Subscribe

I got a speeding ticket, but there was a car next to me that was speeding, while I was not. What is the likelihood that I can argue this in court?

Here are the details:

I was traveling south on a road with two lanes going each direction, and a turn lane in the middle. It was about 1am, so late at night, and it was dark. I was in the left lane, and a crazy teenager was in the right lane next to me, passing me on the right, playing super loud music with his subwoofers turned up.

The police officer was sitting on the other side of the road, facing north. As I came around a turn, about 100 yards from him, and entered a downhill straightaway towards him. He turned on his headlights rather quickly, and pulled in behind us. There was also one car behind the speeding car to my right.

The car on my right was in the process of passing me when the officer clocked me. I would like to contend that he could've clocked the car next to me instead of my car.

Also, the officer could have been tired, as when he brought me the ticket, he said "I'm only going to get you for the speeding, not your license." I gave him a questioning look, and he looked at my license, and said "Oh... you're 19... not 18... nevermind." I asked him what the problem was, and he said "Nothing... I'm just loosing my mind." I assume he was going to fine me for being out past curfew as well, although I didn't think there was a curfew for 18 year olds.

Additionally, I cannot make the assigned court date, as I will be in college. I think it won't be very hard to delay the court date at least 6mo or so, maybe more. By then, the officer may not remember the situation as clearly.

What do you think my chances are in court? What arguments will he use against me, in order to prove that it was indeed me that was speeding? And, how can I combat these arguments?

posted by kraigory to Law & Government (36 answers total)
What do you think my chances are in court?

None at all. Suck it up, pay the fine, and go to traffic school.
posted by special-k at 1:37 PM on July 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Special-k's answer may not appear to be helpful at first reading, but it is fairly accurate. Your chances are slim to none, and the officers these days get scheduled time so they don't fail to appear, and most of them these days have a laptop in the car so they can enter their notes. It won't say much about other cars, just that you were going "x" in a "y' zone, and unless there's an elctro-magnetic pulse that wipes his department's servers clean, I'm afraid that his memory--as much as it needs to be--will be perfectly clear.

The way you can combat those arguments is to ask the court/magistrate to kick loose a minor offense in exchange for a zero point ticket and some community service. You'll pay a fine and costs, but your insurance won't go up.

Alternatively, hire a lawyer who has a good success rate of getting tickets dismissed and hope for the best, based on a clean driving record. You do have a clean driving record, right. B/c otherwise, the criminal court protection of not having past behavior considered does not apply in civil/traffic court (IANAL, but a former lead-foot scofflaw, clean seven years now).
posted by beelzbubba at 1:48 PM on July 21, 2008

Was it radar or laser? Radar may not be able to single out one of two cars traveling so close, side by side.
posted by Gungho at 1:49 PM on July 21, 2008

What arguments will he use against me, in order to prove that it was indeed me that was speeding?

"My correctly operated and properly calibrated speed measuring device indicated the ticketed party was speeding."
posted by smackfu at 2:07 PM on July 21, 2008

They have to prove it was you who was speeding. The best you could do is get the officer to acknowledge that there was another car there, and then have them prove how their radar was able to accurately measure your speed and not the other guy's.
posted by gjc at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2008

Reschedule if you must, but then show up for your initial appearance. You may be able to speak to an assistant DA before entering any plea, and in a very polite and friendly way, explain what you believe happened. The ADA is not likely to dismiss this entirely, but I've seen speeding and traffic violations pled down to zero-point "obstructing traffic" offenses. You'll have to pay the fine -- consider it your random-unlucky-day tax -- but they might let you get away with a relatively clean record.
posted by Tubes at 2:46 PM on July 21, 2008

You don't say what state you're in. IN some states, you can return your ticket paperwork with your "not guilty" box checked. And you'll get a court date, but before you go into traffic court, you go through an interview at which they will tell you that your chances of winning are virtually nil, give you the statistics on how often your word would beat an officer's word, and then offer you a plea bargain with a reduced fee. I don't think you have much hope at all; the officers use radar, they know radar, their experience at reading the radar and understanding of how it works as evidence is going to weigh much more heavily than your feeling that you might have an 'out' here.

You can find out if your state offers the plea by asking around. It's better to just settle and get it behind you. School of hard knocks.
posted by Miko at 2:50 PM on July 21, 2008

You can find out if your state offers the plea by asking around.

Around here, it can vary from one local jurisdiction to the next. For example, Hennepin County, Minnesota prosecutes on behalf of many cities within its boundaries--it offers different deals depending on what the originating city wants to do.

Still worth asking about, of course. BTW, around here the magic word to ask about is "diversion".
posted by gimonca at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2008

How fast were you going?
posted by bitdamaged at 2:57 PM on July 21, 2008

(I'm not a/your lawyer, of course...but there are some innocent questions you can ask before hiring representation.)
posted by gimonca at 2:58 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: I live in St. Louis County, Missouri.

The ticket is for going 56 in a 40 zone. I was probably going 45.
posted by kraigory at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2008

Someone else speeding does not detract from your guilt. Suck it up.
posted by cmiller at 3:11 PM on July 21, 2008

Response by poster: You don't understand- I believe the officer mistakenly clocked the other car, and not mine.
posted by kraigory at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2008

You're nineteen, and this happened at one in the morning? You were driving in the fast lane, and, by your own admission, speeding?

Unless your dad's the mayor or something, the chances of beating it are pretty much zip.
posted by box at 3:19 PM on July 21, 2008

Best answer: I don't think this is an end-of-the-world kind of ticket for you, so consider taking your losses and chalking this up as random bad luck.

that equation of course can easily be thrown off-balance if you throw in variables such as "I am a commercial pilot and my airline will assume I am irresponsible and ground me" but you didn't mention anything like that.
posted by krautland at 4:08 PM on July 21, 2008

Uh, you indicate you were speeding. You cannot truthfully testify you were legally going the speed limit.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:19 PM on July 21, 2008

Christ, how many times does it have to be said?

Go hire a traffic attorney.
posted by jeffamaphone at 5:41 PM on July 21, 2008

"The ticket is for going 56 in a 40 zone. I was probably going 45."

You just admitted your guilt on an internet message board using your own name. (And don't try to claim that isn't your real name; Facebook has you dead to rights.)

Be careful about what you post on the internet generally, especially under your own name. Be doubly careful when it involves crimes, even extremely minor ones like speeding. Chances are almost nil that your traffic court ADA will ever find out about this (it's just not worth it to google traffic court defendants), but googling and checking MySpace and Facebook pages for defendant's incriminating statements for even misdemeanors is de rigeur at many DA's offices.
posted by saslett at 6:10 PM on July 21, 2008

At least once more.

Go hire a traffic attorney!!!
posted by P.o.B. at 6:15 PM on July 21, 2008

Fuck the rest of this advice and fight the ticket.

You'll have no problem postponing the date. You can usually do it by phone. You have pretty Twice I was arguably guilty for a traffic violation and both times I either won or got it reduced.

By fighting the ticket you'll gain valuable experience about what it's like to be in court and how it works. Everyone should fight at least one ticket.

I would go into court and simply tell your version of the events similar to the way you explained them here. Be assertive in all of your statements (no "I think"s, etc.) If you can, present some evidence that documents radars inability to differentiate between two cars (e.g. quote from a website/book, bring a print out/photocopy of the reference to court). It's up to you whether or not to admit you were speeding (at 45), but just because you were going 45 does not justify a ticket for going 56. You definitely have a case here.

Some other advice:

Dress nicely - it will help show that you're taking it seriously
Be cordial and respectful
Do not cross examine/question the police officer. Cops can be pretty good at making you look like an idiot and you don't have much to gain in this instance as he's unlikely to admit forgetting anything on the stand.

I'm not saying I expect you to win, but I wouldn't be surprised if you did. Win or lose, though, it's worth it for the experience alone.
posted by christonabike at 9:05 PM on July 21, 2008

One more comment for the future:

If you're ever involved in a situation like this again, write down everything that happened immediately afterwards. This is prevent you from forgetting details and can help back you up that things happened the way you say they did.
posted by christonabike at 9:07 PM on July 21, 2008

Go hire a traffic attorney!!!

You should fight this. I've had cops tell me all kinds of ridiculous things that were not true, and give me tickets for them.

FYI! - If you do go in there and admit to going over the posted speed limit, there is a possibility the judge will slam his gavel before you say anything else and find you guilty. Seen it and heard it happen before.

If you are going to court, look into whether you have to subpoena the officer that cited you. A lot of times cops will not show up to court, this will get the ticket thrown out(possibly) if he does not show to disprove what you are saying. I've had the Prosecuter sit there and B.S. me by telling me the Officer is down the street and he can call him up.

Look into whether you can defer the ticket. Some states have a defferement law where you are put on a probationary period of 6mo to a year. If you don't recieve another ticket within that time, the original will disappear. It's kind of like double or nothing though.

The last couple I recieved I just sent them on to a traffic attorney. A couple of days later I get back a letter telling me it's taken care of. The fees you pay an attorney will be substantially less than what you will pay in fines and insurance.

Oh and by the way, when a cop comes up to the window and asks "How fast do you think you were going?" Do not incriminate yourself! "I was going the speed limit Officer." "You were going X mph son." "No, I don't believe I was sir!" There is a backside to the ticket that the Officer files with his paperwork that you don't see, and he most likely wrote down what you said. The Judge will be looking directly at this and your previous record when you are standing in front of him. You may need to subpoena that also.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:49 PM on July 21, 2008

"How fast do you think you were going?" Do not incriminate yourself! "I was going the speed limit Officer." "You were going X mph son." "No, I don't believe I was sir!"

Just be aware that that's illegal, and that you'll be lying under oath on the stand, something not everyone is as cool about as some might be.
posted by Miko at 5:59 AM on July 22, 2008

I said don't incriminate yourself. You don't have to give an admittance of guilt as afforded you by the 5th amendment.

Not everyone is aware what speed they are travelling every second. Even the OP said "I was probably going 45mph." He doesn't know, and if you don't know you shouldn't say anything to say you were.

Lastly, lying under oath on the stand is little bit different than having a conversation on the street isn't it?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:23 AM on July 22, 2008

You don't have to give an admittance of guilt as afforded you by the 5th amendment.

Pleading the fifth is not the same thing as giving false evidence. All I'm saying is that the defendant here is the one who knows what he can and can't truthfully say, and the one who will be making the decisions about what to say.
posted by Miko at 11:41 AM on July 22, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice guys- I decided to just suck it up and plead guilty. Honestly, I probably was speeding, and I don't want to lie under oath, or go out on a limb to try and get out of a ticket that I deserve. I don't think it will affect my insurance much anyway.

Thanks for the advice though!
posted by kraigory at 11:58 AM on July 22, 2008

No one said lie under oath!!!
posted by P.o.B. at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2008

Good luck though.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:33 PM on July 22, 2008

Just to be clear Miko, it is not giving false evidence either. Do you really think the cop got him going at 56mph? Everything I said is well within the law. I'd appreciate it if you did not twist what I said into something more than what it was.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:44 PM on July 22, 2008

What christonabike said.

Fight it. With or without an attorney. I've gotten two tickets in my life, fought both (by myself), and had them both severely reduced.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:30 PM on July 22, 2008

it is not giving false evidence either

Neither you nor I can know whether that's true, PoB.
posted by Miko at 2:16 PM on July 22, 2008

This is the basic problem with AskMeFi.

Every single piece of advice given in here should be taken with a grain of salt. Really this should be a starting point for people before they need to look into the matter more.

So, perhaps you should look into this a bit more rather than giving knee jerk reactions? There are attorneys to talk to, courts to sit in on, and books to read on the subject. I've done all three, so (at least in my neck of the woods) I know what I can and cannot do. I don't really like someone implying that I'm giving advice on breaking the law when I was not.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:48 PM on July 22, 2008

i've gotten several speeding tickets. Each time I've gone into court all set to deliver a laundry list of reasons why I wasnt guilty. Each time before I could even open my mouth, the officer pulled me aside and said "Don't sweat. I'm going to have this reduced to broken speedometer." I paid like a 40 buck fine and that was that. I'm in NY if that matters.

Listen to christonabike's advice about dressing nicely and acting courteous and respectful! It definitely makes a difference.
posted by silverstatue at 12:34 PM on July 23, 2008

Find out what the consequences are- 56 in a 40 could be considered a big deal, and not traffic-school-able. If it is, get a traffic attorney.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:08 AM on July 24, 2008

gjc, you seem to be under the impression the Constitution applies in traffic court. They have to prove it was you who was speeding. is demonstrably false.

I could explain about how it doesn't apply to the stop itself either, from personal experience, but I have a court case pending on that so I'm going to censor myself for the time being.
posted by vsync at 7:09 PM on July 28, 2008

vsync, the constitution does apply in traffic court.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:15 AM on August 7, 2008

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