Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Traffic Court 101: Options If You Get A Ticket

Do you remember that post not too long ago that spoke about a little problem I have? I like to think of me picking up speed as I drive down a hill near my home as saving my brakes. Because really, who wants to replace brakes all the time? And in order for me to stay within the speed limit, my brakes need to be engaged for about .75 miles. And that's a lot.

Well, that's not what the officer who pulled me over said. And I was upset. Disappointed with myself, I know better. Upset at the officer who
tagged me with his radar while sitting at a stop sign. Who does that?! Long story short, I contested the ticket and went to court. My next few posts will be explaining some things that I believe everyone should know.

First, follow traffic rules or have solid reasons for not, you may be defending those choices in court. Second, be prepared to defend any statement you make to an officer. If you get pulled over for speeding and you admit that you knew the speed limit and knowingly exceeded it, then you cannot retract that statement later in court. Just because you got pulled over does not mean you committed an infraction. Maybe you did. Maybe you didn't. Maybe the radar was calibrated that morning. Maybe it was tested 3 years ago instead of less than 2 years. Maybe the speed limit sign was obscured by trees. Maybe your seat belt was unbuckled because you were at a stop light and getting something out of your pocket. Perhaps, you didn't really cross a double yellow line to pass but the officer was two cars behind you and wasn't able to see the break in the line when you passed  couple of cars. There are a ton of variables here. Too many for you to process on the spot.

I do not know everything about getting tickets and what to do if you get them. In reality, I have very little experience in this area. But I am determined to share what little I did learn from my peers as I sat in the courtroom. I want to help educate others about the vocabulary used in the courtroom and to help you understand what resources are available to you if you are pulled over.

Let's begin. If an officer gives you a ticket, you have 3 options.

1. Pay it. This is the easiest option to take and the majority of those who get tickets just pay the fine.
2. Mitigate it. You appear before a judge and explain what was going on when you were cited. Perhaps, the judge will reduce the penalty.
3. Contest it. You appear before a judge and explain the circumstances around the ticket. You may chose to bring in photos of the area. You may present evidence. You may subpoena expert witnesses. The judge will determine that you "more likely than not" did or did not commit the infraction.

You must choose which option is best for you and then send your reply back to the court or pay the fine.

Next post: After making your choice, what resources are available to you for looking into your own guilt or innocence?

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