If you want to win in traffic court, your strategy begins the minute you are stopped. So put your ego in your pocket.
This is some advice from a Florida lawyer about traffic tickets. Most of this article applies to those in all states; but, a few things are Florida specific. Still good reading, though.
Rule No. 1:
Be polite. What do you have to lose by not being courteous? Let me count the ways: First, you will certainly get that ticket. Second, the police officer just might start searching for other tickets he/she can issue. I’ve had clients who received up to 10 tickets in one stop.
Things not to say to the police officer: “I’ll see you in court,” “My lawyer will see you in court,” or “Shouldn’t you be spending your time chasing real criminals?”
In traffic court, every judge is going to ask the police officer, “How did this person treat you on the side of the road?” Oops. Judges and police officers know one another. You are the outsider.
If you requested a hearing hoping the officer does not appear in court, and the officer does not appear, you got lucky. If the officer does appear, and you were not nice, the judge is not going to be nice to you.
If you think the officer was wrong and you have a good case, save your arguments for court. Do not try your case on the side of the road. At roadside, the officer is in control. If you don’t believe that, you may end up in jail.
By the way, sign the ticket. This is not an admission of guilt. This merely shows you received the ticket. Refusing to sign the ticket is a crime and an excuse for the officer to cart you to jail if you have been rude.
Rule No. 2
If you want to beat a speeding ticket, hire a lawyer. Florida law creates a presumption that the officer’s speed measuring device is accurate. Once the officer gets the reading into evidence, you have lost. The fight is in keeping the speed measuring device information out of evidence.
Things not to say in court: “My car just can’t go that fast;” “There was a car next to mine; the officer couldn’t have known which one he clocked;” ” I saw the officer behind me, so why would I have been speeding?” and “The officer didn’t show me his radar.”
You will be wasting the judge’s time, and this may be reflected in your sentence. Also, any speeding ticket you receive that’s 14 mph over the speed limit can be used by your insurance company to raise your rates even if you get no points. A lawyer may be able to get your ticket amended to a lower speed.
Rule No. 3
If you receive a ticket for driving while license suspended, this is a big deal. There are two types of driving while license suspended: driving while license suspended without knowledge, which is a civil infraction, and driving while license suspended with knowledge, which is a crime.
Both look horrible on your driving record; both count toward a five-year habitual drivers license suspension. Hire a lawyer to get the charge amended to something else. If you simply go to the clerk’s office and pay a ticket for driving while license suspended, you may be getting a five-year license suspension.
Rule No. 4
Anything that goes on your driving record stays there for life. An insurance company might look back only three years. But in court the judge sees your lifetime driving record. You might want to think about that before you pay a ticket.
Rule No. 5
Your word against the police officer is probably going to go in favor of the police officer. Yes, I know this is the United States of America; everyone deserves his/her fair day in court, yeah, yeah, yeah. Get over it. You are the outsider.
Traffic crashes are another story. The police officer cannot testify to what he/she didn’t see. If you and your story are as credible as the person who didn’t get the ticket, there should be reasonable doubt, and you should prevail. Also, if the other person in the crash doesn’t show, you will win.
Free tip: If there is a crash and the officer does not show, the ticket itself is invalid. A uniform traffic citation must be written by a law enforcement officer. If there is no law-enforcement officer present to say he/she wrote the ticket, the case should be dismissed.
Of course, if you don’t break the law, you don’t need this advice.
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