How to fight a speeding ticket
If you've gotten a ticket for speeding, you may be able to avoid the worst by learning how to fight a speeding ticket. For the best odds of success, you'll want to hire a lawyer, but there are some things that can increase your chances even if you don't have an attorney.
Gather all the information you can
If you believe that you're not guilty of a speeding offense, you should begin to prepare your argument immediately. Start writing down details as soon as possible. Get the names and numbers of any and all witnesses.
Map out the area where you were accused of speeding as soon as possible, while the incident is still fresh in your mind. Go to the position where the officer was measuring your speed from, and look for conditions that may have caused a false reading.
The more information you have, the better your chances of fighting a speeding ticket successfully.
Postpone your court date
One of the simplest strategies for fighting a speeding ticket is postponing your court date. If you postpone the date, you may find that the officer is unable to attend. In some states, you will win the case if the officer fails to show up. However, keep in mind that some jurisdictions may give the officer more than one chance to show up.
Request a trial by written declaration
If you're worried you won't know how to fight a speeding ticket in court, there is another option. You may qualify to request a trial by written declaration, which eliminates the need to appear in court at all.
Applying for a trial by written declaration requires the police officer to provide a written statement about your ticket. If the officer fails to do this by the due date, you may have a better chance of the court ruling in your favor.
To request a trial by written declaration, you must complete the appropriate paperwork by the due date for taking care of your ticket. You cannot apply for this type of trial if your assigned court date for handling the ticket has passed.
When you complete your application for a trial by written declaration, you can include several forms of evidence. These may include written statements or letters from the defendant as well as witnesses. Make copies of all your documentation before mailing it.
If you lose the trial by written declaration, you usually still have the right to request a new trial. This is known as requesting a "Trial de Novo." Be sure to pay attention to any rules about how long you have to request a new trial so you don't find yourself stuck. For example, California requires you to request the trial de novo within 20 days of the decision.
Challenge how the officer determined your speed
There are many different ways to detect a vehicle's speed. If you're charged with a traffic violation, it's important to understand how your speed was determined. Knowing this information may give you an edge in fighting your speeding ticket.
Pacing is one common way of determining a vehicle's speed. This involves driving behind the defendant's car for a set period of time and maintaining pace with it to determine the speed. It's also a highly unreliable method.
If an officer used pacing to determine your speed, you may be able to argue that certain circumstances skewed the results, including:
Nighttime driving conditions
Unusual road configurations
If your speed was determined by an aircraft, both the aircraft officer and the ground officer will typically need to appear in court. This alone can increase your odds of successfully fighting the case. It's also notoriously difficult to get an accurate reading using an aircraft. VASCAR (Visual Average Speed Computer and Recorder) technology measures your speed by calculating the time it takes a vehicle to pass between two points. You can argue that a VASCAR reading is incorrect based on:
- Distance (either too short or too far)
- The officer's reaction time
- An odometer error
- The officer's observation of a distant point
Radar readings are some of the most difficult to argue against, but even radar isn't perfect. Radar signals don't function over hills or curves, and straighter beams return more accurate readings.
Radar can likewise fail if it bounces off more than one target. If an officer is operating the radar in rain or wind, the weather may cause inaccurate readings.
Finally, you can also argue that the officer operating the unit didn't have proper training or experience. A poorly calibrated unit could be to blame as well.
Argue that your speeds were safe
There are three different types of speed limits. Absolute speed limits, basic speed limits, and presumed speed limits.
Absolute speed limits are difficult to argue because they involve a single, clear-cut number. Anything over that is considered speeding, even if it's a simple matter of a single extra mile per hour.
If you're in a jurisdiction that recognizes presumed or basic speed limits, however, you have more room to make your case.
Presumed speed limits allow you to drive over the posted speed limit if you can argue that you're driving safely. This means that you can generally drive faster on a clear road with no other motorists and favorable weather conditions.
Basic speed limits are, in some ways, the opposite of presumed speed limits. An officer can give you a ticket based on a basic speed limit by arguing that you should have driven under the posted limit due to adverse road conditions.
If you're facing a ticket based on basic speed limits, you may be able to argue that you were, in fact, driving safely under the conditions present at that time.
Argue necessary circumstances
Necessary circumstances are extremely difficult to argue. You cannot simply argue that you needed to drive over the speed limit because you were running late.
If there was a true emergency, such as a medical situation, you may have grounds to argue necessary circumstances. Gather as much documentation as possible to support this argument. Know that you may be asked questions such as "Why didn't you call for an ambulance?"
If you believe that you weren't speeding, don't automatically pay your fine. If you contest a speeding ticket, you may be able to avoid any unfair fines.
While the information here may prove helpful in doing so, it is also no substitute for the advice of a lawyer. For the best chances of beating your ticket in court, you should contact a local traffic ticket lawyer.