How to Fight a Speeding Ticket in California (When They Get You on Radar)
If you receive a speeding ticket in California, the effects can be downright ugly. Fines can reach upwards of $500, your insurance rates can increase, and if you accumulate enough “points" on your record, the DMV will suspend your license. The good news, however, is that there are literally hundreds of ways to fight a speeding ticket when radar is used. Remember, the burden is on the prosecution to prove you guilty, so all you need to do is create a reasonable doubt! If you demand your right to a trial, here are some of the basic defenses: Demand production of an Engineering and Traffic Survey. This is a rather technical defense, but it’s also one of the best. The California vehicle code requires that when radar is used, it must be done on a road that has had an Engineering and Traffic Survey performed on it within the last five to seven years. If no survey has been performed or the survey has expired, the use of radar makes it an illegal speed trap. Further, you can question the officer as to the stretch of the road that has been surveyed. If it is possible his radar got you outside of that area, then you have just created a reasonable doubt. Case dismissed! Demonstrate your speed was safe for the prevailing conditions. Most people don’t realize this, but when you are ticketed for speeding at less than 55 mph, the law is actually not that you were traveling faster than the posted speed limit, but that you were going faster than was safe for prevailing conditions. That means you have the chance to prove that, actually, 45 mph in a 35 mph zone was not speeding! You can do this by proving factors that show your speed was reasonable. Was visibility excellent, on a clear, dry day? Was it a straight road with a median and no dips, intersections, or pedestrians? How heavy was traffic, what was the average speed, and how much distance was there in between cars? All these factors and more can be used to show that, in fact, your speed was actually safe despite being over the posted limit. Question the accuracy of the radar and/or training of the officer. Has the radar been calibrated recently? Has the officer been properly trained on how to use a sophisticated piece of equipment? The farther away the officer is from the vehicle he gets on radar, the more likely he is to miss his target. The officer may mistakenly get a reading from another vehicle, a nearby train, or even windblown tree limbs or driving rain. The key is determining the width of the radar beam and the distance between the officer and the target. When these details are elicited in court, it often becomes obvious that the radar is far from perfect – and also creates a reasonable doubt as to whether you were in fact speeding. Create reasonable doubt as to the identification of your vehicle. Here is a common scenario: An officer is pulled over on the side of the freeway. A white SUV blows by, and the radar shows a speed of 85 mph. The officer starts his engine, waits until it’s safe, and then takes off in pursuit. Five miles down the road, he catches a white SUV and gives the driver a ticket. What’s the problem here? Well, unless the officer has super-human vision, how does he know this is the same white SUV? Clearly he lost sight of the speeding vehicle when it blew by and he was completely stopped. Further, what if this happens at night, further hampering visibility? And what if the traffic is heavy? Maybe there are a half dozen white SUVs on this particular freeway. The point is, mistaken identification is very common and this is an excellent argument to make in court. These are only some of the many defenses that can be used for fighting a speeding ticket. Depending on the circumstances of your ticket, there can be a multitude of other ways to get out of that pesky fine and hit on your record.