The single MOST important tip is simply this: if you do get stopped, ALWAYS be courteous and friendly. DON’T EVER argue with the officer. Why? Two reasons. First, he’ll NEVER forget you and will go out of his way to be in court when your case is tried. In my experience, in roughly 20-30%, the officer won’t show up and your case, under those circumstances, is dismissed. But there is always a handful that wouldn’t even have mercy on a child with cerebral palsy.
Here’s an example of what I mean:
A lawyer for a client who was stopped on the I-5 (a freeway that stretches pretty much the length of California and much of it is through pure desert with absolutely nothing around for miles at a stretch) were caught going well over a 100mph on their way back to San Francisco. When the cops pulled him over to ask for his license/registration etc. his first comment was “how long have you been working this speed trap?” Some people just never learn to keep their mouth shut. Besides that, this lawyer should have known that this wasn’t a speed trap in any event.
The officer showed up in court, and was pissed. That day was his DAY OFF but he made a point of giving up that day off to appear. ‘Nuff said.
My point is, these officers make notes on the back of their tickets. And those notes reflect the “stop” and how the driver reacts to being pulled over. So be friendly, be cooperative and DON’T try to bullshit the officers. They’ve heard and seen it all. They will normally ask you if you know why you were pulled over and if you know how fast you were going. The best thing to say is that you always watch traffic and the road ahead and you weren’t paying too much attention to the speedometer. It won’t get you out of the ticket but, by the same token, it won’t get you remembers as being a jerk.
Keep in mind that, if you DO act like a jerk, the officer COULD cite you for speeding (an infraction) AND wreckless driving which is a misdemeanor. That adds a couple thousand dollars to your lawyer fee.
If you’re friendly and cooperative when stopped, there’s a much better chance that, at trial, a lesser charge can be negotiated. Also, there’s a good chance the officer might not show up because you just don’t stick out in his mind and that’s exactly what you want to be – forgettable!
Also, if you go to your arraignment (your first appearance date) and plead “not-guilty” and request a trial date, set that date as far off in the future as possible, and when that date comes, try to get an extension to set it off even farther if possible. Why? Because things change over time. The officer might be on training, he might be on vacation, he might get transferred and, in either case, he won’t appear and your case will be dismissed.
Some states, permit a “trial by declaration”. If your state offers it, take advantage of it. This is a pre-trial tactic. Basically, you get the forms from the traffic clerk. You deny the charges in the declaration (you basically say you were NOT speeding and little else). The officer has to file a counter declaration and the court then decides guilt or innocence and they’ll send you the ruling. In some states, you automatically still have a right to a court trial. BUT, if the officer doesn’t file an opposing declaration, your case is dismissed. This DOES happen on occasion (the officer may just forget to file one, he might be on sick leave or vacation or may just not file for a variety of reasons.
Either way, it gives you an extra chance to get the ticket dismissed without prejudicing your rights to a full trial if you happen to lose at this stage. So it costs you nothing.
DO NOT FAIL TO APPEAR on your trial date. In some states, this FTA (failure to appear) will result in a bench warrant issued and you do NOT want to be arrested if you have the misfortune of getting stopped again after that missed trial date. You can ALWAYS get a continuance if you need one but DO show up or call the court and request a continuance.
If you go to court and you don’t have an attorney represent you, you have little chance of beating the ticket. Why, because in EVERY case where you go into court and claim “I wasn’t speeding” and the officer says you were, you’ll lose every time. The judge will ALWAYS take the officers word over yours. ALWAYS.
Dismissals are never won based on the contention that the driver wasn’t speeding. EVER. It is done by holding the people’s case to the letter of the law. The problem with a lay person is that they don’t know the law.
I am a lay person and I don’t know the law. This article should NOT be taken as TRUTH. I cannot and will not be held responsible for any thoughts or actions that may come your way as a result of this article.