A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2: Driving in America

Editor’s Note: A Refresher Course on Ticket-Fighting Part 2 first appeared as a NMA Newsletter #337. Please check out Part 1 Here. If you would like to receive our weekly Email Newsletter, please join the NMA today!

Can a police officer issue me a ticket if he’s outside his own jurisdiction?

If the violation took place within his jurisdiction the answer is yes. If the violation took place outside his jurisdiction the answer is less clear. There may be interagency agreements that allow police to exercise their authority outside their jurisdictions. There may also be state laws that allow inter-jurisdictional enforcement actions. One point to remember, the officer that observed the violation and issued the citation is the only person that can testify against you. The likelihood that an out-of-area officer would appear to testify against you at your trial is somewhat remote.

What if I don’t believe I was going that fast?

It’s possible the radar or other speed measuring device was being operated improperly. Also, the officer may have mistaken your car for another or made some other error. The burden will be on you to prove the likelihood of that mistake.

But everyone was going over the speed limit. What if I was just pulled out of the crowd?

It may be true, but it is totally irrelevant now. Plead not guilty and go to court. In court, don’t complain that you were being victimized. The judge does not want to hear, nor does he have the time to listen to a claim that is nearly impossible to prove. If the officer shows up in court, cross-examine him by asking questions in such a way as to make it appear he had no idea which vehicle caused the reading on the radar/laser gun.

What if they only ticket people of my race?

Sometimes this has every appearance of being true, largely due to stops for trivial traffic laws like seat belt violations, playing the radio too loud, or having a blown out light bulb. If you believe the officer stopped you because of your race, we recommend making a complaint to the police department and/or city government. If it continues to happen after the complaint, consider a lawsuit.

If I don’t sign my ticket, does that mean it’s invalid?

No. Signing for your ticket, which isn’t required in all areas, merely means that you will pay the fine or plead not guilty and show up in court.

If I prove my speedometer was defective when I was stopped for speeding, will the court dismiss the ticket?

No. The court might consider it a mitigating circumstance, but it’s likely you will still be found guilty.

What if there was more than one officer involved in my stop?

First, the clocking officer must be able to confirm that the car being pulled over was the car he clocked. This confirmation should be made to the officer that does the stop. The officer that does the stop is responsible for identifying the driver to whom the ticket is issued. Both the officer that clocked the vehicle’s speed and the officer that issued the ticket must be at the driver’s trial. This also applies to situations involving the use of airplanes to clock vehicle speeds.

Can I write the court and tell them why I’m not guilty?

Some states allow a “trial by declaration”, which is, in a sense, a written explanation or defense you can send to the court. In general, we doubt the fairness or effectiveness of such a defense. There is very little incentive for the court to find the defendant “not guilty.” However, if it is your only option make the best of it. Know the law you are accused of violating, provide a clear description of the key events, and lay out your proofs and arguments as to why you are “not guilty.”

What will happen if I just ignore the ticket?

Ignoring a speeding ticket may result in a suspended license and/or a bench warrant being issued for your arrest. This is true even if you received the ticket outside of your home state. What about that “ex-traffic cop” that has a guaranteed system to get people out of any speeding ticket? No one can guarantee the outcome of your case and you should be skeptical of anyone claiming otherwise. Fighting a traffic ticket will involve some effort on your part, but the benefits are worth it.

When the officer was writing the ticket I admitted that I was speeding. Does that mean that can no longer fight the ticket?

It doesn’t mean you can’t fight it, but you did shoot yourself in the foot. The cop will have recorded that you admitted to speeding. However, you can still go to court and explain some special circumstance as to why you were exceeding the speed limit, or be very contrite and ask for a break, or stick with a not guilty plea, go to trial and hope the cop doesn’t show up allowing you to make a motion for dismissal.

I was asked by a court clerk if I was representing myself as “Pro Se” or appearing in court “Pro Se.” That simply means that I am not using legal representation and I am representing myself in court, right?

Yes, the term Pro Se means you will be representing yourself.

You can find these and other FAQ’s in the NMA’s e-book “Fight That Ticket!” which is available as a free download for supporting NMA members and available to non-members for only $9.95.

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