Fighting a Moving Violation on Your Own

By Zev Goldstein, New York Traffic Attorney

Receiving a ticket for a moving violation can be frustrating, especially if you feel that the citation is unwarranted. In addition to a hefty fine, a ticket can result in the assessment of points, which can cause an increase in your insurance premiums. Although it may be difficult, a traffic ticket can be overturned. The key is to be prepared for your day in court. You must gather evidence, witnesses and present a solid case.

Thoroughly read the ticket to determine the exact violation for which you are being cited. Verify that the ticket is accurate based on the codes entered for the weather, road and traffic conditions at the time of the alleged offense. Incorrect information and omissions may result in dismissal of the citation.

Mark your copy of the citation “Not Guilty,” and mail it in to the court. Request information from the court or the police officer regarding the details of the citation. In some cases you can request that the law enforcement officer who issued the ticket provide a written deposition of the circumstances involved with the incident. The hearing will give you an opportunity to challenge the officer’s subjective observations and conclusions as well as any inconsistent statements or other weaknesses in the deposition. Prepare statements, witness testimony and any evidence that refutes the officer’s recollection of the events. The citation may be dismissed if your information requests are ignored or if the officer fails to submit a deposition. You should also request verification of the accuracy of speed measuring devices or the red-light camera if applicable.

Circumstances beyond your control or legal justification are potential defenses when challenging the validity of a ticket. A motorist can make an honest mistake due to faded road markers, obscured traffic signs and ones that were recently installed or changed. It will be helpful to have pictures of obscured signs and faded roadway markers taken at the same time of day and similar weather conditions when the ticket was issued. These mitigating factors may convince the court to nullify the citation. You may be legally justified based on mitigating factors, such as a medical emergency, avoiding an accident or vehicle malfunction that could impair the flow of traffic. Gather doctor, hospital and car repair bills to support your claim.

Drivers may also argue that the violation was necessary to prevent harm. An example is swerving across a double yellow line to avoid hitting a child who inadvertently enters the roadway or exceeding the speed limit to avoid being struck by another vehicle. You must be prepared to explain why your actions were required in order to prevent serious and immediate danger to yourself or someone else.

Schedule the court date as far into the future as possible. As the date approaches, request that the date be postponed. The more time that passes, the more likely it is that the officer may not appear in court or have the required documents to support the citation. Delaying the date also enables you to familiarize yourself with the procedures of the traffic court, so you are prepared to answer any questions while presenting your defense.

Attorney Zev Goldstein, has 28 years of experience, with traffic tickets and driving-related crimes such as DWI/DUI, unlicensed operation / driving on a suspended license or insurance, and in restoring driving licenses.

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7 Responses to “Fighting a Moving Violation on Your Own”

  1. Fred says:

    One last note, be ready for the maximum penalty when you lose because you made their lives a little more difficult instead of just taking the PBJ.

    • JS says:

      @Fred… be a good little sheep and go hide from the big bad police. Your timidity perpetuates the current victimization of motorists.

      More often than not, even upon a guilty verdict, if you request traffic school and a fine reduction, the judges will often allow this. Worst case scenario you pay the full fine and go to traffic school which is the same as you would do if you just mailed the payment in and admitted guilt without a trial.

      Bottom line, if more people had the balls to fight their tickets, the system would grind to a halt (due to the guarantee of a speedy trial) and police would likely go back to solving crimes instead of stealing from motorists.

  2. Steve V. says:

    One trick that has worked for me is to reschedule your hearing to a day or two BEFORE the original date. Police departments are often "last-minute" with regard to such things, and the hearing date will be gone before they realize it.

  3. Charlie says:

    You are talking about a lot of work. It is simpler to use your once a year get out of a ticket with defensive driving, and it gives you a little discount on your insurance as well. In Texas the total cost including court costs, defensive driving course cost, and obtaining driving record cost will be about $142. This is more than what a ticket use to be, but a ticket these days run close to $300, with parking in a handicap infraction being almost $600!!! Twenty years ago a speeding ticket was around $100 and the total for taking defensive driving was about $50. Talk about inflation! Of course if you already used your once a year defensive driving course to get out of a ticket then it will be worth going to court.

  4. Corey says:

    Would love to see specific info on MA

    This year I went to court two times, once for speeding, the other for an expired inspection sticker. I searched the internet for help with these tickets in my state of MA. I found some information on the Natinoal Motorists Association website to request records of the speeding equipment used, officer training etc. I learned quite a bit about how things work in MA. Everytime I see an ariticle about beating a ticket, I wish it was more specific to MA, since it seems that things work very differnt here.

    For starters, just to contest the ticket and get a court date, you have to pay a non-refundable $25 processing fee. How that law ever got past I don't know, I am sure that it wasn't voted on by MA voters. Next, you don't go before a judge right away, you go before a court Magistrate. The ticketing officer does not have to be present, another officer will show up and read the ticketing officer's notes about the citation. You present your case and the Magistrate finds you responsible or not responsible (NR). If you are found "responsible" and wish to appeal the finding and go before a judge, no problem, just pay another $50 non-refundable fee and they will set up a date for you to come back. In this case, the ticketing officer did show up, but I am not sure if the case would have been dismissed if he hadn't.

    BTW, through this process, I didn't see any place where I could request the trial to be postponed like the author describes. I did write to the local PD and asked for calibration and training records. I received a resonse telling that might as well have said "F U", because it stated that they could either not provide the information I asked for, or that it would take dozens of hours for an employee to locate the information for which I would be required to pay for that time which added up to hundreds of dollars.

    The expired inspection sticker is considered a moving violation in MA, so it would result in a premium increase and a reduction in the Safe Driver points system that MA does.

    In the end, I went before a judge for the speeding ticket and was found NR (not sure why, long story). The magestrate found my NR for the inspection since I got my vehicle inspected and the PD decided not to persue it. It definately is worth going to court, even in MA where you are assumed guilty since you have to pay the non-refundable fee to prove your innocence.

  5. Shazaam says:

    You may be hit with the maximum penalty. However, you will cost "Them" far, far more.

    Last ticket I took to trial, I estimate cost the city $1400 to prosecute for a fine plus court costs of $225 (the max).

    I figure that's a fair exchange. Most people just mail-in the fine which is exactly what the road-side tax-collectors / Brigands want.

  6. ANDRES says:

    In CA you can fight your trial by mail/declaration, and when you lose that (which will happen over 99% of the time), you can have a real trial in person with the officer present.

    The benefit is you get one free swing, and also you are already much more prepared for trial assuming your written argument and documents were thorough.

    They won't send you the officer's declaration, so you'll have to waste time going to court to get a copy to read (or pay to have them give you a copy).

    It seems every year some corrupt uninformed politician will propose taking away all these rights and avenues to fight unjust tickets.