This is the start of a series of articles I will write about traffic laws in California, specifically in San Francisco, and how to fight or avoid speeding tickets. This information comes from work experience, and legal research I engaged in to discover and successfully fight speeding tickets.
There is an inherent contradiction in the purpose of police officers. They are responsible with the just enforcement of the laws, and endowed with the power to do so. Yet at the same time they are give the responsibility to pay for themselves and fund their local municipalities. This combined with their inherent authority makes them very scary, and potentially dangerous characters. A law enforcement body should have no interest beyond civil order to enforce laws. The profit potential (and reality) of traffic and speeding tickets makes it clear why so much effort is put into enforcement. Such tickets bring in many millions of dollars each year as thousands upon thousands are give out each year.
One statistic I read mentioned that approximately 1 in 4 Americans will receive a traffic ticket each year. Perhaps this is why the sound of a siren behind our cars makes our stomachs sink. We know what we are in for; a humiliating lecture, a pathetic exhalation of excuses, an expensive ticket, and a feeling of wanting to make an explanatory apology call to our car insurance company. But to make it easy for you, at least most cities let you pay your fine really easily online.
The insurance companies of course are more than happy that we are getting ourselves into these predicaments. Sometimes I wonder how police departments can resist their charms. In fact, insurance companies are one of the big reasons police officers are out there with fancy equipment and in such numbers. While it is likely unlawful for the insurance companies to directly fund law enforcement, nothing says that cannot “donate” equipment for “safety reasons.” Tons of equipment and instruments such as radar and laser speed detectors are happily provided to police so that they can issues more tickets so that they can be reported to insurance companies, so that they can raise people’s insurance rates. How clever of them. Don’t ever forget that insurance companies are a business.
When you get a speeding ticket there are right ways and wrong ways to get out of them. If you are lucky enough to talk your way out of it, then you have passed go, and the state cannot collect your $200 (or more). If you are written a ticket, you want to stay silent and preserve your rights. There are many tricks involved in getting you to admit your wrong. Such as the old “if you admit you were speeding, I will say you went only 10 mph over the speed limit, and not 2o mph.” That is a classic plea bargain. Don’t fall for it unless you are ready to pay your fine. They do this so if you ever contest the ticket in court, then can pull out their book to remind then (or place their recorded recollection into evidence) that you in fact made those remarks. The judge will believe them.
The best advice is to keep quiet, don’t admit to anything, or start to apologize. Remember however, that it may be a good idea to ask for a warning. That is right, the best way to get yourself off the hook is to ask. To be honest, most police officers don’t want to be the bad guy. They have been in your shoes and appreciate working with someone who is humble and real. If you start getting defensive or denying things, you will give them just the opportunity they need to justify writing you a ticket. Looking them in the eye after they have said their piece and asking for a warning will work more than you think.
Two broad options represent themselves after you receive a ticket. Pay or fight (hopefully discard and forget are not among your choices). If you pay the fine, you have gone the easy and unintelligent manner. Although it feels like a bit of a headache off your shoulders, the ramifications are not worth it. First you have to deal with the point on your DMV record. This may translate into losing or having your license suspended. Second, is the fact that the DMV reports this information to your insurance company who is more than happy to hear the news. Yes, because they WILL, not may raise your insurance rates. And it is for this reason why it is important to invest the time and/or money into fighting your tickets. When you successfully fight a speeding or traffic ticket, it is like it never existed.
How do I fight tickets? Well there are several things you do, and it is really the conglomeration of tactics which as a whole ensure success almost all the time. Even if you are completely guilty and caught red handed speeding, you can fight on many procedural grounds. What you need to do is understand how, and what to say to get your case dismissed. More in the next part of this series. Here is an example of an interesting article on how to beat tickets which appears (and is) to be a lot more work that it is worth. What I do is actually legal work, not these pleading tactics (no pun intended) which involve begging to a police officer.
Keep reading for the next part on being your speeding tickets.