3 Smart Strategies For Fighting A Traffic Ticket

Posted on: 2 November 2016

Paying a traffic ticket may seem like the fastest and easiest way to get it out of your way, but things aren't always that simple. A moving violation comes with more than just a fine – it comes with points on your license that add up over time and can raise your insurance rates and even result in suspension of your license if you get too many. In the long run, fighting the ticket may be the less costly option. Take a look at some smart strategies for fighting a traffic ticket in court.

Argue That Your Speed Was Safe

A speed limit seems like a simple thing – the limit is the maximum speed, and if you exceed it, you're in violation of the law, right? But it's not always that simple. There are three types of speed limits: absolute, presumed, and basic. An absolute speed limit means exactly that – the limit is the limit, and anything else is speeding. The basic speed limit refers to going too fast for conditions – for example, if you were going under the speed limit in a heavy rain, but the police officer determined that you were still driving too fast for safety given the weather, you could be violating the basic speed limit.

However, the presumed speed limit is something different. In states that have a presumed speed limit, like Texas or California, a police officer can presume that you are speeding if you're going over the posted limit, but if you can show that you were driving safely given the road conditions, speeding is technically legal, and you may be able to convince a judge of that. Check the wording of your state's speed laws – if the law doesn't reference a maximum limit, doesn't refer to a speed that it's unlawful to exceed, or doesn't outright say that it's illegal to exceed the limit, your state's speed limit may be presumed instead of absolute. In that case, you just need to show that you were driving safely.

Argue Circumstances Beyond Your Control

Didn't see the stop sign until after the officer pointed it out? There may be a good reason for that. You're supposed to obey traffic signs, but you can't if you don't know that they're there. If the sign was obscured by a tall bush or low-hanging tree branches, for example, you could argue that you didn't obey the sign because you simply couldn't see it. Legally, this defense is called "mistake of fact".

Mistake of fact can also be used if you didn't have sufficient notice of the stop sign – for instance, if an intersection that you frequently pass that did not have a stop sign suddenly has a new sign in place, a judge might accept the argument that you did not notice it because you weren't expecting it and weren't warned that it would be there. In either case, you would need to present evidence for your mistake of fact defense – a picture of the obscured sign, for example, or proof of when a new sign was put in place.

Argue That Your Violation Was Legally Justified

There are occasionally times when you can't or shouldn't follow the law. An officer might give you a ticket, but it's the court's job to consider circumstances that might justify your breach of traffic laws. For example, it's possible that you could be given a ticket for driving too slowly in the fast lane. But you could argue that this was justified because you needed to slow down to make a left turn (as long as it was lawful to make a left in that location.)

A more dramatic example is a sudden medical problem – for example, if you sped up to get to a nearby hospital because your passenger suddenly experienced severe chest pain or became unresponsive, you could argue that your speed was legally justified.

If you didn't know that these defenses were possible, don't feel bad – most people don't know all of the possible defenses to a traffic ticket. This is where a good traffic lawyer can really come in handy. An attorney can help you find a defense for the ticket, which can not only save you the cost of the fine, it can also save you from increased insurance premiums and other penalties.