Photo credit by Chris Yarzab
The blue and red lights flash from behind while the driver's checkbook balance flashes before their eyes. An officer sidles up next to the car, hand on gun and demands to see license and registration. The manner in which the driver addresses the officer can determine which way the Officer's discretion is swayed. Having a clean driving record before a traffic stop can also work in a driver's favor as a police officer is more likely to issue a ticket if a motorist already has points on their license for similar offenses.
First and foremost, it is imperative to be polite and respectful to the officer making the traffic stop. Copping an attitude or speaking disrespectfully will make the officer more likely to remember the specifics of the traffic stop at a court hearing or encourage the officer to take more copious notes during the stop. Belligerence may also prompt the officer to call for back up, which most certainly will not lead to a mere warning for a moving violation. Keep your hands visible at all times so as to not give the officer any reason to be concerned during the stop. Offer all requested information or documentation quickly and courteously and ask permission to reach any place in the car, such as the glove compartment, before making any sudden moves.
Don't make excuses since the officer doesn't really want to hear them anyway. Barring a medical emergency, there's no real excuse for breaking traffic laws. Once the blue and red lights are seen from behind, go into defense mode. Any question posed by the officer can be a leading question, one that can elicit an admission of guilt. "Do you know why I pulled you over?" asked of a speeding motorist could be answered with, "Is there a problem, Officer?" In this way, the motorist is not admitting guilt, yet is engaging the officer in a polite manner.
If kindness towards the officer still results in a ticket, there are other strategies that can be used to beat a traffic ticket. If a motorist truly feels that a sign was hidden from view, or in any other way was not easily seen by passing motorists, photos should be taken in support of a traffic ticket defense. Sometimes signs are missing or things are not marked clearly enough, which led to confusion. Gather evidence the same day as the ticket was issued, since photos will reflect things such as traffic and weather conditions, or in the case of vegetation overgrowth obscuring a sign, the extent of the overgrowth.
Requesting a continuance may also help a motorist beat a traffic ticket. In many municipalities, officers are scheduled for court on their days off, which means overtime for them. Pushing a court date out may result in a scheduling conflict whereby the officer may be unable to attend. Also, those who dispute tickets at the holidays may get lucky and have the officer no-show on the court date due to other commitments.
It is much easier to contest a traffic ticket if it was incurred locally. For those who incur traffic tickets while traveling, a court appearance may not be cost effective. Since remitting the traffic ticket requires drivers to send in a hefty chunk of the fined amount anyway, it may be better to contact the Officer or prosecutor handling the case to plea down and pay the fine only. For those with points on their licenses already, paying a fine and avoiding points may be the best course of action. In these cases, a speeding ticket could be reduced to failure to obey a traffic sign, which, though it would still result in a fine, would not result in points on a driver's license.
Beating a traffic ticket can mean different things to different people. To some, it means escaping without the assessed fine. To others, it may simply mean pleading down to a lesser charge and avoiding points all together. Since traffic tickets can be thrown out if the police officer does not show up for court, there is nothing to lose by requesting a hearing.