You have just been ticketed but you need to get out of it without court inconvenience. That’s possible — you can fight a traffic ticket without going to court.
This article outlines the best strategies that have proven effective for many individuals in contesting traffic tickets, including tickets for speeding and running red lights captured by red light cameras without stepping a foot in court.
How to fight a traffic ticket without going to court
The chance of success will typically depend on the situation and the type of cop you’re dealing with. That’s the more reason why you should be polite and respectful to the officer. That said, below are the ways to fight a traffic ticket without going to court:
1. Dispute the opinion of the cop
Police officers frequently issue tickets to drivers for making turns or driving in a manner deemed unsafe. These citations require the officer to exercise discretion and make a subjective determination of the situation. If you have received a ticket where the officer’s judgment was called into question, you may have grounds to contest it without going to court.
For instance, if you were ticketed for an unsafe lane change while driving on the highway, you can defend yourself by arguing that the lane change was safe given the weather and traffic conditions at that time. To strengthen your case, you could argue that the police officer was ahead of you during the lane change, and therefore may not have had a clear view of the situation due to the heavy traffic and their focus on the road ahead.
Subjective speeding tickets are issued in certain states where police officer is authorized to use their discretion to determine if a driver is driving at a safe speed.
These tickets are often challenged by those who receive them, as the posted speed limit is not always the final word.
In these states, drivers are allowed to travel at a speed that they believe is safe given the traffic conditions. If you have received a ticket for exceeding the posted speed limit in such a state, you may be able to contest the officer’s judgment.
For instance, if you are cited for driving 80 mph in a 60 mph zone, you could argue that your speed was safe because all of the cars in your lane were also traveling at that speed and that driving at 60 mph or slower would have been hazardous under those conditions.
2. Fight the evidence of the officer politely
In contrast, there are other types of tickets that are clear-cut and cannot be challenged based on the officer’s judgment.
These include running a stop sign, making an illegal U-turn, and similar infractions. When fighting such a ticket, the focus is on whether the officer actually saw the violation occur. The outcome in these cases often comes down to the credibility of the witnesses, and the driver typically has a high burden of proof. However, there are certain arguments and evidence that you can present to challenge the officer’s observations, which may increase your chances of success.
Additional evidence that could support your argument in these cases to fight a traffic ticket without going to court includes:
- Eyewitness accounts from passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians who can support your version of events.
- Detailed diagrams that accurately depict the location of your vehicle and the officer’s vehicle at the time of the citation. For example, a diagram that shows the officer was too far behind you to have seen you run a red light would strengthen your argument.
- Photographs of the location of the alleged violation, which can help illustrate your claims. For example, photos that show an obscured stop sign or a non-functioning traffic light can support your argument.
3. Prove that the violation was a mistake of fact
In most legal jurisdictions, the judge hearing your case has the discretion to make a decision based on the evidence presented to fight a traffic ticket. In some cases, such as a ticket for running a stop sign, you may be able to argue that you should not be required to pay the ticket because you made an honest “mistake of fact.” This means that you did not realize that you were breaking the law and would not have committed the violation if you had known the circumstances. However, the exact criteria for a “mistake of fact” defense varies by jurisdiction, and the burden of proof is on you to prove your innocence.
“Mistakes of fact” are errors made by drivers regarding the circumstances of the situation.
To provide clarity, let’s look at a few examples:
- If you were driving in two lanes because the lane markers were so worn down that you couldn’t see them, this would be considered a mistake of fact.
- If you made an illegal right turn because a “no right turn” sign had been knocked down by the wind, this would also be a mistake of fact.
In some cases, a judge may dismiss a ticket if the defendant can demonstrate that they did not have adequate notice of the violation.
For example, if you regularly drive a certain road and were suddenly ticketed for running a stop sign that was installed the previous day, you could argue that you were not given sufficient notice about the new sign and that you made a mistake of fact. However, if the sign was up long enough for you to be aware of it, or if you had never driven that road before, or if you were driving recklessly and failed to see the sign, it is unlikely that this argument would be successful.
4. Try to justify your driving
Another way to fight a traffic ticket without going to court is to admit to the violation, but argue that there were extenuating circumstances that made the violation justifiable. This can be an effective approach because it does not require you to dispute the officer’s testimony or the charges listed on the ticket, but rather to provide evidence that demonstrates the reasons for your actions.
For example, if you are ticketed for speeding on the highway, you could argue that you were passing a vehicle that you suspected was being driven by an intoxicated driver. In this case, your speeding may have been necessary to prevent a potential accident. However, this defense would be weakened if the officer could prove that you maintained a high speed even after passing the other vehicle.
As another example, if you receive a ticket for reckless lane change and stopping on a highway, you could contest the ticket by presenting evidence that you experienced sudden dizziness and felt like you were about to faint while driving. In this situation, you pulled over and stopped your vehicle as soon as possible to avoid losing consciousness while driving.
If it even gets to court, a judge may consider these circumstances and find that your actions were legally justified, leading them to dismiss the ticket.
5. Argue that you tried to prevent an accident
This defense is similar to the one mentioned previously in that it aims to demonstrate that the ticketed driving was necessary to prevent harm to yourself or others. For instance, speeding on the highway to avoid a potential accident, or swerving to avoid hitting a pedestrian who has fallen into the lane you are driving in.
The key to successfully making this argument is to show the judge that, had you not taken the action you did, someone would have been seriously injured. By providing evidence to support this argument, you may be able to convince the judge to dismiss the ticket.
Read also: legal steps to making citizen arrest
Conclusion – fight a traffic ticket without going to court
Retaining legal counsel is typically only necessary in a limited number of circumstances when fighting a traffic ticket.
The decision to seek professional help often depends on the severity of the consequences of the ticket. If a ticket could significantly increase your car insurance premium or result in a license suspension, consult with a traffic law attorney for guidance and support.