it. beat it.
“If you really want to try to fight your ticket, read ‘Beat the Cops’ by Alex Carroll. I ordered the book through Carroll’s Web site and read it. And for the first time since seeing those blue and white lights I felt a glimmer of hope. The book describes how the author got 16 tickets in a short time and was able to nullify 10 of them. He eventually wrote his book based on what he learned.
Even more interesting was the writer’s perspective. Unlike traffic cops, who make you feel like a serial killer for speeding, the book states that the majority of tickets are issued to generate money for government municipalities. Insurance companies benefit from traffic tickets, too, raising your rates when your driving record shows a moving violation. The National Motorists Association claims that costly radar guns are donated to police departments by some insurance carriers to encourage them to write more speeding tickets.
Finally, I was getting somewhere in this process. I called Carroll and told him the details of my traffic stop.
“A speeding ticket based on pacing is the hardest kind to beat,” he said.
“Pacing” is when a police officer follows you and checks your speed by looking at his speedometer. Speeding tickets can also be issued based on an officer “estimating” your speed — this is nothing more than a cop watching you and guessing how fast you are going.
According to Carroll, there are three ways to beat a ticket:
1. The cop doesn’t show up for court
2. You exploit a technicality (such as a problem with the patrol car’s speedometer)
3. You have a good argument for extenuating circumstances (you are speeding to get your pregnant wife to the hospital)
This reminded me of a story a friend told me. He was driving down a canyon road when he struck a bird, which became lodged under the windshield wipers. His daughters were in the car with him and they began screaming hysterically. He sped up to dislodge the bird and, at that moment, was pulled over for speeding. When he told this bizarre story to a judge, the ticket was dismissed.
My pacing ticket didn’t fall easily into any of Carroll’s three categories. The only technical angle to exploit was to prove that my speedometer was malfunctioning. I spoke to Edmunds.com’s technical editor and he told me the speedometer might in fact be wrong. My heart jumped. “I think it’s actually a little low,” he said.
Another tactic Carroll describes is to delay the trial to a time when the ticketing officer can’t come to court. He suggested I call the station house where my California Highway Patrol officer was based and find out when he was on vacation, or what his days off were. This could be done by calling over a number of days to find out when he was working. Then, when I extended my court date, try to schedule it for a day that he wasn’t on duty.
Other strategies might include requesting the officer’s notes written on the back of the ticket hoping there is something there which is inaccurate.
I decided to extend the date of my trial to increase the chances the officer wouldn’t appear in court. As I attempted to do this I made an alarming discovery. You can request only one postponement (called an “extension”) and it must be requested 10 days before your trial date.This is stated in very small print on the ticket, and it doesn’t really make sense. I mean, you’re more apt to have a scheduling conflict arise at the last minute rather than 10 days earlier. But this is the way the law is written so I was committed to the assigned trial date.
However, I still had one ace in the hole. If the ticketing officer did show up, and my defense was falling on deaf ears, I could quote California Vehicle Code 41501 allowing me to attend traffic school. But — and this was important — I should make a photocopy of the law because some judges weren’t familiar with it.
“If it looks like you’re going to lose, say, ‘Your honor, I see that you’re very busy here. I will cite CVC 41501 and take traffic school,’” Meyer told me.
With this backup plan in mind I set about creating a reasonable sounding argument. But I had to get busy. My court date was in three days.
On the day of my trial for a speeding ticket I arrived outside traffic court in West Los Angeles to find about 30 people milling around, waiting for the doors to open. At the other end of the corridor, the police officers who had issued the tickets had gathered. I noticed that these two groups didn’t mingle at all.
When the doors finally opened (45 minutes late) we all filed into the courtroom. The police officers sat on one side of the room while the ticketed motorists sat on the other.
I had prepared for my day in court in several ways:
· I wore a coat and tie
· I had read several books about presenting cases in traffic court
· I had drawn a diagram of the area where the traffic stop occurred
· I had copies of the California Vehicle Codes relevant to my case
The only thing I was lacking was a compelling argument to prove that I wasn’t speeding. I mean, I was speeding and there were no real technicalities I could exploit to contradict that. My strategy was to wait until the last possible moment, hoping the ticketing officer didn’t show up, and then, if he did make an appearance, invoke California Vehicle Code 41501 stating my right to go to traffic school.
The judge finally appeared and told us that he would be reading off our names. If we were prepared to proceed to trial, we should respond by saying, “Ready.” The judge sternly warned us that this was our last chance to opt for traffic school. If we went to trial and lost, there would be points on our license. If we took traffic school now our sins would be forgiven.
Surveying the room, the judge then said to one of his clerks, “You know, I saw a lot of officers downstairs. Let them know we’re starting now.” The clerk disappeared. This, and several other comments showed that the judge was trying to scare us into taking traffic school rather than tying up the court with a trial.
The judge then began reading our names. In several cases, the defendant answered, “Ready,” and the police officers responded by saying, “The people are ready.” The judge set these case files to one side for trial.But in over half of the cases there was no response from the police. In other cases the police responded by saying, “Officer doesn’t remember,” and the case was dismissed.
In one case, the judge got no response when he called the police officer’s name. He told his clerk, “Check downstairs. I know I saw the officer down there.” This case file was set to one side, and the defender slouched in his seat, muttering an obscenity. The people whose cases were dismissed usually said, “All right!” and left the courtroom with a spring in their step.
When my name was called I responded with a confident, “Ready!” The judge then called out the police officer’s name. I held my breath. He called it again. No response. The judge glanced over the case and said, “People unable to proceed. Case dismissed. Watch your speed.” I left the courtroom feeling a load was lifted, and joined the other celebrating ex-offenders in the corridor.
As I walked back to my car I realized that I had won in a number of ways:
· The charges were dropped and my $77 fine would be returned
· No points would be put on my license
· My insurance premiums would not go up
· I wouldn’t have to spend the money or time on traffic school
All of these benefits were the result of taking the time to go to traffic court.
Several days later a friend of mine had a different experience in court. So far this year my friend has beat two tickets and lost two. The two tickets he successfully challenged were for speeding based on radar and were given to him by California Highway Patrol; the two he lost were from city police departments for non-speeding moving violations. In this particular case he was ticketed for failure to come to a complete stop at a stop sign. He went to court in West Los Angeles and waited for the entire afternoon for the chance to argue his case.
My friend reported that the judge in his courtroom was like a flamboyant game show host. When he ruled in favor of the driver, he seemed to share in the excitement of the moment by boisterously proclaiming, “Looks like you won’t be going to traffic school! And we’ll even be mailing you your money back!” But when he ruled against the motorist he became sarcastic and abrupt.
The order of the events in the trials were:
1. The officer described the circumstances under which he issued the ticket
2. The judge asked the officer follow-up questions about the case
3. The defendant told his or her side of the story
4. The judge questioned the defendant and referred further questions to the officer
In some cases, the defendant was allowed to tell his story only to discover that the officer had shot a video of the traffic stop. These cases always went against the driver.
When my friend was stopped he had asked the police officer: “Are you saying that I blew off the stop sign completely?” The officer said, “No.You just rolled through it.” But in court the cop told a different story.
The officer described the location where he was parked and stated that he had an unobstructed view of the intersection. He then told the judge that my friend had gone through the stop sign at 15 mph. The judge then asked, “What’s the error factor in your speed estimation certification?” The officer said it was “plus or minus 3 mph.”
When it came time to issue a ruling, this judge used this fact against my friend. He said, “Assume for a minute that the officer had been having a bad day. That still means you were going at least 9 mph. Suppose he was having a really, really bad day. That still means you were going 6 miles an hour.”
My friend felt that he had learned an important lesson from this trip to court. Since the police officer presents his side of the story first, you should try to anticipate what he will say and create your strategy accordingly. Clearly, this officer had presented what he thought would be an ironclad story to refute someone trying to say that they didn’t “roll” through the intersection. If he had said that my friend had gone through the intersection at 5 mph without stopping, that 3 mph variation in his speed estimation certification would be cutting it pretty close.
This brought up another important point. Walter Meyer, a traffic school instructor and freelance writer who lives in San Diego, Calif., said that if the case hinges on your word versus the police officer, the judge will usually rule in favor of the officer. This is because police officers are perceived as experts in traffic rules. Furthermore, Meyer said, “The judge knows that he can walk out the door of the courthouse and find a dozen people breaking the traffic laws.” This leads to an attitude of “guilty until proven innocent” — at least in traffic court.
This was echoed by my friend who had some advice for anyone going to try his or her case in traffic court: “Make sure your case is based on concrete evidence and don’t rely strictly on what the officer said at the time of the traffic stop. Don’t just go in there and say, ‘I didn’t do it.’”
For example, one woman who successfully challenged her ticket convinced the judge that the stop sign she supposedly ran was resting on a concrete pylon that was too low to see. She brought photos to court to show the judge and her case was dismissed.
Although my case was dismissed, I still had one important step. Experts advise that you contact the DMV and get a copy of your driving record to make sure your dismissed case hasn’t inadvertently wound up on your license. While the clerical error is the court’s fault, you could be the one spending a night in jail.
As my friend and I discussed our experiences we agreed that there was very little reason not to go to traffic court. There was some chance that the officer wouldn’t show up and your case would be dismissed. If the officer did appear, you could always opt for traffic school at the last minute. Furthermore, some speeding tickets (most notably radar tickets) can be challenged on a technicality. Other tickets can be dismissed by presenting evidence such as diagrams or photographs.
It’s important to take a larger view of this whole subject. The police write many tickets knowing that the motorist will simply pay their fine by mail hoping to put the whole incident behind them. Other offenders will choose traffic school. Only a small group of motorists will ask for a trial in traffic court. And an even smaller number will actually go to trial.
Clearly, if everyone went to traffic court, the system would become overburdened and collapse. So, if you feel your ticket was unwarranted, ask for your day in court — you could walk out a winner.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Our POSTER is ANITA SANDS HERNANDEZ, Los Angeles Writer, Futurist and Astrologer. Catch up with her websites TRUTHS GOV WILL HIDE & NEVER TELL YOU, also The FUTURE, WHAT'S COMIN' AT YA! FRUGAL LIFE STYLE TIPS, HOW TO SURVIVE the COMING GREAT DEPRESSION, and Secrets of Nature, HOLISTIC, AFFORDABLE HEALING. Also ARTISANRY FOR EXPORT, EARN EUROS....* Anita is at firstname.lastname@example.org ). Get a 15$ natal horoscope "my money/future life" reading now + copy horoscope as a Gif file graphic! No smarter, more accurate career reading out there!
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