Car & Driver

4 Steps to Fight a Speeding Ticket

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Getting a traffic ticket is a rite of passage for most drivers. And so is trying to learn how to get out of a speeding ticket.

Even the most careful drivers have gotten at least one ticket for speeding, running a red light or violating another traffic law. Usually, we accept it and pay the fine. But what happens if you don't think a ticket is justified? What if your license could be taken away if you don't contest the charges? How do you learn how to fight a speeding ticket?

If you choose to fight a speeding ticket, you can either hire an attorney or you can attend traffic court yourself. The following can help you better understand what’s involved in going to court for a speeding ticket — whether on your own or with an attorney.

1. Know when to show up.

Most tickets include information about how to fight, or contest, the citation. A court date and location is typically listed. If you cannot appear in court at the designated time, you or your attorney should call the contact listed on the ticket (usually the traffic court clerk's office) and the court will usually set a new trial date.

2. Request documents and information.

Either you or your attorney can submit a written request to review any items officers collected during the traffic stop and any items they used in the investigation (like a radar gun). For instance, with a red light violation you can request any recorded tape showing the violation. If the tape cannot be produced, then there is a possibility your ticket will be dismissed.

3. Know the laws.

Each state has its own set of traffic laws — you should be able to find yours on your state legislature's site or the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. These resources will be limited to the actual traffic laws and not advice. Keep in mind that neither the DMV nor the court can provide you with legal advice.

4. Decide on a defense.

If you decide you are going to defend yourself, you will want to research the defenses available to you by the law. The best way to do this is visiting a local law library. You can, of course, also do research online, but be very careful of where you are finding your information. With online information, you’ll want to make sure any advice is provided by a traffic law attorney in the jurisdiction in which you are fighting the ticket. If you live in Florida and you find a website with detailed information about defending a traffic ticket in California, many of the recommendations may not apply to you.

There’s no perfect formula for how to beat a speeding ticket, but these common defenses will get you started:

  • The stop was unlawful or without reason or justification. If it can be shown at trial that the traffic stop was without justification or illegal, then the entire ticket may be dismissed by the judge.
  • The offense was not committed. To decide this, the judge will have to weigh your testimony and the testimony of any of your witnesses against the officer's testimony
  • You were involved in an accident where either monetary and/or injuries were sustained. Tickets are often issued if you were involved in an accident. If you can provide an insurance letter showing that your insurance company will cover the damages, then the ticket may be dismissed.