Thousands of people lose their lives in automobile accidents each year. When a driver disobeys traffic rules, such as by running a stop sign, it places other motorists and pedestrians in danger. For that reason, you can have steep fines and other penalties levied against you if you are cited for these violations. However, if you believe you were wrongly issued a ticket, you have several defenses that may apply.
Stop Sign Rules
Stopping your vehicle at a posted stop sign is mandatory under state laws -- and you can receive a citation for failure to do so. This can lead to fines and even points on your license, which can vary in size and severity, depending on the state. If you believe that you were not at fault or did not run a stop sign, you may choose to formally contest the ticket. You typically do this by submitting a written appeal and attending a traffic court hearing. At the hearing, you will get a chance to present your defenses to the charge.
If you decide to appeal the ticket, the court can only punish you if it determines that you approached a stop sign and failed to stop at either an intersection or railroad crossing. If there was a limit line or crosswalk, failure to stop means that your car rolled past this marking. If there was no limit line or crosswalk, failure to stop means that you car entered the intersection or railroad crossing. In either case, the court needs to find that there was a visible stop sign at the intersection or railroad crossing. Evidence that the court uses in determining where you stopped typically comes from the testimony of the officer who wrote you the ticket or his notes.
Ways to defend against a ticket for running a stop sign include proving that there was either no stop sign in place or it was obscured by something -- like a tree. Having photographs of the scene where you were cited can be very helpful in substantiating your case for the judge. You may also be successful by claiming that your failure to stop was inadvertent due to the sign being recently installed. Again, any photographs or corroborating testimony regarding when the sign was erected would be helpful. If these defenses do not apply to your case, you may challenge the officer's opinion that you did not stop far enough back. You may request a copy of the officer's notes and then challenge his recollection or ability to properly see your vehicle from his vantage point.
Red Light Cameras
Some states allow a citation if you are photographed running a red right. Cameras are sometimes placed in a location near the light and angled at oncoming traffic. When a motorist illegally crosses the intersection after the light turns red, the camera automatically snaps a picture. In many states, you receive a copy of the photo when you are mailed the ticket, while in other states, you must request it as part of your appeal. Possible defenses to these types of tickets are proving that you were not the driver of the vehicle featured in the photograph or that it is not your car. You may also claim that the image is too blurry to determine any identifying information. Further, some states require that warnings must be visible to alert drivers that traffic cameras are being used. If you can demonstrate that there is something misleading or incorrect about the photograph, or that you were not properly warned, you may be able to successfully have your ticket thrown out.
Read More: How to Fight a Red Light Camera Ticket
Wayne Thomas earned his J.D. from Penn State University and has been practicing law since 2008. He has experience writing about environmental topics, music and health, as well as legal issues. Since 2011, Thomas has also served as a contributing editor for the "Vermont Environmental Monitor."