You have a few options if you get a speeding ticket. You could accept and pay the ticket and deal with the consequences, try to negotiate the penalty, or plead not guilty at the court hearing. If you decide to represent yourself, you must decide on your defense and prepare in advance.
Nobody wants to get a speeding ticket. A conviction for a speeding violation might result in suspension of your license and cause your insurance rates to rise. You’ll also have to pay a fine and court fees. However, it is possible to get out of a speeding ticket, or at least reduce the impact of it.
Speeding Ticket Options
You don’t have to go to court for your speeding ticket if you choose to pay the ticket and accept the consequences. Another option is to try to negotiate the penalty by making a deal with the court and the prosecutor, which is known as mitigation. You may be able to request a negotiation before your hearing, at the court’s discretion.
Check your court’s website or call the clerk’s office to find out the available options. In most cases, mitigation involves admitting to the offence and providing information to support your request for leniency. If you’re successful, you may be able to pay all or part of your ticket without it affecting your driving record or take a driving course instead of paying the ticket. The court may reduce the amount of your fine, or give you more time to pay the fine.
Preparing for Court
If you decide to fight the ticket, you’ll have to attend court to try to prove you weren’t speeding. If you turn up at the hearing without having prepared, things are unlikely to go in your favor. To have the best chance of getting out of the ticket, gather as much evidence as you can that you weren’t speeding, such as GPS data from a smartphone app or photographic evidence that a speed limit sign was covered up or not visible. If you had a passenger in the car at the time of the alleged speeding violation, arrange for him to attend court as your witness. Figure out some questions for the issuing officer, focusing on areas that will strengthen your case, such as her memory and training with speed-clocking equipment.
Consider hiring a local traffic ticket attorney for the best chance of getting out your speeding ticket at court, particularly if your ticket is due to a criminal violation, like driving with a suspended license.
Types of Speed Limits
Before you fight your speeding ticket in court, it's important to know the nature of the speed limit you are said to have violated. Most states use three basic types of speed limits: absolute, presumed and basic.
An absolute speed limit is simple: if the sign says 60 mph and you drive at a speed of 61 mph or more, you have violated the law. Only a few defenses are available for this type of speeding violation, such as claiming an emergency made you exceed the speed limit to avoid serious damage or injury to yourself or others.
A presumed speed limit violation involves driving at an unsafe speed in relation to the conditions at the time. These conditions may relate to the road, traffic or weather. The two possible defenses for a presumed speed limit violation are to claim you weren't exceeding the posted speed limit, or to claim that even if you were exceeding the posted limit, you were driving safely in relation to the specific conditions at the time.
The basic speed law prohibits driving at an unsafe speed, even if that speed is below the posted limit. This may be referred to as "driving too fast for conditions." Police often give tickets for basic speed limit violations after an accident, claiming that the accident was caused by driving too fast, even if the speed was below the posted limit. The strongest defense is to affirm that the accident was entirely or partly another driver's fault or could have occurred as a result of a freak act of nature (for example, a sudden gust of wind) or a defect in the highway, signs or signal (for example, a faulty stoplight).
Attending the Court Hearing
To make a good impression, arrive at court on time. Present your defense, answer any questions asked by the judge, and call any witnesses you have to support your version of events. If the issuing officer does not attend the hearing, your ticket will be dismissed.
- CA.gov: California Driver Handbook – Laws and Rules of the Road, Speed Limits
- Colorado Department of Transportation: Establishing Realistic Speed Limits
- The Law Firm of Christopher T. Adams, P.C.: Do You Know About the 3 Types of Speed Limits?
- FindLaw: Fighting a Speeding Ticket: Is Speeding Always Speeding?
- DMV.org: Traffic Tickets in Washington