Should I Go To Court And Fight My Speeding Ticket?

Speeding Ticket

Back at the scene of the crime

Speed racer is in the house! I got a speeding ticket for going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone the other day and I’m pretty ticked.

The cop pulled me over after I sped up in the middle of a yellow light and asked me whether I knew why he pulled me over. I innocently responded, “Because I went through a yellow light?

He looked at me a little funny and said, “No. Do you know what the speed limit is here on Masonic Avenue?”

I’m not sure officer. 35 mph?” I responded.

No, it’s 25 mph and I got you on the gun going 45 mph,” said the officer.

First I was shocked that a five lane artery (2 lanes going south, 3 lanes going north) would have a speed limit of only 25 mph. I wasn’t blowing by anybody at all. Second, I was super surprised the officer said he clocked me at 45 mph!

Moose is slow as molasses as a 14 year old Land Rover Discovery II. There is NO WAY Moose could reach 45mph in two blocks. His 0 – 60 mph time is 11.4 seconds new and surely he’s lost a step over the years. 45 mph = 66 feet / second. Average city block is around 400 feet. I would have to be putting my pedal to the metal to get to 45 mph, which I wasn’t because that action guzzles more gas.

I looked at the officer when he told me I was going 45 mph and said, “You mean this car? I don’t think so. I haven’t had a speeding ticket in 8 years since my car is so slow and old.

He kinda laughed and asked me for my license and registration.

When he came back three minutes later, he handed me a ticket and said, “I’m not going to write you up for 20 mph over the speed limit because that’s not good for your insurance and I don’t want to hammer you. I’ll just do 35 mph in a 25 mph instead.

Gee thanks. What a nice guy! I was actually hoping he’d let me off with a warning as two other cops did in the past six years when I was driving Moose. Who gives a speeding ticket for 35 mph in a 25 mph zone when everybody is driving 35 mph?

FIGHT THE TICKET OR NOT?

When the cop gave me a ticket for 10 mph over the speed limit, I was kind of thankful because that’s only one point on my record, which can be expunged if I go to traffic school (4 hours online, 8 hours in person). Then I started getting suspicious.

I’m pretty sure I was NOT going 45 mph, which is why he wrote 35 mph instead. I might have been going 35 mph, but I’m not sure of that either because I wasn’t passing any cars.

I was originally thinking about paying the $234 speeding ticket and maybe paying $50 to not have the point on my driving record, but now I’m thinking I should fight the ticket. Below is the latest speeding ticket chart for California. Compare the Base Fine vs. the TOTAL at the end to see how ludicrous the system is for allowing everybody to take their cut.

California Speeding Ticket Chart 2014

REASONS TO FIGHT A TRAFFIC TICKET

* There’s a good chance the cop is lying about me going 35 mph based on our dialogue and him saying I was going 45 mph and then giving me a ticket for 35 mph. Maybe he really is trying to be nice, but when he gave me the options of paying the ticket or fighting it, he seemed a little concerned I’d consider fighting it.

* The cop might not show up. When I playfully asked him whether he’ll show up if I fight the ticket, he wouldn’t give me a straight answer. He just gave a generic answer, “It’s my job,” but that was it. I talked to one fella who has been getting a moving violation ticket once every two years for the past 10 years, and he said that cops only show up to court around 30%-40% of the time. If they don’t show up, the defendant wins. But who knows for sure. Some people say cops get overtime for showing up in court.

* No evidence. The cop didn’t produce evidence of me speeding by showing me the radar gun clock. There wasn’t a camera either. Imagine if I show up and he does have evidence of me going 45 mph. Wouldn’t that be embarrassing to the judge and his superiors if he only wrote me up for 35 mph? If the cop shows up, it’s essentially my word against his. I guess the judge will probably side with the cop instead of me, but I’ll bring pictures of where I was pulled over, speed performance data for my 2000 SUV, and argue in a respectful way that I was not going over the speed limit.

* Reduced fine chance. I’ve heard and read that if you take the time to go to court they reduce the ticket cost. For example, one person I know went several times to court for multiple violations and they reduced pretty much every ticket to a non-moving violation fine e.g. “not wearing seatbelt” or “failure to yield” for $50. As an underemployed long-time citizen of San Francisco, perhaps they’ll take mercy on me given I can only find work two days a week based on my consulting contract.

* Keep insurance from going up. A ticket may cost $250, but another point on your driving record could potentially cost more a year, for years depending on your driving record. Given I have a clean record, my insurance hit isn’t going to be too big. Maybe 10-20% at the most on my annual $570 premium. But if you’re a male teenager to 20-something year old, then you’re going to be paying more. Check Esurance for some of the lowest car insurance rates online.

* You are highly certain you’d didn’t break the law. If you know your car starts shuddering at 60 mph on the highway, and it wasn’t shuddering when the cop pulled you over and cited you for going 80 mph in a 65 mph, then fight like hell. You can easily produce documentation of trying to fix your shuddering, or a video showing the shuddering. Maybe you are a target of discrimination, laziness, or the quota system. Always fight if you strongly believe you are innocent.

* Info gathering for a great post. I love to make lemonade out of sour situations (like writing this 1,800 word post). If I go through the entire court process, I’ll take notes and write an awesome follow-up post about my experience in court and lessons learned. The 3-5 hours of time is essentially my real-life research time and everything associated with the process becomes a business expense. I’m curious to know what to expect, and I’m sure there are thousands of other people who are wondering what to expect and any strategies they should employ to win in court. The post could go viral and make me rich and famous!

REASONS NOT TO FIGHT A TRAFFIC TICKET

* Waste of time. There’s a chance I have to go to court twice. The first time is to schedule a court hearing date and request the officer’s presence (1 hour). The second time is to go to court and argue my case as my own lawyer (1-3 hours). Time is money, and 2-4 hours of my time is worth more than $250. The good thing is I’ll bring my laptop and either write a post like I’m doing now, or kill time with my iPhone if I go.

* Might lose. If I lose, I’ll not only have to pay the fine, I might be barred from going to traffic school to remove the point from my record. The court might even fine me more! Losing in court is like paying big bucks to see your favorite professional sports team lose. This is one of the reasons why I like to watch my favorite sports teams on TV versus going to the stadium.

FIGHT ON AND NEVER SURRENDER!

Every time something bad happens, I curse my luck. Thankfully, I’m over it after a couple hours. For those of you who are unfortunate enough to get a speeding ticket, ask yourself the following questions before you decide to fight your ticket in court:

* Do they have evidence of me violating the law?

* Was I violating the law in a highly egregious way?

* How much is your time worth?

* Will you be able to go to traffic school if you pay the fine?

* How much will your car insurance go up?

* What is your traffic ticket history?

* How many points do you have now?

* How much liquid cash do you have?

* Do you have flexible work hours?

* What did your friends experience?

Here’s the real kick in the pants for me. I didn’t have to rush to my meeting because the people I was supposed to meet never showed up! The one guy I was coordinating with to play doubles failed to mention that the other guys couldn’t make it! Not only did I get a $234 speeding ticket, I ended up wasting an hour of my time driving back and forth.

I’m leaning towards fighting my speeding ticket because: 1) I plan to write a post about the experience, 2) I’m only in the office Mondays and Wednesdays, 3) I don’t think the cop has proof I was going 35 mph, 4) I think there’s a 50% chance he doesn’t show up, 5) I’ve never been to court for a traffic violation and I’m curious to know what it’s like, 6) I might get to meet some cool characters who can share their crazy traffic stories, which I can share with you, and 7) I believe that I’ve got over a 70% chance of winning based on the photographs, spec sheet of my slow car, and the chance the cop doesn’t show up.

My luck has run out with Moose. I was keeping him around for so long partly because he hasn’t given me a ticket in so long. The 35 mph speeding ticket is a sign that after 10 years, it’s time to say goodbye.

Update: I got the official notice in the mail and went to court to set an arraignment date for 11/24/2014, the week of Thanksgiving. They said the officer will not be at the arraignment, but a judge. The judge will look at my record and present me options, like a settlement out of court. They might give me a lower penalty if I agree to plead guilty, for example. If I plead not guilty, I will set a court date and the police officer will get subpoenaed to appear. If he does not appear, I win. If he does appear, I argue my case. They said I will not have to pay a bigger fine if I lose, so that’s good. Furthermore, given the officer already submitted me going 35 mph in a 25 mph zone, he can’t then say I was going faster according to his radar gun. Setting up the arraignment date took 5 minutes. I think I will just agree a lower penalty. Will provide an update!

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Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. Denise says

    Financial Samurai:
    Oh my, I am in big trouble and I am not a speeder (well I guess I am, I do set my cruise at 5 mph over speed limit) but I was not going to go one mph over on 301 in FL. I am not sure what I should do now. Drive 550 miles and defend myself in Bradford Court, the seat of Lawtey, FL, the speed trap zone of the US?

    1:30 PM on 11/7/2014, driving back from Tampa I got nailed bad on 301 and I was doing the speed limit……so I thought. I keep finding myself getting choked up just thinking about it. Citation for 45 mph in a 20 mph school zone. Double the fine. $441.00 and points. For miles and miles I made sure to watch for every speed sign posted in what I already knew was the speed trap town of Lawtey, FL. 10 years ago, I traveled 301 through Lawtey and got a speeding ticket for 10 miles over when I missed a speed sign. You must stay very aware of each posted sign that are in close proximity of the other. 55, 45, 35, 45, 55, 65. REPEAT. If you miss one sign, you will get a ticket for going 10 mph over soon after you pass the sign you missed.

    I had it, I did not miss a sign. I hit the 45 mph signage and traveled through an intersection. I was trailing a semi, that had moved to the left lane. I got pulled over about a 1/2 mile after intersection. I see the police car lights behind me and I thought what the hell. I know I am going the speed limit. Officer gets out of vehicle, walks slowly up to my car, looks in my back seat and then says to me “I clocked you at 45 miles per hour in a school zone”. I say, “A school zone, I did not see a school zone sign.” ETC, ETC, my apology did not get me anywhere. I gave him my DL and registration, he goes back to his car and writes citation. He then pulls out to go back toward intersection. I want to see what I missed so I follow him back. I drove real slow so I could collect how I could miss a school zone sign and I look to my right and he is hiding in the gas station ready for his next citation. The school zone is about 50 feet long, with a marking on the road surface prior to intersection that the semi obstructed.

    How can you do the school zone speed limit when they cleverly hide it knowing the semi’s will obstruct view? Let’s see, we’ll put 45 speed limit signs on the side of the road before and after the intersection then put in a fifty foot wide school zone right between two 45 mph speed limit signs on each side, throw in yellow flashing light for which I mistook for traffic signal (proceed with caution).

    I head back north to NC, stop at a rest stop to look at my ticket, which was handed to me in a envelope. School zone is 20 mph, officer wrote 25 mph. He wrote my car is tan, not even close, it is clearly silver. Doesn’t matter, I know I was going 45 mph, I just had no idea it was a school zone.

    I am getting choked up again.

    This video I found is traveling north to south. I was traveling south to north which has a completely different take.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXNOjEcUnkA

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