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.

Readers, have you ever received a speeding ticket? If so, how much faster were you going than the speed limit and how much was the ticket? How often do cops show up to court to face you for a traffic ticket? If the cop has no evidence, isn’t it simply your word against theirs? If you were me, would you fight or pay the $234 fine and $50 for online traffic school in order to get the point removed from the record?

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!

Should I fight the 10 mph over the speed limit speeding ticket?

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Sam

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. Mike says

    I had a situation last year where I was charged for speeding above what I believed I was going. There was actually a car in front of me that blew through the speed trap, and I think that was the number on the radar gun the cop showed me (being the abiding motorist, I stopped). I was late for a presentation, knew I was speeding, and when it came to the cost/benefit of arguing over a 5mph difference, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of two days off of school and making sub plans.

    I’d be interested to see your experience if you do fight the ticket, but my personal approach has been just to be more cautious in the three places on my commute home where speed traps are most likely (it’s nice that the county police where I live are boringly predictable).

  2. CGA says

    An additional argument is there were several cars in front and around you.

    Radar does not allow an officer to pin-point exactly which car is speeding. The officer has to look and see which car “seems” to be the fastest because radar waves are very wide and they can not point the waves only at your car.

    Some tickets will state the device that was used to clock your speed. If the officer used Laser, then you can’t use that argument because laser is very focused, direct.

  3. says

    I wouldn’t bother fighting the ticket. Chances are very high that you’ll lose. The argument will typically is “What does the cop have to gain from lying about what you did?”. Now what do you have to gain from getting the charge dropped?

    That’s how the judge is going to look at it 9 times out of 10. As you’ve already mentioned, there’s the possibility that the court could fine you more. I personally wouldn’t do it. Pay the fine, goto driving school to get it removed from your record and move on.

    $284 is not worth that much time and hassle.

    • says

      I initially thought the same, but I think he was lying about the radar fun because I could sense hesitation when I told him there was no way I was going 45 mph like he said he clicked on the gun. The streets were packed and I only traveled two blocks from the stop light when he pulled me over.

      Something smells off, and I don’t like being lied to.

  4. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life says

    Sometimes I do things that aren’t rationally worth the investment of time and energy merely on principle. Depends how much I’m bothered by it.

  5. says

    I have gotten a few tickets in my day. I have tried I fight some in court by myself and always lose or end up worse off then if I would have just paid them. You don’t get to go to court right away in my area. You talk to an assistant of someone who hates their job and doesn’t listen to you because they assume everyone is lying. To see a judge you have go through a huge process that the assistant won’t tell you about. They make you think you have no options but to accept the ticket.

    However, I have also used a lawyer and for $300 he has gotten my tickets reduce to no points and a deferred sentence every time. They never show up on my record and I have to show up to court for two minutes to say I accept the deal. Best $300 I ever spend, although it may be different in Cali.

    • says

      Thanks for the feedback. I think I’m a sucker for torture and pushing on through to understand what things are like.

      Before the age of mobile devices, I would never want to go through this process. Now that I have a phone and a posts to write, I feel like I’m killing two birds with one stone.

  6. says

    I got clocked at 90 in a 70 (was listening to an audio book on a deserted highway). GA has ridiculous out of state speeder laws called Super Speeder laws which mean you get double fined essentially. Ended up paying $600 in fines!

  7. says

    Invest in a radar detector, my Beltronics was under $300 and has saved me from at least 5 tickets over the past 10 years. Legal in california, I have mine on my passenger sun-visor so it can’t be called an obstruction of view.

    • says

      The last time I got a moving violation was 8 years ago. I’m a pretty cautious driver who can’t drive fast by default of driving a slow car.

      But if I ever pony up for a new car, I might.

      • gary martins says

        +1 for a radar detector, I have a passport escort and it has saved me countless times. Even if you’re not speeding and a cop has his radar on it will alert you that a cop is in the area, it’s nice to know where police state enforcers are.

  8. says

    I received a similar ticket and took traffic school online. My ticket was a right turn at a red light that had “do not turn on red” sign across the street. It cost me $210 and 8 hours of traffic school. The only good point was I could do it online over a couple days.

    Watch out, government is looking for revenue and they are using parking and traffic tickets as a source!

    • says

      That’s the thing. I know the city is in desperate need of revenue, so I have a feeling they were bending my speed just to be able to write the ticket.

      If you spend $6 BILLION more than proposed to upgrade the Bay Bridge, I guess revenue becomes more important.

  9. LJ says

    I had a guy I used to work with that always fought every ticket. He used info from this website to argue his case. http://www.motorists.org/fightticket/ From what he told me there are many requirements before an officer can even use the radar gun such as observe a car speeding with the naked eye compared to objects and other vehicles for 100 feet. They sell a guide for how to fight a ticket for $10. Might be helpful.

  10. JayCeezy says

    (life hack) The number one lesson here is to CONFIRM when you are meeting someone the next day, whether tennis game, professional appointment, a contractor showing up, interview, date, etc. It shouldn’t have to be like that, but people can be flaky and passive-aggressive. “Hey, it’s just a tennis game, what’s the big deal?” Anyway, a confirming text, e-mail or phone message will prevent that.

    Sam, go to traffic school. Own this. The question is not whether you were speeding, but whether you can get out of paying it. My limited knowledge of SF is that Masonic is 25mph because of bicycle accidents, and the residents have been quite vocal about the speeding. As for the ‘cop lying’ or Moose’s acceleration, try saying that out loud to a live person and let us know how they respond. And on the back of the ticket, the officer makes notes on what was said and mostly attitude. That ‘yellow light’ answer was…interesting, which explained his quizzical look. Did you really (or does anyone) think a yellow light is a real reason?

    Police are like anyone else. They want to be right. They do this for a living. They respond to deference, and everyone should be deferential; the police pulled you over, not the other way around. The police have the power; you do have recourse if you feel there is injustice, but this post doesn’t read like that. Saying “I don’t think so” is arguing and contradicting the officer. He did you a solid, you know you weren’t going 25mph. Anyway, lesson learned, part of the price you pay for living in the most beautiful city in the world.

    btw, using the term “cop” is sort of like using the term “Frisco”. It implies a bit of disrespect or ignorance, but for those who sincerely fall into the second category, “officer”, “sir/ma’am”, “police” (and the full “San Francisco”) are terms that are considered correct etiquette.

    • says

      Didn’t realize cops was a bad word. I did say and write “officer” in my post. And I couldn’t have been disrespectful as he “lowered” my speed to 35 mph.

      If I have time, I’m very curious to know the process of fighting a ticket. I think a follow post could really help those who’ve been wronged.

      • JayCeezy says

        Sam, not saying you were disrespectful during the stop but you did use the word “cop” 17 times in your post.

        Not sure what the number of lanes on Masonic has to do with anything, how many lanes are you using?:-) And are you really saying in two blocks Moose can’t get to 45mph? Try it, you will be surprised. The distance (with the street in between the blocks) is about 2,000 feet. A normal car can get to 45mph in less than 700 feet.

        The police did you a solid by “lowering” the stated speed to 35 in a 25mph zone. He does not want to go to court, as it is not a good use of his time or the taxpayer resources. Maybe your pushback got him to lower from 45 to 35, thinking you wouldn’t make a big deal about it because you 1) didn’t know the posted limit; 2) seemed surprised at 25mph; 3) accelerated thru the ‘yellow’; and 4) know you were speeding. Police get lied to constantly, and are expert critics on bad acting (i.e. “Because I went through a yellow light?”). Really? It didn’t cross you mind that you were speeding?:-)

        Well, good luck with your challenge and another entertaining post!

        • says

          Again, I had no idea the word “cop” is a bad word. I’ll do a survey and let you know. There is this TV show called, “COPS” btw. Might want to let them know they are spreading malice. My friend, who is a Chicago cop, just let me know that the word “cop” is used all the time and is fine.

          The number of lanes is correlated to the business and speed and demand of traffic. 5-7 lines is a thoroughfare, like a highway, but this is not. Two lane road is residential.

          Moose can’t get to 45 mph in two blocks. And Moose definitely can’t get to 35-45 in two blocks with cars all around him at 6:45pm during rush hour.

          • says

            “part of the price you pay for living in the most beautiful city in the world.”

            Is this guy serious? $234 is not a fair price by any means for a 10-mile-over-the-limit ticket. Only in SF.

            By the way, I’ve known plenty of cops over the years and have never heard any of them offended for being referred to as a cop. “Pig,” obviously yes. “Cop,” no. Same thing with the word “Frisco.” Usually it’s only the elitist transplants who get their underwear in a twist about stuff like that. The locals I’ve met who actually grew up in the Bay Area are much more laid back and haven’t gotten drunk off PC Kool-Aid.

            Sam, fight the ticket if you can. However, I would do my due diligence on the judge who’s presiding over the session. If the judge is known to be a hard-ass, then you might not want to waste your time.

          • JayCeezy says

            Sam! Hahaa! Nice~! At the court appearance, greet the officer with “good morning, Cop!” and please tell the judge that you have been living in ‘Frisco’ for 13 years, yet did not know the speed limit on Masonic Avenue. Then explain that there are too many lanes for you to be speeding over the 25 mph limit, your car does not go that fast anyway because it is 13 years old (did it go that fast when it was brand-new?), and that $234 is too much money for 10mph over the limit, even if you were guilty (which you are not!). And if things don’t go well, it seems only right for your tennis partner to go at least “halfsies” on the amount, because he was remiss in failing to tell you the game was off.

            Seriously, fight it…then write it! You have the time, the righteous indignation, and win-lose-or-draw it will be epic.

            @Asian-American Man, no “this guy” is not. Google “financial samurai” “san francisco” “most beautiful city” and you will understand. Now you know.:-)

            • says

              Man, if you were ever a police officer, you might be the police officer from hell! Glad you are retired.

              Cop is shorthand in writing/print. Of course we address cops as police officers verbally.

              There really is no indignation. This situation is just interesting to analyze. It might help others with the same question in the title as well.

  11. Maverick says

    I doubt you’d win in court. Having said that, I believe your best defense is to ask the court for calibration records for the officer’s radar equipment. If the officer didn’t calibrate. Per manufacturer’s schedule, it should get dismissed…its a shot.

    • says

      Calibration
      Cars all around making it difficult for me to speed
      14 year old car with 0-60 in 12 seconds
      Only drove two blocks from stop light
      No proof of radar gun
      No show

      I don’t think I was speeding. If I was, it might have been 3-5 mph over when I was going through a yellow light. This is a 5-7 lane street.

  12. Kool73 says

    Go to court to pay a no contest fee. It’s less money and doesn’t affect your record. You get to do this once every 5 years in GA. To fight it, you have to go to court and wait all day to state you want to fight it. Then you get another court date and may owe court fees. Then you show up to court and may lose anyway. Once you get pulled over, you’re screwed and it will cost you. And the cops know it.

  13. says

    At the risk of being boastful, I’ve never gotten a traffic ticket. My husband NEVER knows what the limit is, even if we just passed a sign. I’m always on the lookout and I do actually obey the limits, even when it seems waaaay to slow. Having said all that, many states have speed limit assumptions in their driver’s handbooks (so you know fast to go on a road you just got on without ever seeing a sign). Like a residential street is assumed to be 25 mph. I would have assumed a higher limit based on your description of the area. Might be something else to help you fight the ticket.

  14. Josh says

    If I were you, for $284 amount, I would just go to court and plead guilty and ask for a lower fine and then do the traffic school. Even though you think you weren’t going 45mph and was being treated unfairly singled out, you probably were close to that limit. Police officers are trained to find speeders and other traffic violators and you won’t win a case in court unless the officer doesn’t show up in court. You’re also Asian like myself. We face racial stereotypes and discrimination in society, but unlike blacks and latinos, a police officer really doesn’t have a reason to pull us over for no reason. Also police officers write lower speed on tickets all the time. I got pulled over for 85mph on freeway, but the officer wrote 70mph to make it less costly for me. I know many others who had their speed reduced. It’s not because the officer thinks he’s made a mistake. Their intent is to get you to slow down, not to price gouge you.

    I’ve fought tickets twice in my life. One was for a red camera violation and the other was for speeding. I plead guilty for speeding and got the amount reduced from $275 to $150. For red camera violation, I lucked out since they couldn’t clearly identify me in the photo. The amount was $395 and non reducible. In both cases, I only fought it due to the dollar amount. Those are large amount for me. From your blog, you’re much better off financially than I am. Just pay the amount and move on. Don’t let your emotions take over in your decision making.

    • says

      That’s nice you got your fees reduced.

      There are a lot of reasons why I’m strongly thinking about fighting this ticket, and at the top is curiosity of how the system works and whether I can reveal any sort of government kinks or interesting stories from the people I meet.

      • Josh says

        Best of luck to you if you decide to fight it and please share the experience with your readers. SF county maybe different from Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, which is where I got my tickets. In my case I knew I was guilty, but just didn’t want to pay the fine.

        As for the types of people you’ll meet at a county courthouse, my experience has been you’ll meet mostly society’s economically disadvantaged and disenfranchised folks. Similar to your China posts, they all want to improve their lives and aren’t bad people at all, but but unfortunately don’t have the skills to get ahead or just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. I think most came from broken homes and were born into poverty. I came away from the experience far more appreciative of my upper middle class life. To me, that was worth way more than the cost savings from having my tickets reduced and dismissed.

  15. Ricky says

    Wouldn’t saying “I don’t know” also limit your case in court? The cop could turn it around on you and say since you don’t know then you also don’t know if you were going over the speed limit.

    I would just say “near the speed limit”.

    I’ve had tickets before but just paid the fine and took the class. Wasn’t worth my time. The only reason I’d do it if I were you is for an interesting post (albeit not very financially related).

    • says

      The follow up post would definite be financially related. The pros and cons of fighting a ticket and the financial repercussions if any.

      I don’t know is better because the goal is to say something without saying anything.

  16. Austin says

    If you take defensive driving: Most of the online courses have a minimum time on page. Just copy and paste the text presented into a google doc or something and then go on about your business. Rinse and repeat. When you take the tests involved just search your final document for keywords on any questions you’re unsure of.

    I think you would find that fighting it, if done properly (e.g. repeatedly resetting trial date into the future), would take time and effort as well. It could also put you in the awkward positions of a) not knowing if you look like a total layman who doesn’t know formal procedure and b) having to look at this cop in the face, straight-faced, and basically call him a liar.

    If it were me, I’d go to a particular attorney in town who makes these things go away for a nominal fee and then totally forget about it for the rest of my life.

    • says

      I will be respectful and argue my case if he doesn’t have the radar gun proof. The fine sucks, but the story could be good.

      4-8 hours of traffic school is way worse than paying the $250 fine.

  17. says

    Sam,
    $250 is ridiculous. If they don’t make it too difficult to fight, I would fight it for that amount.

    My wife got a parking ticket recently and it was clearly wrong. She parked in a spot that was marked free after 7pm and she was there after 7:30pm. However, that day they changed the law to 9pm, but they didn’t change the signs on that block yet and gave her a ticket. She took pictures etc and had a good case since they wrote the ticket at 8pm and that was noted. $40.

    But we looked into fighting it and they made it incredibly difficult. To fight it, you need to sign a protest form and get it notarized. I couldn’t believe that. Then, you mail it in and have to call to schedule a court date. My wife stays at home with 2 kids, so getting there when I’m working would be too difficult. What is she get a babysitter to fight it? Of course not. If she lost, they’d double the fine. All BS. I was surprised because the town usually has their stuff together. We paid it on their ultra convenient online collection site.
    -RBD

    • says

      I hear you on parking signs!!!

      You need a PhD to read some of them in SF. If this, then that, otherwise this or that!

      So smart of then to make paying ultra convenient. I need to find out if they double my fine or penalize if I lose. That sounds harsh!

  18. Ace says

    Sam,

    What frequently happens in my state is something called “court supervision”.

    You show up to court, don’t argue, and the judge looks at your driving record.
    You pay a small fine, and the incident is never recorded in your official state driving record unless you have another moving violation soon after.

    Frankly, people drive like crazy around here and are never bothered by the police.
    That usually doesn’t bother me. I don’t normally care as long as other drivers do things which predictable!

    I can’t remember the last time I got a ticket. I think it was speeding through an inactive construction zone. Probably like ten years ago! LOL!

  19. NL says

    Try a trial by written declaration. If the cop does not respond in writing, you win. And they really have no incentive to do extra work with no extra pay.

  20. whiskey says

    Traffic officers are there 1-to create revenue for local/state and 2-to enforce safety “rules”. Always remember that as cities/states have more income issues, the harder revenue enforcement will be adhered to. These “laws” are arbitrary as the revenuer and court system can choose to enforce or change at will as you experienced. Also, in most areas the 1st/30th & 15th of the month are the most active for them. They know that people have $ around then and are more likely to pay. Something to remember when driving.
    Attitude with the revenuer plays a huge roll in whether or not you get a ticket. Going in front of the judge is not a fun game to play. Just like investing, know that going in you stand a high probability of losing.
    Safety is not truly enforced. Too many times I’ve seen “safety” violations while revenuers are around and are rarely punished. Obviously if you are in a school/work zone that is a safety concern and I agree that folks should slow down and pay attention. I agree with revenue collection in these instances.
    I would take my class and get it over with.

  21. says

    I got clocked doing 82 in a 70 zone on the highway over Memorial day. The cop said he clocked my 1500 ft before I passed him (cause by the time I saw slowed down). I was in a rental and was hoping for a warning. He all but told me he had a quota to meet. The ticket was $120 and in county an 1hr away from my residence so I just paid it online….no court time.

  22. Neil says

    Not only might you win, but if you lose you can still have an in-person trial. Heads you win; tails you break even.

  23. says

    Wow, that’s pretty expensive. My boyfriend got a speeding ticket when we were driving back home a few months ago – it was only $82, and the officer said he had us going around 75 in a 55. Of course, just another mile up, the speed limit was 60. Unfortunately, the road wasn’t highly populated; there were 2 cars to the right of us, and someone going faster in front of us. I really didn’t think we were going that fast, but he lowered it to 64.

    We paid the $82, and I’m hoping since it’s his first ticket, it doesn’t have horrible repercussions on his insurance. I couldn’t find specifics as we got the ticket in a different state. I spoke to one friend about how he’s received at least 5 tickets in a short span. He tried to fight most of them and won in a lot of cases. He was able to get one down to a non-moving violation. In one case, I think he called up the court and spoke to someone that was actually sympathetic as he had gotten caught in a speed trap zone that’s ridiculous.

    I definitely wouldn’t have thought a road with so many lanes would have a speed limit of 25! It seems like you’re leaning toward fighting it for informational purposes. I’d be interested in hearing about your experience with it.

  24. JT says

    Fight it. Your state is much more forgiving than mine. I got a ticket, and if I remember correctly, it was something like $119 for court costs, $1 for speeding. Gotta love local government.

  25. Alex says

    It never hurts to fight it. If the cop doesn’t show ask for it to be dismissed. If he does then ask if it could be changed to a nonmoving violation. You might end up paying the same but then its not on your record. I hired a lawyer who ended up doing that. In the end it cost me 50 more than the ticket but saved me from increased insurance rates.

  26. Ryan says

    My first ticket was in Minnesota, where the fines are pretty steep too. I had heard that you can talk to a prosecutor and work with them on it. So, I went in with all these excuses in hand (following speed of traffic, semi was blocking my view of the sign, blah blah blah) and before I could even start saying anything he pulled up my record, saw that it was my first offense and then offered me an agreement. It was basically a year probation. He would waive the fine if I didn’t get another for a year, but if I did, i would get the fine added to the new one. I signed it and watched my speed for a year.

    Now I live in North Dakota. The fines for speeding here are a joke. 10-15 bucks usually. I’ve gotten 2 tickets in 2 years, for a total of 20 bucks. No points on my record either. Its just more of an inconvenience than anything.

  27. says

    Around here you just have to show up, plead ‘not guilty’ and they’ll knock your ticket down to a parking violation as long as you have a clean record. No fuss, no questions asked. You pay a $30 fine, nothing goes on your record/insurance and life goes on.

  28. says

    Oh man, sorry about that. I would fight it if you have time. It’s a research project and you can write about it later. I try to drive more conservatively near the end of the month. The cops are always out trying to fill their quota.

  29. mel says

    Can you defer in CA? You’d still have to pay court administration fee. But no points on driving record.

    I don’t think the cop has to show up in court these days. The can submit a statement by mail.

    It amazes me in SF area how many multi lane arterial streets are 25 mph. Driving tip: always read every road sign so you are always aware of speed limit, mile post and who has adopted this road.

    Sometimes I think cops target beater and older cars thinking the person drives junk so maybe they’re up to no good too.

  30. Wes says

    Well, they wont let you be on your laptop, iphone, or even read a magazine. So dont count on that during that time like you assume you will.

  31. says

    Sam –
    If you decide to go fight this, you need to ask for the information on the last time the radar (or whatever) device he used to clock you was calibrated. Those tend to need to be re-calibrated after a certain period of time, and if it was a while you can simply state that his equipment is not accurate, and there’s no way for them to prove you were speeding.

  32. says

    If you’re prepared to lose, I would fight it. It will be an interesting read for sure. My husband got a red light camera ticket recently for going through a red light $328. Ouchy mama. The evidence was compelling. A nice picture of my car with my license plate on a street I was not on at that date. Guilty! Of course the ticket was addressed to me so I found out first.

  33. Vegas Rich says

    Sam – As a former East Bay resident who has fought all speeding tickets for the last 20 years your biggest chance for success lie in the officer not showing up. Your current ticket should have a date on it (pay date deadline) where a few days prior (if you plan to fight) you physically go to the court and schedule a court date, most times these dates are 2-3 months out depending on the back log. Take your calendar with you and identify “good court dates” such as Thanksgiving eve, the day after Thanksgiving, and the Christmas Holiday as ideal dates which increase the probability of a no show OR a re-schedule by the officer. If the officer re-schedules for a later date, the court will typically allow you to re-schedule one more time (yes, physically go to the court again with calendar in tow) and kick it out another 2-3 months, again picking selective dates if possible. You are now 6-8 months out, the benefit of this is the citation date is used by insurance companies for how long the tickets stay on your record, so you’ve essentially bought some free time even if you don’t win and get points. Lastly, every time I’ve gone to court I’ve had the fee reduced AND traffic school still an option if needed.

    Question for you – was the officer on a motorcycle? If yes, was it a new one (all black & white) or an older Harley that has small splashes of other colors (not black & white) on it?

    Based on my experience:

    50% chance CHP no show
    33% chance City Police no show

    • says

      Interesting stuff. I have a follow up post on what effect a ticket has on one’s insurance. Sounds like a PITA to always go to court and schedule, but the court isn’t too far away from my consulting office down town.

      Nice to hear you got your fee reduced. They should see my sparkling record, and hopefully reduce too.

      Officer was in a car. I saw his partner in the passenger seat keep on pointing his radar gun at the back of my car when I was parked, as if it was broken or they were trying to calibrate it.

  34. Vegas Rich says

    Very interesting additional tidbit you provided, i.e, that there were two officers in the vehicle, you stated the “partner” was holding the radar. I’d be curious which officer signed the ticket, the radar holder or the driver? Also which officer approached the vehicle to write the ticket? This is significant in that both may be required to attend the court date which dramatically increases the chance for a no-show as it becomes cost prohibitive. If the radar holder doesn’t attend the court date and the driver does, you would simply tell the judge that no testimony can be provided because “he ain’t here to testify”, and if the guy who signed the ticket doesn’t show for court you simple tell the judge “he didn’t sign this ticket”, who’s this guy trying to testify?

    • says

      Hmmm, interesting. Hard to say. The officer in the drivers seat was fidgeting with the radar gun after the officer in the passenger seat approached and talked to me and ask for my license and registration. Maybe the officer in the passenger seat was the one who shot the gun, and just handed over the gun to his partner/driver, who then proceed to play with it.

      I see on the back of the ticket, “Trial By Written Declaration” where I can build my case. Maybe this is the safer way to fight with less time spent? I’ve already got 80% of my argument laid out with this post and the officer would still have to send in his argument.

  35. says

    Hmm that is a tough call. There is a fair chance the cop doesn’t show up, but it’s such a hassle dealing with the city on anything. I feel like SF makes everything difficult. I wonder if other big cities are the same.

    Your time is valuable, so it may be better just to eat the ticket and move on. If it were me I think that’s what I’d do because my life is just too hectic right now. Sucks having to pay the ticket though, especially since that cop sounds like he was lying. How annoying!!

  36. says

    Fight it.

    1. Gain valuable court experience

    2. Chance you may get it reduced or even win

    3. Only time that you hold power questioning every act of the police officer; being able to pretend you are Harvey Spector is pretty fun.

  37. MrT says

    The tip to say “I don’t know.” may have unintended consequences. Anything you say to the police can be used against you when you go to fight the ticket later. Not knowing how fast you are going makes your position weak. The correct answer to “do you know how fast you were going?” is “yes.” This is not an admission of guilt, just a statement that you are aware of the speed at which you were traveling, legal or otherwise.

    IANAL

  38. Steve says

    You have to work hard to get a speeding ticket in the SF Bay Area. Lose the ego and slow down. You were wrong. The police officer was right. Pay the fine and get in line.

  39. Matt says

    So I had a ticket that was reduced to 10 over and the judge made a comment that most of the time when it is exactly 10 over the cops have already reduced it from your actual speed so the court will uphold the ticket. It reinforced the idea that if you stay under 10 over you will be fine. I blow by speed traps all the time staying at 8 or 9 over the limit.

  40. Matt Kime says

    while i previously said that you should simply pay up i have to agree that its unlikely you were doing anything dangerous. its very frustrating that punishments don’t match up to degree of recklessness. heck, unless you’re you’re being outrageously dangerous cops would rather let you go because of the small but real risk that a routine stop becomes dangerous.

    …which is why i’m for FAIR camera enforcement. cops don’t need to be writing tickets for speeding or running red lights when robots can do it.

  41. John says

    As a current police officer on the east coast. I would first like to say I take no offense to the word cop. I would fight the ticket there is a chance the officer might not show up. He might be sick, away on vacation or have other obligations (training, family,etc). If he does show up, ask when the radar gun was last certified, and did he calibrate it prior to using it. Most radar guns self calibrate and then you check it using a tuning fork. Radar guns not lidar pick up the biggest object on the road ask if it could have been the truck or SUV he clocked mistakenly Also the reason for the two officer car could be a field training officer riding with a rookie.

    • says

      Thank you Officer John for your advice! I appreciate it a lot. The other officer sure looked like a training. I saw him fidgeting with the radar gun and kept pointing it at me when I was already stationary.

  42. El Guapo says

    Hey Sam,
    I went to court for the first time this year for a ticket. I was hit by a car while riding my bike to work and the police gave the driver and me a ticket. I was confused about it, but I figured out that the police must have misunderstood where the accident happened. I know I had the right of way.
    The thing that makes it all very interesting is that it happened on federal property, so I had to go to district court. The cool thing about district court is that you get to meet with counsel representing the US (in this case it was an air force captain) and talk through whether or not they have enough information to go to a hearing. I just came prepared with google image pictures of where the accident happened and the sequence of events, and the captain dismissed the case without a hearing with a judge.
    The moral of the story is that if you are going to district court, you have a very low risk chance to fight the ticket even if you have a weak case.

  43. Shane says

    This may have already been stated but I skipped down to the bottom. You should fight it and go trial by jury. I have vowed to never say guilty to a speeding ticket if picked for a jury. Speeding tickets are nothing more than revenue generators. Why are the “Cops” (also the name of a TV show about them) rarely seen at a messed up traffic light with traffic backed up for miles? Because they are out writing tickets to meet quotas and make money because most people don’t fight it.

  44. getagrip says

    I would fight it. We’ve had last three tickets over the last decade between my wife and the kids and we went to court and the officer did not show up for any of them. As others have said even when the officer does show up you can generally get your amount reduced or avoid a point on the license. There is often no physical backup of the data the officer uses other than the written record or ticket, so it is highly unlikely he’ll state you were doing 45 and he cut you slack to 35. If push comes to shove you can point out that you feel you weren’t really speeding and point out some evidence like the beast being slow and lumbering, etc., but don’t get all technical or go on for more than a minute or two to make your point because the judge will likely think you’re being a smarta$$. Best of luck.

  45. Carly says

    Please let me know how it goes for you! I just got my first ticket going 41 in a 25 and it is $419.00. No idea why it is so high, and I am wondering if I should contest. The officer said he let people off the hook if they were going 40 mph. Since I was 1 mph over…I would be cited. It was a four lane road, great visibility, no schools, construction etc. Oh the frustration! Any updates are greatly appreciated, or advice!

  46. Tom says

    I believe because you admitted you thought the speed limit was 35 you will be seen as at fault. I received a ticked in CA many years ago and know I was not doing 20 over the speed limit; I had the car on cruise 3-5mph above the speed limit and the cop stopped 2 of us. The real speeder was the car in the left lane who blew past me, however I am sure the cop couldn’t tell and just cited us both. The reason I lost the case was I admitted to have been speeding in saying that I had my cruise control set just above the speed limit. Because I admitted to breaking the law by being a few miles over the limit the judge argued that I had broken the law regardless and upheld the 20+ violation. In your situation if you thought and told the officer you were in a 35 MPH zone, you would then have to argue you were going well below what you thought the speed limit was, which seems unlikely. Although not the same exact circumstances, I don’t feel judges are out to cut you a break, instead they are looking for a reason to collect the money. Good luck!

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