How do I Fight a Speeding Ticket?

Being pulled over and cited for speeding can be a jarring experience, but a speeding ticket is not usually final. Although paying the ticket, moving on, and forgetting the incident ever happened is almost always an option, fighting the ticket is usually also a viable choice. The process needed to fight a speeding ticket varies somewhat by jurisdiction. In some places, alleged offenders can petition the citing officer directly to drop the charges, or can apply for judicial leniency. Other times, one must appear before a designated traffic court to fight a speeding ticket.

Speeding tickets can be costly not only in terms of the short-term fines they exact, but also often in increased insurance rates and premiums. In some jurisdictions, speeding tickets also translate into “points” against the cited driver's license, which can lead to higher registration fees and, in some cases, license restrictions or suspension. Fighting a speeding ticket so that it is removed from your record is one way to avoid these and other negative alternatives.

The first and usually easiest way to fight a speeding ticket is at the scene of the alleged crime: speak to the officer who is issuing the ticket, and ask for a reduction in charges, an alternate punishment, or to get by with simply a warning. Different officers will react differently, and your tone and attitude are very important. For an officer to drop or reduce your ticket, he or she must usually be convinced that you respect police authority, are genuinely sorry, and do not deserve the ticket.

Appealing to officer sympathy is not a statistically successful way to fight a speeding ticket, however. If a ticket nonetheless follows, fighting the ticket simply means following a jurisdiction’s appeals and review process. Some jurisdictions have a judicial review option where speeding offenders can petition a judge to overturn or nullify speeding tickets. This usually happens by mail: offenders write to the presiding traffic judge of the jurisdiction where the ticket was issued, and explain why the ticket should be dropped. Most of the time, these letters can be crafted by the offender independently, without the help of a traffic lawyer or traffic attorney.

If this is your first ticket, or if you have not had a ticket in a number of years, your jurisdiction may have special exoneration processes for which you can qualify. Most of these programs are “first-time offender” or "infrequent offender" leniency programs that effectively suspend speeding tickets for a period of time, often six months or one year. If no new tickets are received in that window, the infraction is erased. Admittance into these programs is usually at the discretion of a judge, and is never automatic.

Where no leniency programs exist, or if your judge has denied your admittance, you can still usually fight a speeding ticket in traffic court. Fighting a speeding ticket in court usually means presenting your side of the story in a trial setting, and asking for the ticket to be reduced or wiped out completely. The citing officer usually attends this trial, and will have a chance to present his or her side of the story, as well. Any arguments you have about the officer’s judgment or bias, the calibration of the officer’s radar equipment, or any error in the citation process should be brought to bear during the hearing.

Speeding ticket recipients can and often do represent themselves in traffic court, but many also elect to retain the services of a speeding ticket lawyer or attorney. This kind of attorney is a traffic attorney who specializes in representing speeding ticket recipients. The attorney is usually savvy to the ways in which speeding tickets can be nullified, and often have the resources to do things like check up on officers’ citation histories and equipment calibration records — things that individuals might find difficult to do on their own.

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