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Traffic Ticket Myths and Facts

January 13th, 2012 · 6 Comments

We’ve all heard various tips and tricks for “getting out of” a traffic ticket. For instance, many people believe that if the police officer makes a single mistake in writing up the ticket, no matter how trivial, that the judge will be forced to dismiss the citation. Another oft-repeated story is that if a person goes to court to fight the traffic ticket and the police officer who issued the citation does not show up, the ticket will automatically be thrown out. How true are these stories? Is it really so simple to get out of a ticket, even if you are guilty? Unfortunately, many of these surefire ways to get out of tickets are actually myths. We will explore five of the most common beliefs about getting out of traffic tickets below.

The Police Officer Makes a Mistake on the Ticket

Many people believe that if the officer makes any mistake when writing up a traffic ticket, they can get the ticket thrown out. The reality is a bit different. If the officer makes a small, insignificant mistake, like writing down that you have hazel eyes and you actually have brown eyes, you will probably not have much luck arguing with the judge that the ticket should be dismissed on that basis alone. However, there are circumstances where a mistake in writing up the ticket will help you. For instance, if you have a parking ticket that says your car was parked at 5th and Main and you were actually parked at 22nd and Pine, you might have a case. Small clerical errors will almost always be overlooked, but errors having to do with the offense itself are more significant and might give you a chance of winning your traffic ticket case. If there is a mistake on your ticket, you will have to weigh whether it is worth going to court and arguing that the ticket should be dismissed on that basis.

The Police Officer Does Not Show Up to Court

Another common belief is that if the police officer does not show up to court, you will win by default. This is actually true, for the most part. Defendants have a constitutional right to question their accusers. Therefore, if the officer (your accuser) does not show up to court, it would be unconstitutional for the judge to find you guilty. However, the officer failing to show up is no guarantee that the judge will throw out the case. He does have the option to re-schedule it for a time when the officer can be present. Furthermore, most judges will attempt to schedule the case at a time that is convenient for the officer to attend. For these reasons, it is not prudent to assume that the officer usually will not show up to court, or that you have an automatic win if he doesn’t. It all depends on the judge.

If You Refuse to Sign the Ticket, It Will Be Dismissed

Another common myth is that signing the ticket at the time it is written is an admission of guilt. Many people believe that if they do not sign the ticket, they can somehow claim that they never received it and have the ticket dismissed. Your signature on the ticket is nothing more than a promise to appear in court on a certain date and defend yourself against the charges. Refusing to sign a not a wise decision, as in many states the officer will then have the right to take you directly to jail. The best course of action once a citation has been issued is to sign it, and if you truly think you are not deserving of the traffic ticket, going to court and presenting your case.

If You Get A Ticket In One State, Another State Will Not Find Out

Some people believe that if they are traveling out of state and receive a parking or traffic citation, they can ignore it and go back to their home state without consequence. This is a foolish idea for more than one reason. Firstly, if you are ever planning to return to the state in which you received the ticket, you could be caught and face large fines or even a warrant for ignoring citations. Secondly, the vast majority of states (45 to be exact) are party to the Interstate Driver’s License Compact. This agreement means that participating states exchange information regarding driver’s license suspensions and certain traffic violations committed by non-residents with the defendant’s home state. The defendant’s home state can then penalize him for the traffic violation committed in another state. For this reason, it is never a good idea to simply ignore a traffic citation, no matter where it is received.

Going With The Flow of Traffic

Police officers and traffic court judges have heard every excuse imaginable for traffic and parking violations. A popular one is that the defendant was only speeding because he was “going with the flow of traffic.” Many people believe that if other cars on the road are speeding, it is legal for them to keep up with the flow. This is not actually true. “Going with the flow” of traffic only means that you should go approximately the same speed as other cars on the road up to the speed limit. Once you are above the speed limit, you are breaking the law, regardless of how fast other cars are traveling.

Now that some of the most common myths surrounding traffic tickets have been cleared up, you may be ready to simply pay your fine and move on with your life! Many jurisdictions provide the opportunity to pay traffic and parking tickets online. To see if your location offers this option, check out Court Reference, online fine payments. If on the other hand you have decided to fight your ticket, there are lawyers whose sole practice is in traffic court. For a list of local attorneys, Court Reference also has the resources you need. Just look under the “Legal Aid, Lawyer Referral” category to find a local attorney.

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Tags: Courtreference.com

6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Robie Cagle // Nov 23, 2012 at 3:07 am

    In Utah the following can happen;
    “On the other hand, do not drive so slowly that you
    become a source of danger on the road. Traffic
    officers are allowed to issue tickets if you are
    interrupting the normal flow of traffic.” Taken from the most recent online Drivers Handbook for Utah.
    So, regardless of the allowed speed on the road, if traffic is going 80mph and you tried driving 65 or 70 you could expect to be pulled over for impeding traffic. If on the other hand you maintained the same, or nearly the same speed as surrounding traffic you should be okay, or be able to use this as a proper defense. This by no means says that doing so is proper or okay under the law but it does show that in order to maintain proper traffic flow and to not be a hazard you needed to maintain a similar speed. You could be let off if you take this to court, or have the citation reduced because of these prevailing conditions. If you have private video of the incident then you may have a better leg to stand on. IANAL but this seems appropriate to what I have read in the operators manual concerning the issue.

  • 2 Retired cop // Mar 11, 2013 at 9:59 am

    The out out of state part is ALMOST correct. What is leaves out is the section that states” except parking tickets, over weight fines and any section requiring mandatory revocation of the license.”

    Bottom line is you get an out of state PARKING TICKET just for get about it.( Unless you are back in that town a lot, where you may find a boot on your car)

    Overweight and revocation violations they will just keep your truck or take you to jail.

  • 3 Kevin Creel // May 14, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Are cops required to give a certain amount of ticket every month?

  • 4 Autumn // Jun 21, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Yes cops do have a quota! I have always suspected so but recently had it confirmed while watching a news story on my local news channel. So for sure in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex cops do and I imagine it would be the same in other cities. Pay attention when you are out driving, the amount of cops I see on the roads at least double the last week of the month.

  • 5 Lindsay // Jul 19, 2013 at 8:47 am

    People are always trying to find the easy way out of a ticket. Sometimes these “myths” for getting out of a traffic ticket work, and sometimes they don’t. Most of the time, traffic tickets are judged on a case to case basis so the best thing to do in order to get out of a traffic ticket, is to avoid getting one in the first place!

  • 6 Jason // Aug 12, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Well Lindsey, most of us wouldn’t be at this website if we avoided getting a ticket in the first place..

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