Speeding tickets: the source of stress and financial setbacks (fines, points, insurance increases), occasional bragging rights (ever gotten out of a speeding ticket… as the passenger?) and enduring myths. Here, we suss out the truth around some common speeding ticket assertions.
1. You Can’t Successfully Fight a Speeding Ticket in Court
We’re not advocating lying about your speed. If you’re driving unsafely and are caught, you’ll likely still have to pay the price. However, there are occasions when you might be on the right side of the law, and in those scenarios, you have to be prepared with a defense.
Starting your preparations during the traffic stop is a good idea. Note how the officer clocked your speed (with a radar or lidar gun, a stopwatch, or with his or her own speedometer, for instance) and write it down if you can. Sometimes the device will be written on your citation, but you may have to call the police department afterward to follow up, writes The Free Thought Project. Some possibilities for your defense: questioning the functionality and calibration of the device, the officer’s training with the device, and whether there could have been any errors with the device’s speed reading.
Attorneys we spoke to emphasized the importance of having an attorney with you when you fight a ticket.
“When it comes to taking a speeding ticket to court, you are often at a disadvantage if you represent yourself because you’re defending yourself against the prosecuting attorney who is a professional,” explains defense attorney Dennis Chassaniol of Chassaniol & Marty, LLC in St. Louis, Missouri.
“Most people lose because they think that they have an excuse or a reason that the judge should dismiss the case,” explains attorney Justin Elsner of Elsner Law Firm, PLLC in Washington state. “Unfortunately, the court will believe the officer’s statement over the driver’s statement most of the time since they think that the driver has a reason to lie but the officer doesn’t.”
For example, if the driver says the officer must have pulled over the wrong person because they never speed, they’re almost guaranteed to lose, says Elsner.
2. Your Ticket Will Be Dropped if You Contest It & the Ticketing Officer Doesn’t Show Up in Court
Verdict: It depends.
Each state legislates its own traffic laws. So while some jurisdictions require a ticketing officer to show up to court for hearings involving tickets they’ve written, other states don’t require the officer’s presence. And even in states which require the officer to be present, judges can reschedule any case they choose. So, if your officer doesn’t show, the judge can always just reschedule.
An example: “In Washington state, the court can review the officer’s written report. If you subpoena the officer to appear at the hearing and they don’t appear, then the court will dismiss the case. But in many jurisdictions the officers get paid overtime to show up on their days off,” says Elsner, and many do. But if the hearing is scheduled during the officer’s shift, he or she might not be able to make it, so it’s really a gamble.
If you truly believe you’ve been ticketed unfairly (or in error), successfully contesting your ticket could have a lot of benefits.
“Successfully fighting a speeding ticket will keep you from having to pay for the violation and also keep your insurance rate from increasing, ” explains Neil Richardson, The Zebra’s insurance expert and licensed agent. According to the State of Auto Insurance Report, a speeding ticket will raise the national average annual auto insurance premium 20 to 30% depending on how fast and where the driver was speeding.
But don’t just contest the ticket hoping the officer won’t show up — you’ll waste a lot of time and money.
3. Red Cars Get Pulled Over More Than Cars of Other Colors
That red cars get more tickets because they catch the eye of police officers might be one of the most enduring car myths out there. While many studies have been done exploring which colors, makes and models are ticketed most often, there is no evidence that red cars are ticketed more often.
Even when it comes to insurance, red cars get a bad rap.
“There is also a myth that red cars are more expensive to insure and that’s definitely not true,” explains Richardson. “Car insurance companies will ask for your vehicle identification number (VIN) to get info on the make, model and trim level to better determine the value of your car, but this does not include the color of your car.”
4. If You Get a Ticket Outside of Your Home State, You Don’t Have to Pay It
Even though states control traffic laws, they do still communicate with one another.
“Most states have their licensing systems connected now, so if you don’t pay a ticket in one state, it could result in your license getting suspended in your home state,” explains Elsner.
Further, Richardson adds, not paying a ticket could result in license suspension. “This could result in higher rates, additional fees if an SR-22 or other type of filing is required by the state, and even being ineligible for insurance coverage with some companies,” he said. “Also, the ticket itself is likely to make your rate even higher since it will show up on your motor vehicle report (MVR).”
5. Cops Give Out More Tickets at the End of the Month to Meet Their Quotas
Verdict: False (or Maybe)
A definitive answer about how police officers handle traffic citations that covers the entire United States isn’t simple to nail down. Each police department sets its own standards and requirements for officers, and police departments are funded very differently throughout the U.S., but on a whole the idea of “quotas” isn’t accurate.
“Most officers that I have asked about quotas say they don’t exist,” explains Elsner. “They are expected to be productive during their work shift, however.” So, if an officer is assigned to traffic duty and only writes one ticket the whole shift, he could get in trouble with his supervisors, giving some credence to the idea that officers on traffic duty are looking to net a certain amount of tickets.
The “however”: In some places, for some reasons (grants, for instance), officers might be encouraged to write more tickets. Also, some departments are funded by state and local taxes, while others are at least partially funded by revenue they bring in (i.e., traffic tickets), and might therefore tend to write more tickets than other places.
6. Purposeful Clerical Mistakes, Like not Signing the Ticket or Spelling Something Wrong, Will Get You Out of It
Each ticket (speeding or otherwise) has a place for you to sign. Your signature isn’t an admission of guilt, it’s just confirmation that you received it, but your ticket will still be processed without your John Hancock.
Now, if the Department of Motor Vehicles makes a mistake (something which you obviously cannot control), you could get out of it on a technicality.
“If the ticket is written, then it will eventually go on your record unless there is an error when it is entered into the DMV database,” explains Richardson.
If the officer made a mistake, that’s a different story, and you might have a good case if you fight it in court.
“Defending your speeding ticket is about the technicalities,” explains Elsner. “If the officer doesn’t sign the ticket, then that could lead to a dismissal.”
Other issues that could result in a dismissal: a difference between the ticket number on the report and the actual ticket itself, the officer citing the wrong statute, or the officer filing the ticket in one county when the incident happened in a different county.
But minor mistakes don’t usually result in a dismissal. For example, if you have brown hair and the officer writes you have blonde hair, that won’t guarantee a dismissal.
We encourage you to avoid getting a speeding ticket in the first place (here’s some help!), not only because it’s the law (of course), or because you’ll save on auto insurance with fewer tickets (you will), but because it’s safer.
[Editor’s note: Remember, speeding tickets aren’t the only items that can affect your insurance rates. Many car insurance providers check your credit, so it can pay to brush your scores up before requesting a quote or policy. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing your free credit report summary, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.]