How to Fight a Traffic Ticket with Fire and Brimstone

I know I have written in the past that I don’t believe in disclaimers but this one is important. I am not a lawyer. This guide in no way serves as a substitute for legal advice and I am not responsible for anything that you do with this information. Use your own best judgement. If you don’t feel comfortable going through this process it is hereby recommended that you talk to a lawyer.

Remember this, 95% of tickets aren’t contested. Of those that are, 50% of them are won.

This isn’t meant to be a typical blog post per se, but more like a guide on what you should do throughout the process of dealing with a ticket.

In our example here, this is just a high level overview of what to do during the different parts of the process:

So let’s imagine some random scenario, it’s 1am, you’re driving home through NJ from philly to get home. You’re always in Philly late, you know you shouldn’t be staying out too long, but somehow now matter what you always get tempted into staying there, something something magic of the city. The reason isn’t important. There’s nobody on the road, and you just want to get home, so you’re just driving. Driving quick, and bam, the lights flash, the siren blares, and you’ve been pulled over.

When you get pulled over:

You’re going to want to leave a good impression, but not a memorable one. Just be polite and it will be fine.

  • COUNTY SEAT: If at this point he has decides to write you a ticket, ask if you can have it sent to the county seat. The county seat is the main branch in the county of where the ticket is issued. There are two reasons to do this:
    • First, the main branch is usually not the officer’s home branch, sometimes it might be pretty far. This means he is less likely to show up in court should he have to go, because it is more work for him to drive there.
    • Second, the ticket might get lost in the process. It's not that likely, but whatever you can do to put things in your favor. If he asks why, just tell him that you work near there or something. He cannot refuse this right and if he does take note of it.
  • After you receive your ticket

    An unusual option, A trial by written declaration

    Once you receive the papers

    Here’s a link to a sample written declaration.

    Now to be clear you could win the case with a trial by declaration, which happens maybe 30% of the time, and that would be the end of it, and nothing more needs to happen.

    IF YOU LOSE THE TRIAL BY DECLARATION: It’s time for things to get real and go to trial in person.

    Court:

    Here’s why: typically officers will try to set up all their court dates consecutively in one day so they don’t have to make multiple trips. If you’re the single ticket interrupting his vacation he’s probably not likely to show up to court. Also remember, you’ve pushed this court date for quite a while. Many officers won’t bother showing up for what is now almost a 60 day old ticket. If you’d like to go to trial (again, remember nothing is lost by doing this, at worst you end up right where you started being found guilty and having to pay the fine.)

    Trial:

    Traffic Courts are generally a lot less formal. It won’t be terribly difficult to represent yourself for something like not maintaining your brake lamps. In fact it’s rare the prosecutors would go. The government’s evidence is essentially going to be the testimony of the officer, it is highly unlikely they will have more than this on you.

    What they’re probably going to do is have the officer come in, the judge will ask them some clarifying questions on behalf of the prosecutor, and you’ll get to ask some questions to them yourself. You’ll get to present evidence after the government has presented it’s side of the case. If closing arguments are permitted you’ll make some closing remarks and a verdict will most likely be made by the judge.

    A note on speed detection tools:

    This is where you should ask for the radar model number, and radar gun certificate. This certificate should include the last time it was calibrated. (also: Remember to ask if the officer used Lidar or Radar to gauge your speed. Radar (radio waves) is less accurate than LIDAR (pulses of light emitted at regular intervals) so you might be able to get off a ticket if you just say there was a lot of traffic around you, like big trucks, etc. causing an innacurate radar measurement. You can find more information on radar and lidar here

    The hope is that at some point in this process your ticket is either dismissed or the judge offers you a plea deal of some sort or you’ll just win because the government doesn’t have the time or resources to make it’s case about your brake lamps. Either way it means that this process was definitely worth the time and I’m sure you learned something along the way. Unfortunately you still have to pay court costs, but those are certainly trivial compared to being found guilty of a crime!

    Good luck!

    If you can remember all of this and I’m sure you’ll be able to fight your average run of the mill speeding ticket and other offenses.

    If you follow these steps and you were able to beat your ticket, congratulations! Drop me a line about what happened I’d love to hear about it.

    Best of luck to you.

    If you have any corrections that should be made, or ideas for how to improve this article please feel free to email me!

    A. D. A.