Speeding Tickets: Appeal to Your Own Best Interest

It’s hard on their system

It’ll happen sooner or later: flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror, and the anguished realization that you were, after all, doing 50 in a 30-mph zone. Down goes the bank balance. Up goes the insurance bill.

Don’t reach for your checkbook too quickly. Merely mailing in your fine constitutes a guilty plea. If you know the do’s and don’t’s of how to beat a traffic ticket, you may be able to get the best of an overburdened legal system and drive away smiling. Professional ticket handlers who advertise in the newspapers approach traffic fines with a few tricks of the trade, and so can you.

Go to court, plead “no contest,” and then appeal the case. Though there’s little chance of winning at the municipal level (the court has an 86-percent conviction rate), if you post a small bond (normally $50) and file an appeal, you face an average wait of six to eight months before your case will come up in the County Court of Criminal Appeals. During that time, the conviction in Municipal Court doesn’t go on your record, and therefore won’t affect your insurance rates.

Once you reach the appeals court, you have a much better chance. If the officer who issued the ticket fails to show for the appeals court date, the judge has to dismiss the case. Since most traffic officers have one day a week scheduled to appear in Municipal Court, they prefer to spend the rest of their time issuing tickets that won’t be appealed, rather than hanging around the appeals court. On May I, for example, 165 of the 400 cases handled were dismissed.

If the officer does show up for the trial, however, you have another option: Volunteer to take the driver improvement course. That only costs $20 and it will win you a dismissal and keep a traffic conviction from going on your record. And if that doesn’t work, you can always challenge the evidence the state presents. As one lawyer says, “How much is the average cop going to remember about a ticket he wrote six months ago?”

What makes it possible to beat the system? The system, of course. There is only one appeals court for the entire county; if a case goes to trial, it will take an average of 45 minutes for the court to handle it; there are 50 cases on the docket for each hour the court is in session. Draw your own conclusions.

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