life ideas

October 20, 2006

ZT: how to avoid a traffic ticket

Filed under: Uncategorized — manoftoday @ 10:00 pm…




I’ve gotten about thirty speeding tickets in my short life, but I have zero tickets on my record. That’s because no matter how formal the processes may seem, when it comes to law enforcement, you are still dealing with human beings with hearts and minds just like yours. Appeal to them as such, and you will be amazed by the results.

Although I am a law student, I employed this advice before I ever went to law school, and my education has only reinforced these theories. My approach isn’t foolproof legal advice – it’s simply my experienced opinions with a little law mixed in. That said, here are my secrets to getting out of a speeding ticket ordered chronologically, from the point of being pulled over to your final options in the courtroom.

Note: All of this advice assumes that you are merely breaking traffic laws. If you’re trafficking a kilo of crystal meth… well, if you traffic meth, you’re probably not reading Lifehacker. So read on, non-meth-heads.

Blue lights… you’re getting pulled over

1. Get your attitude right.

Fighting with the police officer never increases your chances of leniency. You want him to like you. Prepare to achieve this goal.

2. Turn your car off, and turn the interior lights of your car on.

Place your hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel and remove your sunglasses or hat. Some people even advise you to place your keys on the roof of your car as a sign of total submission. Never, ever get out of the car.

The whole point of this is to take any unnecessary tension out of the encounter. You want the officer to be comfortable. Imagine the types of people and the dangers that most officers have had to deal with. Be just the opposite.

3. Be very polite and do exactly what the nice cop with the big gun says.

Save your pleas until after the basics are finished. Many officers will never speak to you until after they’ve done the basics. It’s almost a litmus test for jerk drivers.

4. Once the officer has gotten your information, ask him politely if you may speak to him about your violation.

If you know you broke the law, admit it vehemently and tell the officer that he was completely right for pulling you over. Honest officers will admit that there is a lot of pride in police work, and, if you can sufficiently satisfy the pride factor, sometimes officers don’t feel it necessary to punish you any further. The better you make the officer feel; the more likely he’s going to like you enough to let you go.

5. Ask to see the radar then ask a few questions.

Many jurisdictions require that the officer allow you to see the radar. Don’t press it if the officer says no because that’s what a courtroom is for. But, at least ask, then ask a few more questions to show that you are watching.

You might ask, “When was the last time your radar gun was calibrated?” or “Where were you when you clocked my speed?” or “Were you moving when you clocked my speed?”

Do not ask these in an argumentative tone or sarcastic, know-it-all way. All that will do is make the pride in the officer fight you harder.

6. Plead your case.

Once you’ve gone over some basics with the officer and developed a temporary rapport, ask for mercy. Make it sincere and let the officer know that it’s a big deal to you. Resist all urges to fight and get angry and simply beg as much as your dignity will allow. But, there is no reason to grovel.

7. Leave the scene as a non-memorable, nice person.

If the officer didn’t let you go on the scene, then you want him to never remember you. Your next steps are in a more legal setting, and the less the officer remembers you, the better. Usually, officers only remember you if they want to remember to show you no mercy.

You’ve gotten a ticket, but you still want out

8. Call the officer at work.

Ask politely if you can arrange a time to meet with the officer to talk to him or her about a ticket you got recently. Usually, officers will readily meet with you, the taxpayer, and this meeting has gotten me out of many tickets.

But, don’t go to the meeting and just say, “Will you let me out of this ticket?” You better have a story or some reason to motivate the officer to let you out. That’s just up to you, but just be really nice and try to bridge that officer-civilian gap with a personal story and plead for mercy. The more the officer can identify with you, the more likely he is to want to show you mercy.

Remember always, the officer has full authority to drop your ticket, so remember how important he is in this process. Treat him and pursue him as the gatekeeper to your freedom. Don’t be scared, though. You have a right to try to talk to the officer. You pay his salary.

9. Write a letter to the officer.

Even if you met with the officer, it can’t hurt to write him a letter pleading your case to him. Write it professionally, succinctly, and include complete contact information. I’ve even gone so far as to offer alternative punishment. Although that alternative wasn’t accepted, the officer was pretty surprised at my tenacity, and it motivated him to let me off the hook. He could tell that I really did care about this one ticket.

Make the ticket a bigger deal to you than to him, but you have to carefully do this in a professional, civil way. Anything else, and you’re playing with fire.

10. Repeat calls and letters to the judge and/or the prosecutor.

If the officer won’t listen to you, feel free to contact the judge that will preside over your case. Also, find out who the prosecuting attorney will be and call him at his office. They are just people, and the worst they can say is “no.” You have nothing to lose at this point. Plead your case to either of them, but do not be a pest and be consistently apologetic for the lengths to which you are going to get out of your ticket. You must be sincere, or don’t bother going at all.

In steps 8-10, you stand the risk of being labeled a nuisance or a troublemaker. If you get this impression too much, then bail out with apologies. But, do not be afraid to at least try to talk to the officials face-to-face. They are, after all, public servants, and you are that public.

The court is your friend

11. Follow all court guidelines.

Make the court clerk your best friend. Call the clerk often, and address him or her by first name. You want to make all court employees’ jobs as easy as possible. Also, you do not want to miss any deadlines.

12. Delay.

Once you’ve gotten to know the clerk, ask for as many continuances (delays of your trial) as you can honestly ask for. Do not lie, but do plead for continuances to delay your trial date as long as possible. The farther you are out of the officer’s memory, the better. I have heard of one case where the case was continued so long that the ticketing officer had transferred… case dismissed automatically.

13. Ask for alternative punishment.

Usually, your primary concern is keeping your ticket off your insurance. Many times, court clerks have the authority to let you go to driving school and keep the ticket off your record. Sometimes you have to pay court costs and the ticket, but at least your insurance premiums aren’t going up. This completely depends on the court.

You can’t handle the truth!

14. Understand your trial and your rights.

If you got a ticket, you have been accused of a crime. The ticketing officer signed a sheet of paper swearing that you broke a certain traffic law, and he saw you do it. That sworn statement is called an affidavit, and most tickets say that at the top. Don’t get nervous, though; it’s just a misdemeanor.

First, you’ll have a hearing where you plead guilty, not guilty, or some other plea. Then, you’ll have your trial where you plead your case. Then the judge decides your fate. It’s really not scary at all, and you have every right to participate fully in this process no matter how much you are intimidated.

15. Show up to your first court date and plead anything but guilty.

Whatever you do, show up to your first hearing on time and dressed decently. It’s probably not a good idea to wear a suit, though. In most traffic courts, you’ll look silly. If you really want to know, go scope out the court ahead of time to see what to wear to blend in best.

You’ll then be asked “what you plead.” Pleading not guilty is a safe bet, although there are other pleas (e.g. nolo contendre) that have strange consequences in some courts. In some courts, a plea of nolo contendre has the strange effect of making your ticket just disappear to the court’s files. You’d want to talk to a local lawyer about that one, though.

Most of the time, just politely say, “I plead not guilty, your honor.” You’ll be assigned a court date, and spend the next few weeks repeating steps 8-13. This is your second chance before the big day.

16. Go to court and duke it out.

If all else has failed, you should then go to your trial. Do not miss this out of fear, or you will definitely be found guilty. For instance, if the officer doesn’t show up, for any reason, you’re automatically out of the ticket. This is not unheard of.

Also, you may be able to talk to the officer or prosecutor before trial and cut a deal, just like the real convicts do on TV. If the officer is nervous about his case against you, he might let you off. This just depends on your case, but at least ask.

The trial is pretty simple. The prosecution will present their case against you. You get to respond and call witnesses if you want, and then the prosecution rebuts you. You cannot screw this up. At the very worst, you’re found guilty, and you’ve lost nothing. Do not be scared to do this. It is your right, and you should claim it.

17. Suck it up, or fight on.

The judge will rule on you… guilty, not guilty, or some other punishment. You either take it or appeal it to the court of appeals. Rarely would it be financially wise to appeal a traffic decision, but that is up to you. And you do have the right.

Chances are, you let it die here. Try to make friends with the officer and prosecutor for next time, though.

18. Suck up… err, I mean write more letters.

It can’t hurt to write the officer and prosecutor a letter telling them how nice they were and easy to deal with. Also, copy this letter to the mayor and the chief of police, and make sure you show the cc: at the bottom of the letter. That’s your investment in next time.

Rage against the machine (without all the rage)

This stuff isn’t rocket science. You’re just dealing with people and trying to get them to see things your way. You have very little to lose, and it’s a fun way to get to participate in the very government under which you live. I encourage all of you to employ all these steps in a friendly, civil way. Forget everything you’ve learned about courtrooms and lawyers and cops, and just go in there as a human being. It’s your right, and it can really be fun and exciting. Think of it as your own personal crusade, and, if you push on, you will be amazed at how easy it is to find justice.

Slow it down there, speedy. This is not legal advice. I am not a lawyer, but I am a law student. These are generalized discussions of life experiences, and any legal statements are simply journalistic opinion and fact. If you’ve got real problems, remember everything you’ve learned about lawyers, and go hire one.

Stewart Rutledge is in his final year of law school at the University of Mississippi.




I have some issues with this post.

NEVER talk to the officer about his radar gun until trial. The only things you should say to the officer is “Here my license, registration, and insurance, sir” and “Thank you”.

After the ticket has been issued, write to the police department and Request Discovery concerning any notes the officer wrote or recorded about the incident. You can also ask for any details about the radar gun at this time and they should provide them in the discovery. Use certified mail, return receipt, to make your request. There are many books in your library that can show you how to write this letter.

When you make your initial appearance, ask for a jury trial. Some states allow them for traffic offenses such as speeding tickets. It’s usually a six person jury. This is a big hassle for the courts. They won’t tell you it’s available. You have to request it.

If you can get a jury trial, call the prosecutor’s office a week or two after your initial appearance and ask if they want to cut a deal.

Write out all your questions to the officer before trial. Refine them. Never ask a question that you don’t know the answer to.

If the officer fails to show up, Request For Discovery is ignored, or any other weird thing happens, ask the judge for dismissal of charges.

I would never call or write the officer. Once they write the ticket, it is almost out of their hands. It’s up to the local prosecutor and, eventually, a judge, to agree to dismiss charges.




Following up scoobydoo’s comment, I read a long time ago that the best strategy is to not admit it, but to simply say you just don’t know and were occupied by something else (nothing that makes it sound like you were driving unsafely).

I’ve only been pulled over once since reading that advice and it worked like a charm. I told the cop I was very sorry if I was going that fast. I was talking to the passenger in the car and hadn’t noticed. He let me off with a warning.

Moreover, I think admitting it “vehemently” is contrary to being not very memorable. I mean, how many people do you think admit to the cop that he’s right?


Another tip: if you’ve already been ticketed, you automatically have a court date and a lawyer. If it’s your first offense, call your lawyer, and tell them that you have never had a ticket, and that you are (clearly) an obedient driver. Then, ask for a “stay of judification” — wherein if you don’t get another ticket for 6 or 9 months, the ticket will not go on your record (but you will still have to pay the fine). I did this, and it worked for me – never had to go to court, and 6 months later, the ticket is gone (insurance never sees it).



I am a police dispatcher, and I agree with everything in this post. A lot of people don’t realize exactly what is going on during a traffic stop, so I’ll try and give you some insight.

First and foremost, you have to realize that a traffic stop is one of the most dangerous calls an officer can take. More officers have been killed in routine traffic stops than any other situation. Needless to say, officers are always cautious, if not overly cautious.

After the officer first pulls you over, the pause that seems to take hours is actually the officer running a clearance on your license plate to get registration information, as well as whether the plate/vehicle is stolen. During this, don’t do anything. The officer can see you moving in your car, and you reaching into your glovebox for your insurance may look to him (or her) like you getting your gun out.

Once the officer approaches, he’ll look first for your hands on the wheels, and he’ll want to see them the whole time. Once he comes up and asks for your information, tell him where you’re going to reach, and what you’re grabbing. Make your movements slow, don’t jump. He’ll go back to his car, and then you’ve got another long pause while he compares the information you gave him with the computer. He will also run your name for clearance, making sure you don’t have any outstanding warrants. Depending on how common your last name is or how busy the system is, this can take a little while.

The most helpful thing you can do, in my opinion, is be respectful. The officer didn’t pull you over because they felt like it – they’re just doing their job.

And no, working for the police doesn’t always get you out of speeding ticket – trust me 🙂



here’s some good comments… here’s mine:

Don’t delay. There’s a system in place – use it to your advantage. Immediately file for discovery. Ask for everything including the kitchen sink – well, maybe not that. But ask for duty logs, radar gun certification, officer’s training record (has he been trained in the use of that model of radar gun, etc, etc).

Make sure you send all discovery requests to the clerk of the court AND the prosecutor. They probably won’t satisfy your request. That’s #1 in your favour.

When you get your day in court make sure that your discovery motion was satisfied. If not tell the judge. They cannot (to my knowledge – but I’m not a lawyer) deny your discovery.

Do not under any circumstances waive your right to a speady trial.

Finally, if you do get to court and you get you discovery satisfied… you still have a good chance.

In many cases the police officer will be there. The judge will be there. But the DA/prosecutor might not (they’re too busy for traffic court). If there’s no prosecution there, then there’s noone to call witnesses for the prosecution. The judge is an impartial (ya, right) adjudicator. He does not act for either the defense or the prosecution…



Not sure how this varies from other states but in New York, the accused has the right to ask for a “Supporting Deposition.” Basically this is a statement from the officer supporting that what was written on the ticket was true. (I think the ticket is actually an abbreviation of what the charge document should be for convenience sake, you are just asking for the fomal charging document. I think that is so but don’t quote me.) You have a timeframe in which you can ask for it and the officer has a timeframe in which he/she HAS to provide it. If they don’t, the case can be dropped, just like if the cop doesn’t show up for trial.

I had one ticket where they didn’t do it at all so as soon as I showed my letter asking for the supporting deposition, the judge dropped both tickets before I even had to plea. In the second, they handed it to me when I got there. I has printed out the law on it and showed the judge that they did not deliver it in the timeframe and he agreed and threw the case out. Finally, I received another ticket while visiting friends in a small town and went into the courthouse to request it in person. The clerk asked me why I wanted it, told me I didn’t need it (boarderline unethical) but finally asked to look at my ticket. She said hang on, left and came back with the cop who wrote me the ticket. He was in the back doing paperwork and I waited while he wrote it out. Luckily that one was a violation with a smaller fine.

I have several friends who have also gotten out of tickets this way, I think the tally is something like 12 to 2 in favor of getting the charges dropped because of what I taught them about it. I never had trouble getting friends help me move when I was just out of college, they all owed me in their eyes.

This is full of legalize, but here is a case that supports this. If you get a ticket in NY, know the Supporting Deposition laws and ALWAYS request one. If you are not in NY, talk to a lawyer friend to see if your state has something similar


1 Comment »

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    Comment by aimquh fztl — February 19, 2008 @ 8:09 am

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