October 17, 2015 • By Dennis Beaver
“I got a ticket on Highway 99 north of Fresno for speeding and plan on taking it to court. Can you give me some pointers? Yes, I was technically speeding, but had I been going any slower, I would have been a danger to other drivers. Will that matter to the judge?” Thanks, Dale.
We put Dale’s question to Southern California-based traffic ticket attorney Paul Harman, who gave the following excellent advice.
“Drivers need to assume that from the moment the red lights start flashing, an audio and video recording will be made of everything that takes place. If ever there was a time to be respectful, polite and show the right attitude, this is it,” Harman notes, adding, “In a traffic stop, attitude is comprised of how and where you pull over, followed by what you say to the officer.” A driver absolutely should:
- Pull over immediately in a safe location, almost always on the right, and remove the keys from the ignition.
- Lower both driver and passenger’s windows. If at night, turn on interior lights.
- Keep your hands visible at all times, preferably on the steering wheel.
- Ask the officer for permission to reach into the glove box or the back seat area.
“So, then, what can a driver say that establishes a really bad attitude” we asked Harman.
‘Put yourself in the officer’s shoes’
A traffic stop is always tense and not made better by a confrontation with a driver who demands to see the radar or lidar results, implying that the officer is a liar.
These devices do not generally store the recorded speed for more than a brief time, but even if they did, the officer is under no legal obligation to show them. As Harman points out:
“Traffic enforcement officers have wide discretion to give a warning or write a citation. Put yourself in the officer’s shoes for a moment. Who will you give a break — to the cursing hot-head, accusing you of lying? Or, will it be the driver who is civil, respectful and complies with your requests, especially, signing the ticket?
“If you would like to run the risk of spending a night in jail, or getting hit with another traffic citation, then refuse to sign the ticket. Your signature is a promise to appear in court, or to take care of the matter by paying the fine. It is not an admission of guilt. Also, don’t be a jerk and write nasty comments on the ticket. Judges and officers don’t appreciate it and you can receive an additional citation for doing just that.”
Traffic school protects license – Don’t argue
So, the big day has arrived. You are in traffic court, the officer who gave you that ticket is present. Of course, if the officer were a “no show” then you would have politely asked the judge to dismiss your ticket.
“But,” you think to yourself, “No one is going to believe that I wasn’t going 100 mph or pretty darn close. What do I do now?” To Harman, the answer is clear: traffic school.
“If eligible for traffic school always take it,” he strongly recommends. “Once completed, your ticket is recorded as a ‘confidential conviction’ and remains invisible to insurance companies. Once every 18 months — ticket date to ticket date — drivers can take traffic school.
“However, for a class A or B commercial drivers, driving their personal vehicle, the ticket is visible to their insurance company — although the DMV point is not assessed. Commercial drivers are not eligible if cited in their work vehicle.
“Be on time and turn off your cellphone. Dress appropriately, with clothing that shows respect for the court. This does not mean a nice dress or a suit and tie, but a clean, neat appearance is important, shirts tucked in, no hats and no clothing with crude messages. At all times, show respect.
“Realize that courts recognize few legitimate reasons for speeding — there is no sense in endangering someone else for your personal emergency. However, if that is the reason you give — and have adequate justification — the judge may reduce the speed to allow you to attend traffic school.
“Admitting having driven a couple of miles an hour over the speed limit is an admission of guilt. If the officer says you were going 85 and you testify, ‘No That’s wrong! I was only doing 81,’ you’ve just admitted your guilt. This often happens.
“Finally, never lie about your speed or anything else. Remember, you’re under oath when you testify.”
Harman’s website is www.bakersfieldtraffictickets.com and is filled with great information.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.