How to Succesfully Fight a Traffic Ticket

Though it’s true that many judges will side with an officer’s conclusions and observations over yours, there are a few techniques you can use to have the judge believe you were actually in the right and you shouldn’t have to pay the consequences.


1. Don’t Accept Any Charges:

Firstly, never accept any alleged offenses. This may be harder than it sounds, as police are experts in coercing admissions of guilt during routine traffic stops. For example, typically the first question that an officer asks when they suspect you are speeding is, “do you know how fast you were going?” Though this question may seem harmless, if you respond with a figure above the posted speed limit, it’s going to make fighting the speeding ticket much harder due to your ‘admission of guilt.’ Further, do not simply accept the guilty plea bargain offered to you, as it is nearly always worth it to fight the ticket in court. Often times, there are incorrect charges, or the evidence is improperly gathered so the charges will be dropped.


2. Contest The Officer’s Subjective Conclusions And Observations:

There are several ways that you can convince a judge that the officer’s observations and subsequent conclusions were incorrect. For example:

  • Getting statements from witnesses, such as bystanders or passengers can help bolster your case.
  • Bringing in a clear diagram showing where yours and the officer’s cars were in relation to key locations (i.e. intersections, stop signs, traffic signs, etc.). Diagrams are typically most important in moving violations, as it provides the judge with a clear idea of the ‘lay of the land’ during the traffic stop.
  • After receiving a ticket, take the time to photograph the surrounding area and any key objects (i.e. traffic signs). These photos could provide evidence that the road conditions are to blame for the traffic violation. Further, take pictures from where the officer first saw you. These pictures could provide evidence that the officer was not in the right angle of observation to come to his conclusions.


3. Prove That Your Actions Were Justified Considering Circumstances

If you can show proof that your actions were justifiable due to special circumstances, the judge may just side with you as well. For instance, if you were charged with speeding, you could argue that you had heart palpitations and were rushing to see a doctor when you got pulled over. Or, if you were charged with changing lanes without the proper use of a turn signal, you could argue that you spilled some hot tea on yourself. Be creative with these defenses, but be sure that regardless of your argument, you have substantiated proof that the claims are true. If you are arguing that you had heart issues, come in with your medical history stating that you have a heart condition. If you are arguing you tried to avoid something in the road, bring in a picture of something obstructing the flow of traffic where you got pulled over (preferably at the time of the alleged incident).


4. Prove That Your Actions Were Necessary To Avoid Harm

Another argument that holds up in court is if you can provide evidence that your actions were forcefully brought upon you in order to avoid serious immediate harm to yourself or others. Arguments that could work here include (but are not limited to):

  • You were in the left-lane with a car to your right and an aggressive eighteen-wheeler is behind you. You sped up past the legal speed limit to pass the car on your right and change lanes into “safety.”
  • You sped up past the speed limit of an on-ramp to a highway in order to avoid being rear-ended.
  • You had to swerve across a double-yellow line in order to avoid hitting someone, or to avoid causing an accident.

These arguments cannot be self-created though. For instance, you can’t argue that you weren’t wearing a seatbelt because it was causing your stomach discomfort. Nor can you say that you were ‘spacing out’ which caused you to inadvertently speed. In order to argue necessity to avoid harm, there typically has to be an outside influence that forced your actions upon you.


5. Delay The Trial

When you are given a ticket, there’s typically a court date already picked out for you listed on it. This court date is commonly a “gang date” where the court tries several people consecutively who’ve been charged by the same officer. This ensures that the officer is able to make the trial and come under questioning by the defendants (which is the defendant's’ constitutional right). Delay this date no matter what. If an officer does not show up to your trial, it is common that your case will get thrown out by the courts. Thus, ask for as many continuances (trial delays) as you can believably get away with. The longer time that goes between the incident and the trial, the more time the officer has to forget about the case. In order to delay your trial, submit a written request for a continuance at least a week before the trial to the county clerk. Make sure that you receive confirmation that a continuance has been granted by calling the clerk if you haven’t heard anything yet. Acceptable reasons for continuances include:

  • You need more time to prepare for the trial.
  • You or one of the key witnesses to the case are out of town for the trial.
  • You need to delay a conviction in order to prevent too many ‘points’ from being accumulated on your insurance plan.


An example of a good letter requesting continuance would be:

Re: People vs. Speedman, #A-765432 
Trial Date: Oct. 24, 2016 

Dear [Clerk’s last name], 

I am scheduled to appear for trial in the above matter on Oct. 24th, 2016. Unfortunately, I have a conference for work that I must attend in California from October 20th-29th. I am therefore requesting that the trial be continued to November 5th. Please let me know if the continuance is granted, and when my new court appointment will be. 


Paul Speedman


If you enjoyed reading this article, you might be interested in What To Do When Pulled Over and What To Do At DUI Checkpoints

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Revised: Feb. 11, 2016, 8:23 p.m.
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