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Old 12-05-2014, 11:18 AM   #1
wpbarlow OP
Beastly Adventurer
Joined: Jun 2003
Location: Central NJ
Oddometer: 11,510
Avoid and/or Manage That Ticket Situation

This article may save you time, money, and aggravation, so pay attention.

Oh, this treatise is in no way condoning breaking of any laws, is published strictly on a non-warranted informational/opinionated basis, and is not to be used wherever it’s against the law to do so. Geez, I felt slimey saying that.

Few things in motorcycling feel as uncomfortable as that icy ball you get in your stomach when you notice those revolving/flashing red lights in your mirror or when you hear the siren; and it’s directed at you. It would be nice to avoid that icy ball if at all possible or, failing that, try to make it turn out better than it often does. Fortunately for you, if not for me, I have some, er, experience in dealing with these situations and I’ll try to pass on some information that may just help.

The emotional distress, however, can just the beginning of the pain you’ll feel in your ass (usually in the wallet vicinity) if you’re really unlucky and get the paper souvenir that often accompanies an up close and personal experience with the long arm (and the busy pen) of the law.

It’s these things called points; awarded by the state to keep track of your suitability to maintain your license, and by virtually all insurance companies to collect more money from you. And this money can be substantial. Keep in mind that while most states write off points over 3 years, insurance companies usually write them down over five years.

It varies by state, but the DMV will charge a penalty for each point on an exponential scale of (for illustrative purposes) of $20, 35, 60, 100 etc.. Insurance company surcharges are a little more complex: points, or lack of them, place you in different tiers (or rating groups). For example, one insurance company gives you a Level 1 Preferred Plus Discount if you’ve had no violations in the past 5 years; Level 2 with no points in 3 years, Level 4 if you had 1 point in the last 3 years, and Level 7 if you’ve had 6 points in the last 5 years. The higher the Level, the more you pay, and it just keeps getting worse and worse. The really bad news is that it doesn’t matter if you got the points on your bike or in your car, the surcharges are applied across all insurance policies.

Each state’s Commissioner of Insurance (or whatever they happen to be called in your state) usually oversees and approves the rating tiers. Because of the variables, I can’t tell you what it might cost you for x points over y amount of years, but consider this:
Let’s say for argument’s sake that I (hypothetically speaking of course, as I never speed) got a speeding ticket for doing 58 mph over the speed limit last year. Let’s really stretch our imagination and imagine that I either pled guilty or failed to convince the judge that I really wasn't speeding. I insure 5 motorcycles and 2 cars. Here what that one (hypothetical of course) transgression would have cost me:
$125.00 the speeding fine
$25.00 court costs
$450.00 $150.00/year for 3 years from the state surcharge
$4,400 insurance surcharges for 7 vehicles written down across 5 years.

Ouch! And consider that 1) I started with no points on my license, 2) I’m of an age where my rates are pretty good to begin with and, 3) though I carry very high liability, not all my vehicles have collision on them. And the 5-year amount assumes that I stayed totally clean for the 5 years. Faced with such financial penalty, you can understand why you might want to really avoid tickets and, failing that, try to minimize the point damage and/or hire competent counsel to represent you if all else fails.

Got your attention yet? Good. Continue.

I’m going to use speeding in my examples; as it seems to be an affliction with which many motorcyclists suffer. But much of what you’ll read here is applicable to any differences you may have with John Law and our legal system. I’ll say outright that it probably won’t help (at least I hope it won’t) you for things like DUI or practicing wheelies in a crowded schoolyard: if you’re busted for things like that you deserve to fry.


Well, there’s always the choice not to speed.

Ok, stop laughing, it was just a suggestion.

All right, you’re a normal kind of person who sometimes likes to make better time than the speed limit advises. The dynamics of speeding (and formally being recognized by the police as doing so) are a little different depending on location. The first rule is to realize where you are: sounds simple, but it’s very important. For example, there are towns that are extremely fussy about following their speed laws and others that have some leeway. It’s good to know which are which. Another factor is that many towns often concentrate their enforcement efforts within the couple of miles surrounding the town. This is especially true when there are quite a few miles between towns. Best to be rather circumspect within this envelope. When in doubt, assume the worst.

I heartily recommend a radar detector. While there are many models to choose from and there are several opinions on which offers the most protection, my advice is to do your research and get the best one you can afford. Even a cheapo discount brand is better than nothing. I’ve had some people say that a radar detector is not so effective these days because of instant-on radar, Laser, etc.. While I agree there are times when it may not help, I’m firmly convinced that they do help in most cases. As an aside, virtually all the people I know who at one time or another said detectors were of limited utility eventually got one: usually as they accumulated enough points where another ticket would result in the loss of their license. I’m always polite and never say, “I told you so”/ Usually lol

Many bikes don’t provide detector mounting points that allow both easy viewing and inconspicuous location; but try to put it in a place that does both if you can. You surely want to be easily able to see it but, on the other hand, you don’t necessarily want to flaunt the fact that you have one to the police. Be creative: buy or make a mount that works for you or use some velco to put it in a smart place.

But don’t just blindly rely on your detector; use some good tactics and still pay attention to where you are and what’s going around.

Here are some tactics that are useful:

⦁ Be alert for the many visual clues that are presented. Things such as people in oncoming lanes flashing their lights or traffic suddenly slowing down, or lots of brake lights going on up ahead of you. If on a road with overpasses, get into the habit of scanning them in advance. Ditto on a divided road with cutouts between the roads- usually there are signs telling you about them at least 1,000 feet before them. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check your 6- a fair number of tickets are still given from being paced from behind. Though it’s tough to pick up, police car lightbars do provide a small visual clue from a distance. If in doubt, better to be safe than sorry. Besides, all this eye scanning activity is good anyway, making you alert for potential trouble other than just a traffic citation.

⦁ Pay particular attention if you approach a moving police car from the rear, especially if you’ve been making rapid progress through traffic, and especially if, as you slow down and fall in even well behind it, it pulls off the road at an exit. There’s a good chance the officer has seen you and is executing the “off & on” strategy to get behind and pace you as you get back up to warp speed. I had a good friend who’s an experienced rider fall prey to this “rookie” mistake last year. The other piece of bad news is that there are some radar units that also work when facing rearward, or can be swiveled to monitor the back. If you’re on a trip, it’s usually smart to watch your speed within the first 20-30 miles of when you start and (particularly) the last 20-30 miles of returning. Oftentimes the excitement of leaving pumps us up and we want to “get going” to establish a good pace. And when concluding a trip there is usually the incentive to get there quickly so we can pop a cold one. Both might make us miss an obvious clue.

⦁ Avoid being the lead dog in a pack of speeding vehicles. Yeah, someone has to do it, but why not someone else? On almost any highway there’s sure to be someone else who’s riding at the pace you want. I’ll submit that it’s smarter to follow someone from a distance of a few hundred yards than be leading them from the same distance. And be patient! If you lose someone’s draft, don’t worry, someone else will be along pretty soon so you can continue as before. As with the radar detector, don’t rely on just that other person being aware of what’s happening- you’re using them as a decoy, not a way for a group meeting with the police.

⦁ Avoid being the only speeder. This is kind of hard to do, especially on the highway and especially if everyone else is going slowly. The good news here is that most highway traffic seems to be moving along at pretty good rates of speed. My personal observation is that on most of the larger highways, people are averaging between 70 and 80. This is a pretty good clip for most sustained conditions. Consider this: if you’re on the highway for 100 miles the arrival time difference between 75 and 90 mph is about 13 minutes; the difference between 70 and 80mph is 11 minutes. Only you can decide if the saved time is worth the risk that the extra speed entails.

⦁ Watch your speed when approaching blind highway bends in the roads, when cresting hills, and on downhill sections in general- they are prime places for speed traps. Also exercise extra caution on divided highways with woods separating them; these are favorite police hiding places. If there’s other traffic ahead of you be on the lookout for quick flashes of brakelights- many people will at least guiltily tap their brakes when they see a hiding policeman. Even more will unconsciously slow down, so if you have particularly good powers of observation you might be able to pick up on this.

⦁ I think positioning is important. Given a choice I tend not to ride in the leftmost lane. This is both practical (because I suspect that most radar is aimed for “sweet spot” coverage in that lane) as well as perceptive from the point of view of an officer (somehow I hope that it “seems” to an interested observer that a vehicle traveling in a middle or right hand lane is “probably” not going as fast as someone who’s tooling along in the left lane). When two lanes are available, I prefer the left-hand side of the right lane; on a three lane road, I prefer the right hand side of the middle lane. This has the side benefit of usually providing the most available road space for emergency maneuvering.

⦁ Somewhat associated with the above is to vary your position and speed on the road anyway. Nothing is more dangerous (in absolute terms as well as just from a ticket standpoint) than just zoning out while you’re tooling along at a fast pace. Easy to do, especially on long lonely highway sections when you’re making good time. Varying your speed, road position, even your riding position in these situations makes a big difference in maintaining alertness. And don’t wait until you’re zoned out to react to it, as it may be too late. Get into the habit of varying these things all the time.

⦁ Opinions vary about lane change signaling; especially if you’re doing a lot of it. Some people have mentioned to me that it makes you more visible as a “lane changer” and may “highlight” what you’re doing to the police and therefore make them pay more attention to you. There may be some small number of cases where this is true; but my general feeling is that it’s a good thing to do under most conditions for all the obvious and normal reasons. Plus, if you are subsequently stopped, you risk getting nabbed for at least failing to signal as well as reckless driving if you’re having a really bad day.

⦁ Nighttime presents an added challenge- the only thing I can really add is to be extra alert to headlight reflections in front of you and watch your mirrors for rapidly approaching cars from the rear. If you’re speeding at night and someone’s coming from behind very rapidly, odds are it’s either police or someone who’s in a bigger hurry than you and may be too focused on that to pay attention to a tiny red light. Either way, it’s something to consider.

There’s also a couple of other things that make a difference on weather you get stopped or how things might do if you are. For example, having a full face helmet, riding jacket (or leathers), and regular gloves probably make a better impression than a beenie helmet with a lot of “helmet laws suck” decals on it worn with fingerless gloves and a tattered denim jacket with a big “Off A Pig Today” patch sewn on the back. Hey, wear what you want, but realize the potential consequences. Pipes that are closer to stock sounding than open also help. Maybe these things shouldn't count for much, but they do. One other weird word of advice to those who commute: sticking something like a lunch pail (I refuse to explain what that is) on the seat is said to help; makes you look more like a regular law abiding workaday normal rather than the bad ass rebel you know you are.

The Stop

Ok, either you ignored all the good advice above and blithely sped your way into getting stopped or you exercised good caution and got bagged anyway. All is not lost, there’s still a roadside drama that needs to be played out, and the outcome is not pre-destined.

It’s probably a good idea to keep one thing in mind- when you’re stopped by the police you are not in control of the situation. But what you say and how you act can surely influence what happens. It’s also worth remembering that most police are normal decent human beings facing the same issues that we all face in our daily lives; the exception being that they are required to risk their lives at a moments notice. In my personal (and too wide L) experience, most officers are pretty professional about the whole business. If they’re not, you have an additional problem that’s probably outside the scope of this article, but doing what I suggest will absolutely not hurt. The policeman/woman may or may not personally believe in the validity of traffic laws, but they are charged with executing a duty. However they have a lot of flexibility in how they choose to exercise it on an individual basis. It’s also true that they've probably heard a lot more entertaining and original reasons why the stoppee has broken the law; so excuse them if they’re not amused by what you think is a hilarious response to “Where do you think you’re going so fast?”, “Do you know how fast you were going?”, “What’s the rush, bub?”, “Are you aware you just went through a red light?”, or “Didn’t you see that stop sign you just went through?”.

Note something-- I'm using the word "officer" below, but using the person's rank seems to help, and I've noticed that State Troopers seem to prefer to be called "trooper" rather than "officer" (especially in court). Anyone have insight into this?

Anyway, when I’m stopped, I immediately take off my helmet and gloves before the officer gets to me and I keep my hands in plain view. It conveys the dual message of respect as well as being non-threatening (probably helps if you're an olde pharte like I am now ). As they approach me, I almost always say hello to them and ask them if I can help them. I never ask them if there’s “a problem”- the simple act of mentioning it implants the idea that there is one. I usually don't ask them why they stopped me: the odds are that I know why already and, even if I really don’t, I figure he’ll tell me soon enough. Besides, such a question poses a challenge to their authority and they’ll tend to get defensive, which is not a feeling you want them to have. A leading question like “Why the hell did you stop me?” is also not a good idea for the same reason.

I think it’s a mistake to start rummaging through your stuff looking for your wallet; especially if you do it too quickly. I always wait for the officer to ask for my license/registration/insurance card. While on this topic, I should mention that it’s always a plus if you have all the paperwork, it’s in order, you got to it quickly, and your bike is inspected and appears in good condition. Otherwise, you’re starting out on the wrong foot.

Anyway, when you hand over your paperwork, include your PBA card if you have one (Don’t have one? For shame! Get one. How? Befriend a policeman somehow and after you do, don’t be afraid to ask them for one). Keep the card directly behind your license (don’t fumble for it) so that you can give it to the officer with the other documents. The officer will often ask whom the card is from or how you got it. Be prepared to answer. In my not-so-limited experience, most officers honor it, but some will also keep it as the “price” of letting you off. If the officer keeps the card, you should call up the officer that gave you the card and explain what happened. Sometimes the officer who took the card will also make a call and let the other officer know as well- so you don't want that officer telling your friend that you were a dick (after all, you're going to need another card LOL).

I have ambiguous feelings about saying anything when I had the PBA card over- at one level it's self explanatory why you're doing so, but it probably wouldn't hurt to say something like "I hope this provides some consideration". Do not say anything or act in a way that would imply that he can't give you a ticket because you have the card.

Some people say that a PBA card is worthless these days. Well, in this great country everyone is entitled to voice their opinion, regardless of how wrong they are. Let me give a personal example. Years ago, NYC adopted an agressive "Don't Block The Box" policy to keep people from stopping mid intersection as when lights change, in order to keep intersections clear. I got bagged along with 2 other drivers by a crusty enforcer and was the last person the officer approached (after he wrote out two tickets for the other folks). As we were waiting I mentioned I had a PBA card and 2 of the 3 passengers in my car regaled me with tales of why it wouldn't work (different state, easy bust, clearly guilty, revenue generation, etc.). Nonetheless, when the officer approached I gave him the card with my paperwork. We had a short discussion and when he gave me my stuff back he added "make sure you tell Captain NNN of MyNJTown that NYTP shows brotherhood". In 40 years of driving/riding my personal experience (probably 30 stops) is that the PBA card worked every time except once (53 over was the exception).

Anyway, at some point, usually after checking out your paperwork, the officer will tell you why he decided to have this chat with you. Keep in mind that it’s worthwhile to always be polite in word and action. Maintain a calm speaking voice and don’t wave your hands around. Consider what he says as the opening point in a negotiation rather than the first salvo of an argument. You may persuade your way out of a ticket, but the odds are you won’t argue your way out of one.

Assuming you did in fact do something wrong then your challenge is to persuade the officer that there is an acceptable course of action he can take that both maintains his authority and punishes you for your transgression. If you rise to this challenge well enough, your punishment will be limited to the time spent during the stop, a verbal reprimand of some kind, and a contrite promise to exercise due diligence in the future.

Let me give another personal example. Several years ago, I was returning from Philadelphia travelling on Route 95 South. The speed limit was 55 and I was going somewhat faster than that. I noticed a police car up ahead and slowed down. Even at 55, I shortly passed it, noticing that there was a male driver and a female officer as passenger. As I sometimes do on the highway when just tooting along, I was riding one handed with my left hand on the tankpack. Just about as soon as I passed the police car, he flipped on the siren and lights. I heard the guy yelling at me as soon as I turned off my engine. What I noticed, even before I knew what he was saying, was that a) the older male police officer looked as if he’d spent a lot of his career making sure no crimes were committed at donut shops, and 2) the other officer was a very young and fairly attractive woman. Filing this for a moment, I then started paying attention to what the male officer was saying; which was a rant against riding a motorcycle one handed mostly because “the clutch could get away from you”". This was obviously a big deal to him, as he mentioned it about 5 times in different contexts, usually adding comments like “you should know that” and “you know what I mean”. Naturally, he was a “heavy-duty rider myself” (and, just as naturally, a Harley rider) and was just trying to protect me from myself. Now to be honest, I had no idea what the heck he was talking about (still don’t, but suspect he thought all non Harleys were two strokes subject to incipient seizing) and don’t think he did either. I did, however understand one thing perfectly- we was obviously “playing the role” of the experienced officer for the benefit of the rookie. At this point I had a choice: I could either challenge what this officer was saying and have the satisfaction of embarrassing him in front of his partner; and most definitely get a ticket for reckless driving or something. Or I could spend a few minutes listening to him posture for his partner, nod my agreement, act contrite, and leave the scene none the worse for wear. I let discretion be the better part of valor, endured the talk, and proceeded on my way. In this case, the punishment was enduring some uninformed commentary. Unpleasant, but the best of the possible alternatives.

That’s what it’s like sometimes, the officer might just want to yell at you or provide some side of the road counseling. If this is the intent, or at least a possible intent, than acting polite and listening to what’s being said will help this encounter end acceptably for both of you.

But more often than not, when the officer stops you he usually has ticketing on his mind. You’re not lost yet; you just have to work harder. Again, don’t argue or be confrontational. Try to look concerned. When he says something like “I’m going to write you up for whatever it is”.
This is also a good time to use anything else that might help; for example “My father is Chief Of Police in Backwater NJ”, “My cousin is a state trooper”, or “I’m a volunteer fireman’. Sometimes even being a friend of someone in the law enforcement business can help if you add, “any courtesy you can extend would be greatly appreciated”. A surprisingly high number of officers will respond to this for a simple reason- it really doesn’t cost them anything and many people operate under the “what goes around comes around” principle. At worst, they’ll say “too bad”; can’t hurt and may help.
If none of the above work, then ask the officer if he’d consider giving you a written warning. Though you get a paper certificate, it has no legal or financial penalty. Failing that, ask if he could give you some kind of no point ticket that still carries either a fine or some kind of inconvenience; such as for an equipment violation or “obstructing traffic”. These kinds of tactics seem to be more effective when you don’t have any points on your license: probably because the absence of points provides some assurance to the officer that you’re not a habitual offender and maybe you just slipped up this once. Keep in mind that with in-car communications your driving record is easily accessible to the officer, so lying about your “clean” record will most likely do more harm than good. Again, being polite and calm (ok to season with a suitable amount of nervousness appropriate to the situation) will be more persuasive than being combative.

One final tactic is your basic grovel- tell him you know he doesn’t know you and certainly doesn’t owe you anything, but would he please not give you a points-carrying ticket. At this point, you really have nothing to lose and you might be surprised (at least if you’re not married) at how well groveling works .

Though any/all of these are useful, don’t lie about relationships you have, or create any relationships that you don’t. Many things are easily checked and it doesn’t take much for you to get tripped up in your lie; and things could get uglier if you do.

Ok, honesty with verifiable things is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you have to be brutally honest with regard to one thing: don’t ever admit to being guilty- if asked “do you know how fast you were going?”, an “I thought I was going about the speed limit” is an appropriate answer. At worst, offer up something soft like "I may have been a little hot". I don't like the “I don’t really know” answer as it conveys 2 bad messages: 1) you didn't care or, 2) you're an inattentive rider. Don’t offer up something like “I was only going 60 in a 55”- it’s an admission of known guilt and there is nothing worse than being hoist by your own petard.

Now, really pay attention to this: do all this before the ticket is written, preferably before the officer leaves you to go back to the car; as once it’s written it’s too late to change it- the officer can’t rip it up. All the flexibility he has exists only before he put pen to paper.

Just as an aside, here are some things not to say to the officer when you’re stopped:

There's also a list here

Ok, time to get serious again. Let’s assume worst case that you get a points-carrying ticket. Accept it with good grace and stay calm; don’t get pissed or indignant. Here’s why: most officers will write themselves some notes on their copy of the ticket. Things like “the stoppee was verbally abusive and arrogant”, “Mister Speedy had a real attitude and told me his lawyer would get this thrown out of court and that he’d embarrass me on the stand” or “the stoppee was polite, all paperwork was in order, and didn’t cause me any problems during the stop”. Five weeks later, when you’re at court and your lawyer is trying to reach a beneficial pre-hearing settlement or you’re making your case to the judge, which comments do you want the interested parties to be reading?

In Court

All right, you got the ticket, now what? Well, the right answer depends on the particulars, but my general recommendation is to fight every ticket that you can; either by actually pleading not guilty if you have a solid case or by trying to plea bargain to a lessor (non points-carrying) offence. I’m mystified by how many people think “extenuating circumstances” is an effective “defense” based on the number of times I’ve seen it fail, but you never know. Just so you know “extenuating circumstances” or “guilty with an explanation” might mitigate the fine, but generally not the points: and the fine is probably the least important thing you need to worry about.

You might also get lucky in your scheduling and the policeman might not show up. While it’s a common fallacy that the ticket must be dismissed if the officer doesn’t show, in NJ (at least) most of the time the Court will not dismiss the ticket. However, you (more likely your lawyer) will get a better deal from the prosecutor. If not, the prosecutor will seek to adjourn it. Ask the Court to dismiss it, they probably won’t, but it’s worth asking. If refused, than politely ask the judge to mark it “try or dismiss”. This gives you a real chance for dismissal at the next hearing if the officer doesn’t show again. Keep in mind however, that if the officer has a real reason for not coming (like a family emergency) some judges will adjourn it anyway. The bigger and more metropolitan the court is, the more likely the odds are for a dismissal because of a no show. Again, slight chance, but it happens.

There’s an old adage that goes something like “a man who defends himself has a fool for a client”, and in traffic court I’m inclined to agree with it. You may think that you have a solid case that clearly establishes your innocence. And you may indeed have one; just be aware that sometimes it doesn’t make a difference for the reason that most of us just don’t know how to act in a courtroom. Again, a story from the personal archives. I’ve only gotten one ticket in my life that I didn’t deserve. I had a witness, documented proof that the officer could not have possibly done what he said he did and (most telling, or so I thought) the judge’s comments on tape (the proceedings from this traffic court were taped) from a case that was heard just before mine that I felt sure was my ace in the hole. When my turn came, I called my witness and showed my evidence. While the judge wasn’t totally convinced by what I showed, things were going fairly well. He then asked me a question “do you know exactly how fast you were going?”. Being under oath, I answered that I didn’t but that my experience told me that I wasn’t over the limit. The judge said that experience was no substitute for the speedometer. I then used my ace in the hole- in the previous case, the judge told the defendant that, as an experienced driver, he (the driver) should be able to know within a few miles per hour how fast he was going. I reminded the judge of what he said in the previous case. He denied saying it. I then said that he did in fact say it and asked if we could replay the tape so we could hear it. As soon as I said this I saw that I’d made a big mistake; the judge turned an interesting shade of mauve, declined to replay the tape, and got real angry with me. I probably imagined it, but I got the distinct impression that the prosecutor and policeman, who I had somewhat on the ropes previously, almost started laughing. At this point I knew I was sunk, muttered something about my witness and evidence and said that was all. Guilty as charged, pay the fine and court costs. In retrospect, I realized that even a very bad lawyer would have won this case for me. Lesson learned.

The other thing is that while many prosecutors will cut the points (i.e., from 4 points to 2) for an unrepresented defendant, most prosecutors will only give a 0 point ticket to someone represented by an attorney. The cynics among us might say this is unfair and an obvious case of pandering to other lawyers. However, look on it a professional courtesy and the result of the knowledge and experience for which you retained a lawyer in the first place.

So, I’ll generally recommend you get a lawyer to represent you if you have to go to court. Weigh the cost of this vs. what the points will cost you over the next few years along with risk/reward of the result, and act accordingly. If you have a case, go for it. If not, the odds are that a lawyer, especially one who is know either to the court or who knows the prosecutor might be able to plead you to a lessor, non points-carrying offence. Sometimes you can negotiate this yourself, but again, weigh the costs and risks. Sure, it’s possible to win at trial in a Municipal Court without a lawyer. Just like it’s possible that old Brit bikes don’t leak and old Italian bikes have reliable electrics. Let’s just say that none of them are common occurrences.

In some traffic courts, the officer or trooper (note: always call a state trooper a “trooper”, not an “officer”) acts as the prosecutor. Oftentimes, the officer will call all his/her ticketees in for a discussion prior to going before the judge. Here’s basically your last chance to work out a compromise- don’t mess it up by acting stupidly. In situations like this what might help is to have another officer/trooper (one you know, or one your lawyer knows) call him/her a day or two before court to see if he’ll cut some slack on professional courtesy. As long as you weren’t a wise guy when you were stopped, there should be little reason why you can’t wind up better off than if the call didn't take place.

Just as an aside, in New Jersey there’s been some recent politically motivated (allegedly starting with insurance company lobbying) directives to traffic courts prohibiting plea bargaining in traffic cases. Fortunately, there was subsequent politically motivated legislative action to create a no point ticket that can be plea-bargained to legally. This is very recent and it’s ultimate implementation and effects are unknown at this time; but it probably reinforces the reason to get a lawyer or, at the very least, to understand the code.

PS: To all you readers who spent the time reading this: I know it was long, but I hope you found it useful. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible in saving you money, but I doubt that I covered everything there is to know on the subject. If you have any additional strategies or tips that might help, post them up.

wpbarlow screwed with this post 12-07-2014 at 10:08 AM
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Old 12-05-2014, 01:58 PM   #2
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Good stuff Commander.
When trying to pick out an unmarked cruiser I look for the usually always present spot light that's mounted on the driver door by the side view mirror.

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Frank Reinbold

"Every bike I ever had, was the best bike I ever had, when I had it"
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Old 12-05-2014, 02:19 PM   #3
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From my limited experience in the UK, I would also add......if you do get pulled over the Officer that stopped you is looking for an acknowledgement that you know why you have been stopped and if you are receptive to receive a verbal warning rather than a written ticket.

I always found the best policy to be brutally honest, admit that you were speeding, don´t make any excuses basically act like Mahatma Gandhi, showing any attitude is massively counterproductive. It doesn´t always work but it puts the odds in your favour, especially if the car that stopped you is at the end of their shift or you weren´t doing 90 past a bus queue full of nuns.
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Old 12-05-2014, 02:59 PM   #4
wpbarlow OP
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Originally Posted by Johann View Post
From my limited experience in the UK, I would also add......if you do get pulled over ...
That's in the next part "The Stop".

And rather than being brutally honest; well....
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Old 12-05-2014, 03:24 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by DockingPilot View Post
Good stuff Commander.
When trying to pick out an unmarked cruiser I look for the usually always present spot light that's mounted on the driver door by the side view mirror.
+ 1

And when in doubt, best to err on the side of caution...
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Old 12-05-2014, 07:06 PM   #6
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It's easy to avoid tickets if you pay attention.
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Old 12-05-2014, 07:39 PM   #7
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That was covered.

Thanks for taking the time WP.
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Old 12-05-2014, 08:16 PM   #8
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Very good tips. And if you look at the true cost if you do wind up with a ticket as you have layed out so succinctly, the flat rate $350 my attorney charges me to make it go away is truly a deal!
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Old 12-05-2014, 09:24 PM   #9
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And then of course there is the situation of the city working it's favorite speed trap for revenue enhancement. Four lane divided, straight, middle of nowhere with a speed limit of 45 and very widely spaced speed limit signs. On those days getting the ticket and not just a warning is a given. And the municipal judge doesn't cut slack. The local atty with friends in high places would be helpful in those situations.

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Old 12-05-2014, 09:36 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bill Harris View Post
And then of course there is the situation of the city working it's favorite speed trap for revenue enhancement. Four lane divided, straight, middle of nowhere with a speed limit of 45 and very widely spaced speed limit signs. On those days getting the ticket and not just a warning is a given. And the municipal judge doesn't cut slack. The local atty with friends in high places would be helpful in those situations.

However, if you know it is a "speed trap" and you still get caught speeding... seems like you should just accept responsibility for your actions instead of blaming them. It works out a whole lot cheaper that way. No court time, no lawyer, no worrying, no wasted time. It is quicker to go slower there than it is to "fight" a ticket. You waste far more time on the ticket than you ever would lose going 45.
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Old 12-05-2014, 11:12 PM   #11
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Not really. At the time I didn't know it was a speed trap-- I got entrapped. Now that I know about it, I tippy-toe through there. Nonethless, it's a busy highway with plenty of travellers to fleece...

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Old 12-06-2014, 12:51 AM   #12
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how do lawyers get just about every ticket folks bring to 'em knocked down to a non-moving violation, at least here in wa state? what's the trick to this?
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Old 12-06-2014, 06:56 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by quasigentrified View Post
how do lawyers get just about every ticket folks bring to 'em knocked down to a non-moving violation, at least here in wa state? what's the trick to this?
Consider several scenarios

1) Imagine if you will that the purpose of traffic court is to encourage people not to break vehicular traffic laws. Once a ticket is given, there are really only two things that the state has as levers to "encourage" you not to break the law again: your time and your money.

They usually offer you the option of pleading guilty by mail, saving you your time but collecting your money. They like when you do this, as it is easy, and they hope you've learned your lesson by paying the fine and probable subsequent insurance surcharges.

2) If you decide to go to court and try to plea bargain before seeing the judge, the prosecutor has a lot of leeway as to what he can offer. He/she may make you work a little for it, but in the end there's no issue with modifying the offence and knocking the penalty down 1-3 points. This is also a relatively easy thing for the court to do as it saves some judge/court time and they again can feel that you've learned your lesson- maybe better because you've spent money and time.

3) There's one special case of fighting a ticket that I've never seen be really successful (though I suspect it happens)- and that's the old "guilty with an explanation" ploy. The key word there is "guilty". 'Nuff said. Yeah, you may get a reduction (similar to talking with the prosecutor beforehand), but more often you'll get a personal admonishment from the judge and likely be embarrassed in open court as they go for a laugh at your expense.

4) Another solution is to plead "Not guilty" and defend yourself. In some cases you may actually be not guilty . There are a couple of organizations that provide guidance on how to do that, and there are a number of techniques you can use to sow doubt in the judge's mind that the police used proper procedure, things were calibrated correctly, etc.. Done well, this can be effective. Just be 100% sure that you can prove your case before using this technique or else you'll just add to that old adage "a person that represents himself has a fool for a client". In any case, if you win, it still cost you time/effort so the system can still feel it worked and taught you a lesson.

Ok, now to answer the original question (do you even remember what it was? ): "why/how lawyers often help".

Like many things, the law profession is a "club", and club members share a common bond and like to help each other when they can (aka professional courtesy). Like other professions, lawyers change jobs, and today's defense lawyer may be tomorrow's prosecutor and vice versa. Prosecuting lawyers and police also share a bond, and are in positions to do each other favors. Judges, in addition to wanting to see justice served, mostly want things to go smoothly and quickly in court (although they do enjoy the creative "guilty with an explanation" story that provides some entertainment and allows them to be witty ). It's this interrelationship that makes it possible for a 5 point speeding ticket to result in a 0 point "failure to obey". Just folks working together to get along and serve justice (you're still having to spend time and paying money, just a little less, so maybe you're learning your lesson).

The other scenario, however unlikely , is if you really were innocent. In that case if you do decide to go to court and plead not guilty, let a professional handle it for you. If you have a dental problem you go to a dentist, if you have a medical problem you go to a doctor. So if you have a legal problem you go to a ......

Full disclosure, my son is a lawyer. Otoh, before he was I hired lawyers for traffic court (before I figured out how to avoid being stopped, and before I figured out how to avoid the ticket ).

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Old 12-06-2014, 07:07 AM   #14
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Great stuff Walter.
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Old 12-06-2014, 09:58 AM   #15
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OK, let's get on with "The Stop" I have an IB buddy who gets stopped for speeding almost every time he rides, but almost never gets a ticket!
I came into this world kicking, crying and covered in someone else's blood. I have no problem leaving the same way.
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