Crying Wolf?

Ahh, the frustrations of dealing with the law enforcement. I thought there was a thread like this earlier, but the search engine turned up nothing, so I’ll just tell my story.
I was recently driving home to Salt Lake City from Reno, with my cruise control set at exactly 75 mph (the posted speed limit). I know that is hard to believe, but the vehicle I was driving is old, and can’t be trusted to go much faster than 75 anyway. To continue, when I saw the POLICE CRUISER (cue menacing drum beat) headed the other way, I did a quick check of my trusty speedometer and continued on my way, whistling a happy tune. However, 5 minutes later, who should come roaring up on my tail but the exact same police cruiser.
To make a long story short, he pulled me over, claimed I was doing 89 mph, and asked to see my driver’s license, etc. I spluttered out an explanation (which sounded like a lie even to my ears) about how there was no way in H-E-double hockey sticks I could have been going that fast. I explained that my speedometer didn’t even go that high, and I wasn’t going to risk breaking down in the middle of the Nevada desert by overheating my truck. In conclusion, I said those words that I’m sure every police officer has heard millions of times, “Officer, my speedometer must be broken. I thought I was going the speed limit.”
Well, I guess I sounded sincere enough, cause he didn’t give me a ticket. My question, Teeming Millions, is this:
What if he HAD given me a ticket? How do I fight something like that? Is it even worth trying? Or should I chalk it up to some sort of Cosmic payback for all those times I was speeding and didn’t get pulled over? Is there some way I could have proven that my speedometer was malfunctioning? Or would that have gotten me into bigger trouble for operating an unsafe vehicle?
Oh, here’s somthing that made the drive bearable: There were several road signs on my trip that warn, “Fog may be Icy.” However, some wordsmith with a can of spray paint changed some of the signs to say, “POO may be icy.” I laughed so hard I nearly ran off the road, and am chuckling now as I type those words, almost a week later. Bathroom humor, is there any better use for the english language?

I had a friend who got out of a ticket by getting a certified letter from an auto mechanic stating the spedometer on his car was off, and that he repaired it.

I don’t think his spedometer was off, and I think the mechanic lied, but it still got him out of the ticket.

This was in Virginia.

Yer pal,

Getting out of the ticket entirely isn’t always easy, but you can usually get it reduced just by appearing in court. The judge will usually take pity on you - just tell your story and you might get it reduced. Or you would if you had actually gotten the ticket.

I have a sneaking suspicion this officer didn’t trust his radar, if he was willing to take your word over his little toy’s.

My judge taking pity story is actually my mom’s. She got a ticket for doing 45 in a 25 zone, something like a $60 fine. In her defense, the road is straight enough that it look like a 35 mph road to me. Anyway, she had a whole story prepared about how straight the road was, about how it was in the evening with no traffic, and about how she wouldn’t have been going nearly that fast except the street was so well lit and she was in a hurry (can’t remember why, maybe “Friends” was about to start). Anyway, the judge didn’t listen to more than about one sentence of her story before he said, “Well, how would $25 sound?” He was in a hurry.

You might want to check out a book by Bello (I think), title: How to win in traffic court. (Again, I think; I usually “remember”
the author because the name is so close to Melvin Belli).

Basically it explains the reasonable points of defense for speeding–and other–traffic violations.

I’m ambivalent mentioning this, because cops have a rotten job trying to keep us from killing ourselves on the highways. It’s hard to get nailed w/ a speeding ticket when road-rage cretins seem to pull their sociopathic dreck just outside of law enforcement’s view.

I’ve had exactly two speeding tickets. After I got over the crabby “why me?” stage, it was a case of shut up and pay the fine. I haven’t been picked up when I wasn’t honestly over the speed limit, but harsh honesty forces me to admit that I’ve pushed the accelerator many a time and gotten away w/ it. What goes around comes around.

That probably didn’t help a bit.


Has anyone ever pleaded that if they drove the posted speed limit on the highway, they would be endangering themselves and others? Because they’d be risking getting rear-ended by all the people going 15-20 mph over the limit?

The last suggestion is not really off the mark. Although I have not researched it, my friend who was an assistant district attorney in Houston told me that one of the elements the state has to prove when convicting someone of speeding is that they were driving at an “unreasonable” rate of speed, as opposed to just going over the posted speed limit. I have to say I have no idea of whether this is true or not, but she was a DA and presumably knew all about it.

Anyway, think about a situation when you are driving at night on a long stretch of highway, without another car in sight, and going 85 in a 70 MPH zone. The idea is that the state can’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 85 was unreasonable under the circumstances and the case is thrown out. I think this would work better with a jury rather than a judge deciding the case, and my friends in law enforcement have advised me to ask for a jury in the event I get a ticket. Often the arresting officer won’t show up to court or the busy DA will want to plead you down to something like a $25 fine, just to avoid the trial.

Does anyone know if the “reasonable speed under the circumstances” defense is viable?

While there is a long version, I’ll stick w/the short one for now. I once got a speeding ticket (40 in a 30) and took my car to an instrument shop and had them recalibrate the speedometer. I went to court and gave the judge my tale of woe, w/the shop’s invoice to back it up. He dismissed the ticket. This really didn’t involve the shop having to say anything about the condition of my speedometer when I brought it in.

Most jurisdictions have a ‘flow of traffic’ type of regulation which calls for either a reduced penalty or no ticket at all if you can show that you were simply maintaining the flow of traffic on a busy street.

If the time doesn’t mean anything, it’s always possible to fight a ticket. First, just showing up and being willing to plead down to a lower offense may work. Second, if the complaining police officer doesn’t show, your ticket will usually be summarily dismissed.

Fighting it based on the facts is tough. I once got a ticket (about 20 years ago) that I thought was unreasonable, and I put a *lot of effort in to finding out what could have happened. I discovered that the police have to calibrate their radar at regular intervals, and have to test it within an hour after giving a ticket by using a tuning fork. I discovered the sources of possible error for a radar gun, and my situation fit that pretty closely. In court, I brought all this stuff up, discovered that the officer hadn’t tested his radar for several days, it hadn’t been calibrated properly, he couldn’t remember specific details about the situation, etc. And I lost. It seems that the ‘reasonable doubt’ standard isn’t used in traffic court, and I didn’t introduce one of my exhibits into evidence in the proper manner, not being a lawyer and all.

The bottom line, as I saw it, was that I was a young kid driving a fast car in a rural jurisdiction, and there was no way in hell I was going to get the judge to throw out that ticket no matter what evidence I showed up with.

I sat in court all day one day, here in Virginia, listening to folks trot out the “my spedometer was busted” argument. The judge believed each one of them with no more then their bare assertion to the facts, and altered the charge from speeding, to “failure to obey traffic signs, and directions.” The kicker? Although the number of driving points for the new offense was lower, the fine was higher.

The only exception to the above was one woman, who made no explanation, only said that she had no idea how fast she was going, but that she was just “keeping up with traffic.” The judge changed her charge, as well, and then noted that this was her first infraction in twenty five years of driving. He asked her if she plead guilty to the new charge, she said yes, he smacked the gavel and said, OK. No lawyer, no fine, no court costs, nothing.

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Yup, happened to me, too.

The very nice police officer explained to me that even if my speedometer was out of calibration, I had an obligation to keep it in repair, so he had to give me the ticket.

The certified speedometer repair shop checked it and indeed discovered that it was out of calibration, by just exactly as much as the police radar said I had been speeding.

The traffic court knocked the charge down to failure to keep equipment in working order, or something like that.

So by the time I took the car in, had the speedometer checked and repaired (after all, you’d have to have it repaired to show good faith)and hired a lawyer to plead the case in traffic court, I was out something like $300 on a $45 speeding ticket – but I did save a whole 2 points on my driver’s license.