Traffic Ticket

My girlfriend just got in a fender-bender and recieved a ticket. The thing is it wasn’t for following to closely, but for failure to maintain proper speed. She claims she wasn’t speeding but following to close. Can she argue this in court and get out of the ticket? We live in Texas by the way if that matters any.

I don’t think so. You don’t mention what the ticket states. What does it state? Also, where did this fender bender occur? Was it within a city limit? Then check your city traffic law. But, WAG, I don’t see any grounds for dismissal of speed ticket.


Let me get this clear:

Your friends defense in court to the charge of causing the accident is that “yea, I caused the accident, but it wasn’t for the reason that the police man cited”?

IANAL, but, Um. No, I don’t think that would help

Hey, Studoggie.

A traffic ticket is a legal charge against you just like any legal charge.

Just like with any legal charge, you are innocent until proven guilty.

If you decide to go to court, the court has to prove that you committed the infraction on the ticket. (Note, however, that they don’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, just by a preponderance of evidence.)

If the cop doesn’t show up in court, or the cop can’t convince the judge that there was legitimate reason for the ticket, yes, you can get the charge dismissed.

Traffic tickets get overturned all the time for lack of evidence.

Check out the National Motorists Association for information and lawyer links.

See Texas Transportation Code for information about Texas’s speed limit laws. One thing to note is that this statute says “Unless a special hazard exists that requires a slower speed…” Did a special hazard exist that required a different speed? And what does “failure to maintain proper speed” mean? Did the cop actually witness the car varying speeds?

You should obtain the cop’s accident report. You can download the page from the Texas Dept. of Public Safety. You may find information in that report about why the cop designated that particular charge. If you know why, you may be able to argue against it in court.

I can’t find the Texas DOT driver’s license handbook online, but you may want to try to hunt one up and see what it says about maintaining speed.

Also, I recommend that you avoid any “this is what really happened” spin. Instead, keep the attention on something like “I was going X speed, which is the speed limit, and there were no special hazards that would have warranted a different speed”. The cop must provide some sort of reasoning for why the ticket was for failure to maintain speed. Again, if the cop doesn’t show up in court, the cop can’t defend the charge.

Hope that helps!


Great post jeyen, but I might add that there is an added problem in that X person has hit someone from the back and did not maintain proper distance (if this is the case). So, not only you have to conted with the municipality (municipal court), but you will also have to deal with the person that got hit. Also, I would rather get a speeding tickent than get a ticket for not maintaining proper distance. Here in Texas, if you are a first time violator, it quite easy to get them off your record.


xicanorex ** and jeyenn - according to the OP, the charge wasn’t speeding, but “failure to maintain proper speed” (ie, since the person hit another car from behind, they failed to slow down/stop in time) here in MI, it’s called ‘failure to stop in a sure clear distance’ (not that I personally have any experience with it).

They caused an accident. They were cited for a driving infraction that caused the accident. According to the OP, yea, they caused the accident, but not by the reason they’re charged with, but because of another reason.

Sorry I don’t have the ticket in front of me but I’ll look at it again to get the specific wording.

Here is a question though. If a judge agrees that there was no problem with maintaining proper speed, can he then issue a ruling against her for not maintaing proper distance even though she never was charged with it?

It’s not that she is trying to find a loophole so much as it is the principal of the thing. She shouldn’t be charged with something she didn’t do.

Well, I think you are right and now I am royally confused because if you read the OP closely:

She is claiming in fact, “Yes, I did not maintain proper distance and I crashed against the other car.” Which means admitance of guilt and nothing to do with speeding or whatnot.


If wring is right, she is being charged for not maintaining proper distance and it has nothing to do with speeding. Still, jeyen gave you good pointers and if you want more information, my suggestion would be to look at the ticket (since that’s where the charge shouold be written) and at the accident report.


Studoggie - She’s been charged with causing the accident. She caused it. She admitted to you that she caused it. Generally speaking some one who crashes into the back end of another car, is the cause of the crash. I would be more concerned about pissing off the judge by sayin “well, your honor, yes I caused the accident, but the cop wrote it up wrong, so I shouldn’t be found guilty of this, cause I really did this other wrong thing instead”.

But, like I said, IANAL.


Ummm… before your girlfreind decides what to do about this, it might be worth checking into the penalty for one offense vs the other.

If they are about equal, and she does not want an inaccurate report on her record, by all means go to court and try to clear it up. But of course keep in mind that the worst possible outcome is that she’s found guilty of both offenses. (Likelyhood completely unknown)


wring mat be right on that, I’m not sure. However I got into almost an identical accident 6 months ago and was charged with not maintaning distance not for not mainataing speed. I just think it is odd, but I will do a little more digging to see if wring is correct.

A ticket doesn’t mean you did anything, it just means youll show up at court.

This stuff is covered a lot here, just get a book at your library, Beat that Ticket (kinda obvious).

The OP didn’t give the state, or city or country, so I await more details.

If the cop put on the incorrect vehicle code section number, then you’d win.

Read again. Texas. Though I will be good to get the other details, specially the accident report.


wring, have you ever once contested a traffic ticket of any kind?

I’m asking because, based on what you’re saying, you’re assuming that (a) the cop is correct and that (b) there is no defense against a ticket and that © because there is no defense, you’re morally obligated to accept the ticket and pay up.

Cops are not always right. And they are also often required to cite somebody in the event of an accident, whether or not that somebody caused the accident. (For example, Washington State does not have a “no fault” law. This means that the cops are required by law to assign fault or blame when an accident occurs.) The usual target of a ticket in an accident is whichever driver was following behind. That does not mean that the driver behind caused the accident. If the cop didn’t see the accident, he can only work from empirical evidence and witness testimony – and the latter is notoriously inaccurate.

You said:

The OP said that the charge was “failure to maintain proper speed”. All speed-related laws tie into the speed limits; that’s why I included speed-limit info in my post. That info is intimately tied to the officer’s citation and to the ticket recipient’s defense.

You said:

She has not been charged with causing the accident. There is no such charge as “causing the accident”. She has been charged with another traffic violation. I disagree with the statement that the person behind is the cause of the crash. There are dozens of variables that contribute to accidents, and the driver behind cannot always account for all of them.

You said:

I explicitly stated that I recommend against using the argument that the ticket recipient committed another infraction and the cop wrote it up wrong. Not one poster here has recommended that the ticket recipient use that line of defense. There are better, standard, legitimate forms of defense that don’t even go there and have a good chance at success. And when you go to court, you defend yourself only against the charges against you, not some other ones that you admit to committing.

Please don’t discourage this person from taking advantage of the legal right to contest a legal charge. It can be done legally, legitimately, and without pissing off a judge.


xicanorex, you said:

I recommend that the ticket recipient check the Texas laws and the policies of the insurance carrier(s).

Here in Washington State, the court issue and the insurance issue are totally separate critters. That means that the outcome of the court case often has no effect on the outcome of the insurance situation.

The insurance companies are allowed by law and policy to make their own determination of who caused the accident and has to pay. Granted, a negative court outcome can affect the insurance determination, but a positive court outcome does not necessarily affect the insurance determination. In other words, if the ticket recipient is found innocent in court, the ticket recipient may still have to pay the repair costs. It’s up to the insurance companies.

[sub]Did that make sense? It did in my head.**


[sub]It’s me again.[/sub]

Sorry, I have to make a correction.

I said:

I doubted my own words. After a lengthy search, I can find no documentation online for my claim that cops are required to cite somebody in the event of an accident, in Washington or any other state.

Please disregard and forgive.



Sorry for the hijack …

[sub]I’d swear I posted this same thing a couple of days ago, but I can’t find it. Maybe I just thought about it…[/sub]

I’ve been riding in vehicles which have received tickets in New York and Massachusetts, and a warning in New Jersey. In every case, by accepting the ticket (and signing it? I think the driver signed…) the driver admitted his guilt. A court visit was not mandated; he (the driver) only had to go to court if he wanted to contest the ticket. (I think you signed in a different place to do so.) For the warning, I don’t remember if contention was even an option. However, the point is, no one ever had to go to court; we were guilty at the scene.


Nope, never gotten a ticket in the first place. However, I have spent a great deal of time in court on criminal matters (I work with ex offenders, have testified in court many, many times.)

My words were not intended to tell some one to ‘not speak up for their rights’, nor have I ever made any statement even closely resembling “cops don’t lie”. I work in corrections, remember?

However, I have seen angry judges lash out at folks with ‘bullshit’ defenses. For example, at a probation violation hearing where the person was accused of failing a urine test, her attorney started first with the ‘drug tests are fallible’ defense, the judge cut him off in mid question to quash it. He then went on with the ‘and besides, she obtained the substance in question by mail order, therefore it shouldn’t have been illegal for her to take’ and that’s about as far as he got with that one, too. The judge was ** very angry** at what she considered to be a waste of her time. I personally wouldn’t want to try and make a judge angry.

** No, I’m not assuming the cop is correct, nor that there is no defense to the issuance of the ticket. I have repeatedly claimed that to issue as a defense that “I’m guilty of a different infraction” isn’t a wise move, nothing else. The judge, I believe, can amend the ticket to reflect what they just confessed to. However, on the ‘morally obligated to accept’ - I would agree, that the person is morally obligated to accept responsability for causing the accident. Now, does that have legal implications? up to them, I’m not the morality police.

I also disagree that cops are required to cite some one in the case of an accident. I’ve been in 3 fender benders where the other party rammed into me from behind. One the police issued no citation (although my rates didn’t go up, I understand that the guy who hit me did get an insurance rate increase), the second the other guy was issued a ticket, the 3rd, the cop told us both that given the icy conditions, he wouldn’t have generally issued a ticket but since my car sustained severe damage, he couldn’t put it all of it onto the weather conditions. So, in my wide pool of 3 instances, I’d count 1 1/2 times tickets might not be issued.

You also quibble with ‘speeding’ vs. ‘failure to maintain proper speed’. Whatever. The OP personally isn’t quite certain of the specific infraction, and frankly, it doesn’t matter enough to me to argue the point. It seemed clear to me that the cop wasn’t charging her with going too fast for the speed limit, but going too fast to stop before hitting something, which is different to me, but what the hell.

And, as far as “there’s no such thing as being charged with causing an accident”, sure there is. Certainly in MI (where I live). But whatever, again, I think theres a semantical thing going on. She’s been charged with an infraction which was the ‘proximate cause’ of the accident. There. happier?

Now, again as far as the driver smashing into the back of another vehicle, of course it’s not 100% of the time their fault (remember, I said generally). The cases where it might not be would include: The driver of the forward car suddenly throwing their car into reverse. The driver of a car behind the 2nd car plowing into THEM from behind and causing them to crash into the car ahead. The first car entered into the lane/street in front of the second car abrubptly, not giving enough time for the second car to adjust their speed (of course, usually in this case the damage is different, but anyhow).

However, generally speaking (and you’ll note, please, the word ‘generally’) you’re not supposed to be following so close to the car ahead of you that you wouldn’t be able to stop suddenly and avoid crashing into them - it’s called tailgating. Does it happen ? you bet, especially on the highway. However, trust me that if you hit the car in front of you, most often the ticket will be yours.

The OP asked for advice, I gave mine. You don’t agree with mine. Fine. My advice stands that (and I quote myself):

I never specifically disagreed with you, I was disagreeing with the solution produced by the OP.

Like I said, I’ve never been in traffic court. So, let me as you (or any others). Given that the ticket arose out of an accident where the defendant plowed into the back end of another car, is it reasonable to assume that the judge would simply listen to a defense of “no, I wasn’t going too fast” or whatever, without asking the follow up question “well, then, how do you explain plowing into the back end of that car???”.

I’d assume that traffic court judges are quite adept at reading accident reports and ascertaining the proximate cause. Perhaps I’m wrong about this? Perhaps the judge isn’t allowed to ammend the order ? (that seems unlikely since they generally have that power in other areas). Shrug.

FTR - I believe that everyone has the right to defend themselves in court, including if you got a speeding ticket, and were speeding. But, you should also be prepared for all of the potential results.

Umm, excuse me, but signing the citation is NOT an admission of guilt. It is an acknowledgement that you have been charged with a traffic offense and are obligated to show up at the appointed place and time or make other arrangements that satisfy the prosecutorial authority having jurisdiction. While I have never received a ticket in NY, MA, or NJ, I have received some here in Oklahoma. Right here one I got about a year ago, right under the signature line, it says “Signing this citation is not an admission of guilt”. Sounds pretty clear cut to me even if IANAL.