Saturday, July 29, 2006

How Not To Beat A Traffic Ticket

A friend of mine directed me to this article about how to talk your way out of a traffic ticket, from SmartMoney.com. These articles pop up periodically, and I always laugh when I see them. However, this article is worse than most, so I had to take a moment to comment.

Obviously, the author of the article, Kelli B. Grant, never bothered to interview the people with the greatest knowledge of the subject: police officers. And the article assumes that every cop you talk to is dumber than a doorknob, a dangerous assumption that is rarely true. But the article does have a few good points, so let's give credit where it's due.

Grant is correct when she says that tickets will adversely affect your auto insurance rates, especially moving violations like speeding, reckless driving, unsafe passing, etc. And if you're under the age of eighteen, your premiums will really skyrocket. And paying those hefty fines isn't fun, either.

Grant also writes that "there are many alternative ways to get out of a ticket. Mastering these skills is bound to prove financially rewarding." She then suggests these pathetic strategies:
  • Name dropping: Grant suggests that you hand the officer another police officer's card to gain favor. But in truth, this rarely works. The officer who stopped you doesn't care that you live next door to someone whose sister knew a girl that dated a cop. Most officers will politely look at the card, hand it back to you, then proceed to write your ticket. And the cop that cited you is going to track down the other officer and tell him/her you were dropping their name, which also can come back to bite you in the ass. Chances of success with this strategy, in my opinion: less than 10%.
  • Play dumb and feign ignorance: Also not a good strategy. You know what you did wrong, and so does the officer. When you play dumb, the officer will usually see it as lying, which means you have absolutely ZERO chance of getting a warning. "The cop might have you for speeding for example, but not notice that you've got a blown-out headlight." Hmm. The cop has you for a $250 dollar speeding ticket, but you got away without a "fix-it" ticket for the headlight. Brilliant. Chances of success: Zero.
  • Kiss up and don't argue: This is good advice to a certain extent. I don't recommend "kissing up" because it sounds insincere and obvious. Saying "yes sir/no sir" is fine, since some respect and humility are in order, but don't go overboard. And never argue, because you will not win. The place to argue is court, not on the side of the road. Every cop knows that the most dangerous place to be is next to your window, so they don't want to stay there long. Arguing is not on the menu. Chances of success: 20%.

Now that you know how NOT to act, you might try this: be polite and do exactly what you are told to do. Don't argue, don't name drop, don't cry, don't flash your boobs (we'll look, but you'll still get a ticket). I think that the best way to get out of a ticket is to simply tell the truth. "I know I was speeding and I'm sorry" is much better that the "Who, me?" routine. You may still get a ticket, but at least you will have gained a measure of respect from the officer. And you can always ask for a warning, as Grant suggests. Maybe it's your lucky day.

Remember that traffic cops may make fifty or more traffic stops per shift. Any cop who has been on the job more than a year will have heard every excuse, every sob story, every con job. Traffic cops will rarely give a warning for a moving violation, but you might get lucky if a patrol officer stops you. They usually have a lot going on and your honesty and courtesy may just buy you a warning.

When you get to court to fight your ticket, plead not guilty, as Grant suggests. But remember that most traffic citations are a simple matter of your word against the officer's. And your word is now highly biased. The officer will present his/her training and experience, in addition to radar documents, speedometer calibration documents, photographs, etc. as evidence. Many police agencies also are A/V equipped now, so you expect video and audio tapes of your stop. And most importantly, the officer has academy training on how to testify, in addition to many hours in front of traffic court judges, most of whom the officer already knows. And you can bet that judges will take the officer's prior court appearances into consideration. All of this works against you.

You should go to court prepared. Take whatever documents you have (photographs, speedometer verification, etc.) and present your case calmly and politely. A police officer's notes are their own. You may ask to see them, but I wouldn't count on it. Tell the truth from your point of view and hope for the best. If found guilty, you can then ask for traffic school or a fine reduction, either of which you'll likely get if you behave properly.

My best advice is to obey traffic laws and make every attempt to drive safely. Then, you'll not only avoid a ticket, but you'll eventually get wherever you happen to be going. If you are stopped, be polite and co-operative, tell the truth, but be prepared for the ticket you are probably going to get. Don't complain or argue or try to talk yourself into a jail cell. Accept responsibility for your actions and understand that we are trying to keep you, and everyone else on the road, as safe as possible.

See you on the road.

7 Comments:

Blogger kateykakes said...

Good post, Mike.

It always amazes me how people think you all stop them because you have nothing better to do. You're out there to do your job and to keep the public safe.

I have ALWAYS had a deep respect for LEO's, FF's, Medics and the Armed Forces. It's just the way I was raised, and it's something I've passed on to my children.

10:50 PM  
Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Hey , cant I just tell them I know..u?..lol..:)

5:52 AM  
Blogger Cop the Truth said...

Of course you can, Angel! And then I'll come visit you in jail (visiting hours, of course!) ;oD

Katey, I'm glad someone does. Looks like Mel Gibson's attempts to get out of his traffic stop didn't work out so well!!

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to do deliveries for a living and I agree that the best way to not get a ticket is to be honest. I got a lot of tickets then but I deserved them, too. I never talked my way out of a single one.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a kid in college I ran a light. When the Cop pulled me over he wrote me up for two lights. I was sure that I only ran one light, but did not argue with the Cop at the time, said yes sir and no sir and thank you sir. My Dad was a cop and I did not drop his name.

At court I admitted that I was guilty to one ticket, but not guilty to the second. Judge turned to the Cop and said "what do you think?" and the Cop said he was ok with finding me guilty with the one ticket. After the Judge's ruling, the cop told me he agreed to give me a break, because of the respect I showed him that late dark night. I thank him for his kindness and 23 years later I still have fond feelings for the cop who wrote me up for two tickets.


HC

8:42 PM  
Anonymous Lisa @ Two Babes said...

There goes my Victoria's Secret collection... ;o)

I'm baaaaack.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If cops were truly interested in our safety, they wouldn't hide behind bushes and buildings with their radars. They would make themselves clearly visable thereby causing drivers to slow down (and hence, be more safe). Hiding does nothing but generate revenue.

My wife got a ticket one time for driving around a "road closed" barrier by our house. It is a flood channel that always has a river running through it when it rains. It happened to be bone dry and had not rained in days and the sky was clear blue (the city had just failed to remove it in a timely fashion). The cop was sitting there waiting for people to drive around the sign so he could give them a ticket. If he was interesed in our safety, he would have moved the barrier to the side of the road instead of using it as a trap as the sign was clearly unnecessary at the time.

Interested in our safety, yeah right! Interested in quotas and revenue more likely.

I might add that I have not had a ticket in over 25 years. My simple stratagy is DON'T STAND OUT!

2:04 PM  

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