Getting a traffic ticket is never pleasant, but it doesn’t have to cost you. You have the option of going to court to fight the citation and it can be worth it to spend the time fighting the ticket rather than paying the fine.
However, you’ll have a much better chance of success if you show up prepared. Here are some ways you can get that ticket dismissed. If it’s important to you to get the ticket dismissed, consider hiring an attorney.
Break the law down into elements
Make sure you read and understand the law you are accused of breaking. All laws can be broken down into various parts, or elements. In order for you to violate the law, your behavior must meet all of the elements of the law. If you can show that there was even one element that you did not do (or that the state cannot prove you did), you strengthen your case for dismissal.
Get it tossed out by default
Often, police officers aren’t able to make it to hearings on traffic tickets that they issued. If the officer who issued your citation doesn’t show up, your ticket will typically get dismissed.
However, keep in mind in some states an officer is only required to write a report rather than showing up in person for a court date.
In some states, you have the option to challenge your ticket by mail, with a letter explaining why you think it should be dismissed. If the police officer does not fill out the paperwork to tell their side of the story, you will get the ticket dismissed by default.
Challenge the officer’s version of events
If an officer says you broke the law and you say you didn’t, you probably don’t have a very strong case for dismissal. You’re much better off if you have some sort of evidence to back up your story. This could include:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Photographs of key places or objects
- Diagrams of any visual information that might be helpful, such as the position of your car versus the officer’s at the time of the violation
Another line of argument might be that the officer could not have accurately assessed the situation for some reason. Again, you’ll want to have some evidence on hand to prove your point.
Argue that you had a good reason for breaking the law
Sometimes, you may be aware that you broke the law, but there were extenuating circumstances. For example, a key sign may have been obscured, you may have had to make an illegal maneuver to avoid hitting another car or pedestrian, or you were speeding to take a sick loved one to the hospital. In these kinds of cases, dismissal will all depend on the mercy of the judge.
Show major factual errors on the citation
Minor errors on your ticket, such as an incorrect color for your car, won’t necessarily get your ticket dismissed. However, big mistakes, such as citing the wrong law or a major misidentification of your car or the location, could lead to dismissal.
Tips for success
No matter what your strategy for fighting your ticket, there are some basic behaviors that can help (or hurt) your case. Looking and acting like a reasonable person can go a long way.
- Be respectful to everyone you come in contact with during your hearing, including the officer who gave you the ticket, the judge, and court personnel.
- Dress appropriately.
- Be on time.
- Be prepared with your story and any evidence you might have.
- Get emotional. Getting a ticket is a stressful situation, but you won’t help yourself by overreacting or getting personal.
- Use the argument that you didn’t know the law.
- Use the argument that your violation didn’t harm anyone.
- Use the argument that the officer only picked you for enforcement when plenty of other people have made the same violation. You’ll have to prove that the officer had a specific, improper motive to pick on you.
When in doubt, call in a pro
Getting a traffic ticket dismissed can be easy, but that is not always the case. If you are facing major consequences such as hefty fines, possible license suspension, or hikes in your insurance rates, an expert lawyer can help you get the best possible outcome.
To search for an experienced lawyer specializing in speeding and traffic tickets, use the Avvo directory of licensed US attorneys complete with client reviews, peer endorsements, and detailed profile information.