As mentioned in a previous article, when you challenge a speeding ticket, the only police witness is the department officer of the day – not the officer who wrote the ticket. The police evidence will consist of the officer reading the speeding ticket. This reading, by the police, will be considered the presentation of a prima facie case to the Magistrate that the speeding offense occurred. After the police read the ticket, you get to question the officer if you wish. Typically this exercise is a waste of time and will not help you. So don’t do it. Instead, testify or tell your version of the incident.
Remember that the evidentiary standard for a civil speeding violation is low. Speeding, as a civil infraction, is a general intent violation, which means you do not knowingly have to exceed the speed limit. The fact that you were speeding at all is enough for the Magistrate to rule against you. So be sure to determine your defense strategy prior to attending the hearing, as it is very difficult to think of a good defense at the hearing.
Some defenses usually presented at the Magistrate’s hearing include:
- I was just keeping up with the rest of the traffic – a loser
- Traffic was pushing me and forcing me to go faster – a loser
- The officer only stopped me and not everyone else who was speeding – a loser
- The size of the tires makes the car speedometer read faster – a loser
- I didn’t realize or think I was going that fast – a loser, but may help you get the fine lowered which can assist with any subsequent insurance surcharge.
So what do you do? First admit to yourself whether you were speeding and how much over the limit you were going. Then you can ask the clerk to reduce the fine to the speed level that you concede. This may save you a couple hundred dollars or more, depending on how fast you were going. Alternatively, you may have a really good reason for not being aware of how fast you were driving – such as very late for an important job and afraid of losing it or a family emergency. This information together with an apology, a good driving record and a sincere request for consideration has been known to work at times.
Be aware that a good driving record does not mean several clean months without a violation – it means years free of a violation. You may want to request your driving record online from the Registry of Motor Vehicles prior to your hearing so you know what your record looks like. Another strategy is to take a 4 hour safety course, either in person or online. A certificate of completion for this course may give you favorable consideration by the Magistrate and the police at a hearing.
Here at Doherty, Ciechanowski, Dugan & Cannon, P.C. we have attorneys that focus their practices in the area of criminal law and traffic violations. So we can offer you the best legal advice to make sure your matter is handled properly.