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More than ninety percent of the people in this country over the age of sixteen are licensed to drive, and there is more than one car registered for each one of them. These figures translate into trillions of miles driven each year with millions of traffic infractions, making traffic control an issue of immense proportions. The first traffic laws and regulations began to appear in the 1920s, and they now constitute a huge part of most state codes.

The primary purpose of traffic-violation regulations is to deter unsafe driving and to educate and reform bad drivers. Studies have shown that traffic offenders generally keep amassing traffic violations, and that most people obey the laws, even when there is no perceived safety reason for doing so, such as waiting for a green light at 2:00 a.m. Compliance with the laws increases when drivers believe they will be caught and decreases when they perceive they can get away with a specific infraction.

Traffic Tickets: "Strict Liability Offenses"

The majority of traffic tickets are issued for "strict-liability" offenses. This means that no particular criminal intent is required to convict a person of the offense. The only proof needed is that the person did the prohibited act. Strict-liability traffic offenses typically include such offenses as:Speeding Failure to use turn signals Failure to yield Turning into the wrong lane Driving a car with burned-out headlights Parking in a handicap spot without the required sticker, and Overdue parking meters.

Moving Violations vs. Non-Moving Violations

A moving violation occurs whenever a traffic law is violated by a vehicle in motion. Some examples of moving violations are speeding, running a stop sign or red light, and drunk driving. A non-moving violation, by contrast, is usually related to parking or faulty equipment. Examples include parking in front of a fire hydrant, parking in a no-parking zone, parking in front of an expired meter, and excessive muffler noise.

Processing Traffic Tickets

Many jurisdictions provide for administrative processing of most traffic tickets as minor offenses or "infractions", thereby removing them from criminal court altogether. In those cases, an offender is not subject to incarceration or large fines and is not entitled to a lawyer or a jury trial. (Note: The fine for speeding tickets can be quite large, as some states impose a fine based on the rate at which the offender was exceeding the speed limit.) Even though most traffic tickets are handled in an expeditious manner in the court system, a "conviction" for a traffic infraction can have a negative effect on a person's driving privileges and insurance rates.

Certain traffic violations are considered more serious than infractions, and can rise to the level of a misdemeanor crime (or felony), especially if the offense involves injury to a person or destruction of property (such as leaving the scene of an accident). People accused of these more-serious traffic violations are entitled to all constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and a jury trial.

Traffic Tickets: Get Help Now

Even good, safety-focused drivers can be charged with a traffic violation. If you have been charged with breaking a traffic law and would like to learn more about your rights to "fight" the ticket, the best place to start is to speak with an experienced Traffic Ticket Attorney in your area. A Traffic Ticket Attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain all options available to you -- including the administrative procedure and driving record penalties you can expect -- and will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.

Most traffic tickets are issued for traffic offenses called "infractions" -- including tickets for mechanical violations and most non-dangerous moving violations. Infractions do not usually carry the same stigma and penalties as serious criminal offenses. But certain traffic-related offenses are categorized as "misdemeanors" or even "felonies", and can result in more significant fines, loss of driving privileges, or even imprisonment.

Generally speaking in most states, a traffic violation becomes a misdemeanor or felony if it:Causes injury to a person or destruction of property, or Creates a real threat of injury to a person or destruction of property.

Going through a red light may be a misdemeanor in one state, for instance, but it becomes a felony if the driver maliciously hits another vehicle in the intersection and an occupant of that vehicle dies. In addition, some traffic offenses are defined as misdemeanors or felonies from the outset, such as driving with a revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident, or reckless driving.

People accused of these more-serious traffic violations are entitled to all constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and a jury trial. Following is a discussion of traffic misdemeanors and traffic felonies. Traffic Misdemeanors

The criminal justice system would quickly be overwhelmed if every minor breach of the law required a full criminal trial. Therefore, less egregious traffic violations are often treated as misdemeanors (although many minor traffic offenses are considered even less severe "infractions"). Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, generally punishable by a fine or incarceration in the county jail for less than one year. Although precise classifications vary on a state-by-state basis, common examples of traffic misdemeanors include:Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Failing to stop at the scene of an accident, Driving without a valid driver's license, Driving without insurance, and Reckless driving.

For many of these violations, the driver will be taken into custody and required to post a bail bond, just as he or she would for non-traffic crimes. Incarceration sentences for misdemeanor convictions are less severe than sentences for felony convictions, and other potential consequences of misdemeanor convictions are also generally less harsh. For example, a person with a misdemeanor conviction on his or her record may, for instance, still be able to serve on a jury, practice his or her profession, and vote. Traffic FeloniesFelonies are typically the most serious crimes in any system of criminal law, and felony traffic offenses are no exception. A standard definition of a felony is any crime punishable by more than one year in prison or by death. This means that a crime that has a sentence of only a fine or confinement in the local jail for a short period of time is not a felony. Often the offense itself is not labeled as a felony, but the punishment tells the public that the offense is a felony. On the other hand, state codes may label a crime a "gross" or "aggravated" misdemeanor but provide for a sentence of more than one year in the state penitentiary system, thereby ensuring that the so-called misdemeanor is treated as a felony in many respects. Examples of felony traffic offenses include repeat DUI/DWI convictions, certain "hit and run" offenses, and vehicular homicide.

A person convicted of a felony may have more restrictions on his or her rights than a person convicted of a lesser crime. In addition to longer prison sentences in harsher settings, in many jurisdictions felons cannot serve on juries. Often times, they also lose their right to vote or to practice certain professions, such as law and teaching. Felons may be prohibited from owning guns or serving in the military. And some states have a "three strikes, you're out" statute, which provides that a person who already has been convicted of two felonies may be sentenced to life in prison if he or she is convicted of a third. Misdemeanor and Felony Traffic Offenses: Get Help Now

Traffic charges must be taken as seriously as any other criminal charges, especially when a traffic offense rises to the level of a misdemeanor or felony, which carry the potential for harsh consequences. If you have been charged with a traffic-related misdemeanor or felony, the best place to start is to speak with an experienced Traffic Ticket Attorney in your area. A Traffic Ticket Attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain all options available to you, and will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. In some cases, a Traffic Ticket Attorney may be able to "plead down" a serious traffic offense from a felony to a misdemeanor, in order to best minimize punishment for the offense.

Q: What is a "moving violation"?

A: A moving violation occurs whenever a traffic law is violated by a vehicle in motion. Some examples of moving violations are speeding, running a stop sign or red light, and drunk driving. A non-moving violation, by contrast, is usually related to parking or faulty equipment. Examples include parking in front of a fire hydrant, parking in a no-parking zone, parking in front of an expired meter, and excessive muffler noise.

Q: If I am guilty of a traffic violation, shouldn't I just pay the ticket and get it over with?

A: If you plead guilty to a traffic charge, the court will typically require you to pay the maximum fine allowed by law and will record the conviction on your DMV record for a period of years. A conviction on your record can increase your insurance premiums and accumulate with any other charges such that, eventually, you could lose your driving privileges. An experienced Traffic Ticket Attorney can advise you on whether it may be worth fighting a ticket in your particular circumstances.

Q: How does police radar work?

A: Radar works by sending out pulses or a continuous signal of radio waves and "listening" for the reflection. When the pulse hits a moving object, its frequency changes. The exact amount of change depends on the speed of the object and the direction in which it is traveling. Most police forces use radar for measuring speed, enforcing speed limits, and collecting revenue. Some defendants have, however, been able to successfully challenge radar readings in court.

Q: How does laser detection work?

A: LIDAR (light detection and ranging) is different from conventional radar in that it uses laser light to detect vehicle speed and measures the distance from the gun to the target several times. From the change in distance, it can calculate the speed of a passing vehicle. The usual target of the laser is the vehicle's license plate, which is easy to see and is a good reflector. This is important because the gun relies on the reflections from the target to calculate the speed. It is essential that the gun be held very steady to get an accurate reading. LIDAR, unlike radar, is very hard to detect by "fuzz-buster"-type devices. Q: Do police officers have a quota of tickets to write by the end of the month?

A: Although the enforcement of "quotas" is not standard police department practice, police work, like all occupations, does include performance standards. If a police officer consistently returns at the end of his or her shift with no stops or arrests to report, that could and should arouse suspicion from the higher-ups. Nonetheless, the real crux of the matter is not whether an officer was trying to achieve some magical number of citations, but rather whether the particular citation issued was valid and justified. If not, it may be worth fighting it in court, whether it was the first ticket of the month or the one-thousandth.

Q: Can I refuse a Breathalyzer test if I get stopped for drunk driving?

A: Although the answer can vary by state, in many cases such a refusal is itself a criminal violation subject to stiff penalties. In addition, if the case against you is proven anyhow, the penalties for the refusal may be above and beyond those for the drunk driving itself.

Q: Should I try to "pay my way" out of a ticket?

A: Offering a police officer money in exchange for not writing a traffic ticket can be viewed as bribery, extortion, or other serious crimes. If you want to contest the ticket, there are legitimate ways to do so that will not add to your problems, compound the penalties, and exacerbate the situation.

Q: What is the difference between a misdemeanor traffic offense and a felony traffic offense?

A: Although many traffic violations are deemed mere infractions, some are misdemeanors, which carry stiffer fines and the possibility of up to one year in jail. The most serious traffic crimes are felonies, which generally involve repeat offenses or violations that result in injury to persons or property. Felonies have even greater penalties, including higher fines and imprisonment for over a year.

Q: What if I lose my license but continue to drive anyway?

A: If a person whose license has been revoked or suspended due to previous traffic violations chooses to drive without a valid license and is pulled over, he or she stands to suffer more serious consequences, including fines and imprisonment. The more prudent course of action is to rely on friends and family for rides or use public transportation.

Although the best advice for avoiding traffic tickets is always to drive within the law, it often happens that even law abiding drivers receive tickets. Driving within the speed limit is not a guarantee that you will be free from traffic tickets. Besides paying the ticket off, these little slips of paper can lead to other problems, like higher insurance rates, points on one's license, and anxiety. So, it's always best to avoid them. What follows are some tips that may help you in avoiding traffic tickets.See the Highway Patrol

The best way to be able to spot the police is to ensure that you have good visibility from your car. You can do this by cleaning all your windows whenever you fill up at a gas station, and wiping down your mirrors, as well. If you have large stickers on any of your windows, it may be a good idea to remove them. Also, be sure to occasionally check your rearview mirror for excessive vibration. If your rearview mirror is excessively vibrating, you may be losing visibility out of the back of your car. This problem can be remedied by adjusting your mirror, checking the suspension on your car, or making sure the wheels are in balance.Recognize Highway Patrol Vehicles

It is a good idea to learn how to spot highway patrol cars, whether they are driving around you or parked on the side of the road. Highway patrol cars are typically large sedans with siren lights mounted on the top and/or sides of the car.. However, many highway patrol jurisdictions employ patrol cars that have smaller, sleeker profiles. In addition, the lights that are routinely mounted on the tops of vehicles are now mounted inside of the car near the windows. In other words, it is not always easy to spot a highway patrol car.

Highway patrol cars often wait for speeders near highway on-ramps. When driving through an overpass followed by an on-ramp, it is always a good idea to look around for any parked cars, check your speed, and drive safely. In addition, highway patrol cars often work in teams, with one car checking speeds using a radar gun while parked on the overpass, and another car waiting issue a traffic ticket. As a result, it is always a good idea to be aware for cars that are not moving on an overpass.

Remember that highway patrol officers will almost always know the road better than you will, as it is their job to drive it almost every day. Because of this, the highway patrol usually has the upper hand in giving out speeding tickets. Bear in mind that you may receive a ticket from a highway patrol car that is driving in your opposite direction. With their powerful engines, it's easy for them to make a U-turn and catch up to you if they think that you are breaking the law. Another highway patrol tactic is to use pace cars on service roads to see if the cars are speeding. Highway Patrol Motorcycles and Airplanes

The highway patrol does not only use cars. These law enforcement agencies regularly use motorcycles and airplanes, as well. Highway patrol motorcycles can usually be recognized by their large size and rear radio-antenna. In addition, most law enforcement motorcycles are designed to have the rider sitting upright, so you don't have to worry about sport bikes where the rider is leaning forward.

Some highway patrols use airplanes and other small aircraft to issue speeding tickets. However, these planes can only be used in certain areas, and not around major airports or other commercial flying lanes. Normally, planes are used by Highway Patrol in rural areas where there are large stretches of highway. By looking out for a few signs, you will be able to tell when you may be monitored by an aircraft. First, roads often have signage that informs drivers that their speed is being monitored by an aircraft. Second, there will be large, perpendicular white lines painted alongside the road, often in the shoulder, spaced at intervals of one mile.

Spotting an aircraft flying overhead is much more difficult than spotting a highway patrol car or motorcycle. However, if you happen to see a small aircraft flying parallel to the road you are on, your speed may be being monitored from above.Don't Get Noticed

One of the best ways to avoid a speeding ticket or other kind of traffic ticket is to avoid getting noticed while you're on the road. Be sure not to call attention to your car or your driving. To this end, you can:Make sure that if your windows are tinted, they are within the acceptable limits of the state in which you are driving. Officers will often look at cars more carefully if they have very dark windows. In some states, like CA, having windows tinted too darkly can lead to a ticket.Do not flash your headlights at drivers that are moving more slowly than you unless you are sure that you are driving within the speed limit. By flashing your lights at slower drivers while speeding in the fast lane, you call attention to yourself.Only drive in the left lane when passing slower vehicles. Some states even prohibit driving in the left lane except for passing.Try to avoid any extra additions to your car that may bring attention. These can include things like extra large spoilers, oversized wheels and lighted under-carriages.Avoid bumper stickers, unless you can be sure that they won't offend. Even simple bumper stickers that support you favorite sports team may offend an officer.Be careful when using radar detectors. If a police officer sees a radar detector, he may issue a ticket even if he was willing to give a warning before Some states even prohibit the use of radar detectors.If you decide to personalize your license plate, be sure it will not be offensive. A license plant "10SNE1" (tennis anyone?) is fine, but something like "SPD DMN" (speed demon) may get you in trouble.Keep a clean, good looking car. If your car is dirty, dented and generally looking shabby, the officer may be more inclined to keep a closer eye on you and issue a ticket. In addition, repairing cracked windows is a good idea, not only for making you less noticeable, but also for your safety while on the road.Replace your worn tires. Bald tires make driving that much more dangerous, and the officer may be more likely to cite you.

This article lays out five strategies that many have found useful in fighting traffic tickets they received. These tickets range from speeding tickets, to tickets for running red lights captured by a red light camera.

1. Dispute the Police Officer's Personal Opinion

Police officers often cite drivers for making unsafe turns or driving unsafely down a road. These tickets require the officer to put down his personal opinion and come to a subjective conclusion about what happened. If you have received a ticket where the officer needed to exercise some sort of personal judgment about the situation, you may be able to challenge that judgment. For example, suppose you were cited with an unsafe lane change while driving on the highway. If you show up to fight the ticket, you can argue that your lane change was safe given the weather and traffic conditions at that time. To further support your argument, you could point out that the police officer was in front of you during the lane change, and that, due to the heavy traffic conditions, the officer most likely was paying more attention to the road in front of him rather than a car changing lanes behind him.

Subjective tickets are also issued in some states that have leave it up to the police officer to determine whether a driver is driving at a safe speed. These speeding tickets are often challenged by those who are cited. In states that have such laws, the posted speed limit is not the clear-cut law, and a driver has the discretion to travel at a speed that is safe given the traffic conditions. If you have received a speeding ticket for going above the posted speed limit in such a state, you may be able to challenge the officer's opinion by proving that your speed was safe given the conditions. As an example, if an officer cites you for going 75 mph in a posted 65 mph zone, you may argue that your speed was safe because all of the cars in your lane were also traveling at 75 mph, and thus, it would be unsafe to drive at or below 65 mph.

2. Dispute the Police Officer's Presentation of Evidence

There are yet other types of tickets where the police officer's judgment cannot be called into question. These tickets generally have to do with tickets that are clear cut, like running through a stop sign or making an illegal U-turn. Here, challenging a ticket involves challenging whether or not the officer saw you perform the ticketed action. The results of these types of cases will generally boil down to who the judge believes, and you, as the driver, will often have a high burden to overcome. However, there are certain types of arguments and evidence that you can present that may help your case by calling into question the officer's observations.

Some of the best arguments and evidence to present in such a situation are:Eyewitness statements from passengers, other drivers on the road or pedestrians that will confirm your story.Diagrams, diagrams, diagrams. The more clearly you can show where your car was in relation to the officer's car at the time of the citation, the more robust an argument you can make. For instance, a great diagram would show that the officer could not have seen you run a red light because he was trailing you too far behind to see whether or not your car was in the intersection at the time the light turned red.Photographs of the scene of the alleged traffic violation. Photographs can help you if, for example, they demonstrate your claim that a stop sign was obscured by an overhanging limb, or show that a traffic light was out of power at a certain time of day.

3. Present Evidence that the Traffic Violation was a "Mistake of Fact"

In most jurisdictions, the judge hearing your case will be allowed to come to their own decision regarding the traffic ticket if presented with the right evidence. For certain types of tickets, like running a stop sign, you may be allowed to present evidence that you should not be required to pay the ticket because you made a "mistake of fact."

Mistakes of fact are mistakes made by drivers about the situation. To clarify, it helps to look at a few examples. First, it would be a mistake of fact if you were driving in two lanes because the lane markers were so worn down by use that you could not see them. Second, it would be a mistake of fact to make an illegal right turn because wind had recently blown down the no right turn sign.

Often, a judge will toss out a ticket that has been issued against you if you can show that you had inadequate notice. For example, if you regularly drive a stretch of road everyday and one day are ticketed for running a stop sign that was installed the previous day, you can argue that you had insufficient notice about the new sign, and that you made a mistake of fact. However, if the stop sign was up long enough for you to be aware of it, or if you never drove that stretch of road before, or if you were driving recklessly and failed to see the sign, you would probably not win this argument.

4. Argue that Your Driving Was Justified

Another way to fight traffic tickets is not to deny or point out mistakes in the ticketing process, but rather to admit to the illegal driving but present another fact that makes the illegal driving justified and allowable. This is a great way to fight a ticket because you do not have to dispute the officer's statement or the charge in the ticket, but rather show circumstances that necessitated your driving.

For instance, if you were ticketed for driving too quickly on the highway, you may present evidence that you were passing a car that you thought had a drunk driver. In this situation, your speeding may be warranted as you were trying to prevent an accident that may have caused a multi-car pile up. However, this defense would be negated if the officer could prove that you kept your high speed even after passing the other vehicle on the road.

As another example, if you are ticketed for changing lanes recklessly and stopping on a highway, you may be able to fight the ticket by showing that you felt waves of dizziness and felt like fainting while driving. You pulled over your car and stopped as soon as you could so as to avoid passing out while driving. A judge could very well agree that your conduct was legally justified and throw out the ticket.

5. Argue that Your Ticketed Driving Was Necessary to Prevent Harm

This defense is much like the one above in that you are trying to show that your ticketed driving was necessary in order to prevent immediate harm to you or others. Speeding on the highway in order to prevent an accident is a prime example. Another example is swerving dangerously in order to prevent hitting a pedestrian who has fallen off a sidewalk and into the lane you are driving in. The key to this argument is to show a judge that, if you had not taken the action you did, someone would have been seriously hurt.

In general, all of the 50 states have three different types of speed limits. These are called, respectively, "absolute," "presumed," and "basic" speed limits. In order for you to put up the best defense possible if you want to challenge your speeding ticket, it is important for you to know which one you were cited with.

Speed Limits that are Absolute

Many people wonder how to fight a speeding ticket, especially a traffic violation for going above the absolute speed limit. An absolute speed limit is quite straight forward -- if the posted limit is 40 mph, then that is the absolute limit. If you are going 45 mph, you are violating the absolute speed limit. There are limited defenses for such a ticket, but some of them include:Claim that you were speeding because of an emergency. The emergency must have made you speed in order to avoid serious injury to yourself or others. An example of a good defense would be if you were forced to speed because you had to outrun the firestorm that was raging down the road, engulfing everything in flame. Challenge the determination of your speed. A traffic ticket will often have your tracked speed written down on it, and you have the right to challenge this statement. To make this defense, you must first determine what method the officer used to determine your speed (laser, pacing, sight, radar), and then either attack the method used or the officer's implementation of that method (such as challenging the officer's training with the device).Challenge the officer's identification of your automobile and claim that you were mistaken with a similar car that was driving next to you at the time of the ticket. Many cars look very similar, and it could be easy for the officer to mistake your car for the one he clocked speeding after losing sight of it over a hill.

Fight a Speeding Ticket under a Presumed Speed Limit

If you have been given a ticket under a presumed speed limit, this means that the officer accused you of driving at an unsafe speed for the conditions present at the time. There are two general defenses to such a ticket. First, you can challenge the officer's claim that you were driving above the posted speed limit, just as if you were challenging an absolute speed limit violation. However, you can also claim that, even if you were driving above the posted speed limit, your driving was safe for the conditions at the time of the ticket.

Here is one example. If you were ticketed for going 45 mph in a 35 mph zone and there is little chance of proving that you were not going 45, you could claim that you were driving safe given the conditions. Perhaps the traffic around you was traveling at 50 mph or above and you felt that you would be a danger on the road if you were going 35 mph and did not want to get read-ended by a speeding car.

If you decide to take such an approach to challenging your speeding ticket, you will have the burden of proving that the speed you were driving at was a safe speed given the conditions. It is generally assumed that the posted speed limit is the safest maximum speed for any given stretch of road, so you will have to overcome this presumption to be successful.

It could be nigh impossible to show that going 60 miles per hour in a 25 mph area is safe, but it could be possible to show that going 35 mph in a 25 mph is safe given certain conditions. Perhaps the road is very wide and straight, and the only reason the speed limit is 25 mph is because of pressure put on the city government by wealthy residents. In these situations, you may have a strong argument.

In order for you to build the best case possible, it is helpful to have certain pieces of evidence to present to the judge. First, you should go back to the scene of the ticket at the same time of day you got the citation and take pictures, both from the sidewalk, as well as from a driver's point of view. The more that you can show it is safe to go above the speed limit on a certain stretch of road, the better.

Next, you should be able to diagram the section of road where you were ticketed, and demonstrate any other factors that would be beneficial to your case on the diagram. For instance, if you can show that you got your ticket on an open stretch of road between two cities instead of in a busy downtown area, you have a strong chance of showing that your speed was safe given the situation. Also, if you can show that the road was heavily congested at the time of your ticket, and that all the cars around you were exceeding the posted speed limit, you can argue that you would be a danger on the road if you had to obey the absolute speed limit.

Basic Speed Limits

The general premise of a basic speed limit law is simply the reverse of a presumed speed limit, like a presumed speed limit that works in favor of police officers. Police officers can ticket you for driving at a speed under the posted speed limit if the conditions make it so that your speed is unsafe.

Often, it is possible to argue that the posted speed limit on a road is above what the safe speed limit is. Rainy, snowy or windy conditions can make driving more dangerous and could possibly reduce a presumed speed limit from 65 mph to 50 mph in the officer's mind. Police officers have discretion to ticket drivers for driving at or below a posted speed limit if the conditions make it unsafe.

However, if you have been ticketed for driving at or below the posted speed limit, you will be afforded extra protections should you decide to challenge the ticket. The biggest difference is that instead of you having to prove that you were driving at a safe speed given the conditions, the officer must instead prove that, given the conditions, the speed you were driving at was unsafe. This may be hard for the officer to do if you were not involved in an accident. After all, the legal presumption is that the posted speed limit is the safe speed to travel at.

Police often cite people who have been involved in car accidents with speeding tickets according to the basic speed limit. Their logic follows like this -- if you were involved in a car accident, there was something that must have been unsafe, and it was probably your speed. However, don't panic if you receive a traffic ticket on top of being in a car accident. The logic is flawed -- there can be a number of other reasons for the car accident, even another driver.

If the officer accuses you of violating the basic speed limit and uses the accident as proof of the "unsafeness" of your speed, you can and should challenge him on this. Ask the officer if there could have been any other factors that caused the accident. These could include:An act of nature such as a gust of wind that blew over the truck next to you, or the falling tree that you had to swerve to avoidThe reckless or negligent driving of another person on the roadA road defect such as a pothole, a missing stoplight, or a stop sign that had been stolen recently.



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