Some Simple Rules to Follow After a Traffic Stop

After you get pulled over for speeding, there are two choices that you have. The first is to simply pay the ticket and accept the consequences of the fine and potential increase in your insurance rates. Those that are habitual traffic offenders could also face the loss of their driving privileges.

The second choice is to contest the ticket. In contesting a ticket, there are two ways to resolve the matter. The first is to reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor. In a plea bargain, the prosecutor can do anything, from lowering the forfeiture amount to agreeing to keep the ticket off your record if you successfully avoid any further moving violations for a certain amount of time. These offers vary by jurisdiction and the facts involved in the alleged offense.

The other option in contesting a citation is to take the matter to trial. I often hear people tell me a myriad of defenses such as:

•    “I was keeping up with traffic.”
•    “I was going down a hill.”
•    “I didn’t know what the speed limit was.
•    “I wasn’t hurting anyone!”

Unfortunately, none of these is a valid defense. There is really only one valid legal defense to speeding: Necessity. Necessity essentially means that you had no choice but to break the law. To get technical, necessity is defined by 3 elements:

(1)    The defendant acted to avoid a significant risk of harm;
(2)    no adequate lawful means could have been used to escape the harm; and
(3)    the harm avoided was greater than that caused by breaking the law.

An example of necessity would be driving a person that is critically injured, or a pregnant woman in labor, to the hospital. I have prosecuted and defended over 1,000 tickets, and have only seen the necessity defense work one time.

Apart from the legal defense of necessity, any other defense is likely to be fact specific, such as whether the officer can identify you, or whether the officer’s radar/laser was properly calibrated. Like the necessity defense, there is not much of a chance at victory once a ticket goes to trial. While it does happen sometimes, it is the exception rather than the rule.

For information on what do do during a traffic stop, take a look at this earlier entry.

Attorney Andrew W.R. Nielsen