Nobody likes paying for tickets. But if you're a driver, they're a fact of life -- especially around the holidays when police are looking for easy ways to fill their quotas. The odds are that as a motorist you're going to have a run-in with the law.
While we don't condone unsafe driving, there are ways to make sure a bad day on the road doesn't lead to a bad day for your wallet. Here are some tips on how to avoid getting a ticket. The tips are divided between those you can use on the road when you've been pulled over and those you can use in court -- if it gets that far.
On the Road
It may be a routine traffic stop to you, but the cop doesn't know how dangerous the situation might be. So, when he pulls you over, keep in mind that he's looking at it as a tense situation. If you're rude, you'll only make it worse and lessen your chances of escaping the ticket. Be polite; roll down your window and turn off your radio. If you smoke, put out the cigarette. All of these things are common courtesy and they all communicate something to the officer: You care enough to give him your undivided attention. Talking on your cell phone or insisting that he hurry up is a surefire way to land yourself a ticket.
Don't talk too much
The more you talk, the more he can use against you in court. That doesn't mean you have to be a mute, but sometimes cops will let you think you're talking your way out of it when they're really just giving you enough rope to hang yourself. Don't let yourself get into a conversation in which you confess to breaking the law so that you may get off with a warning. Once the patrolman has a confession, he or she has what's needed to beat you in court should you contest the ticket.
Don't argue or plead ignorance
The side of the road is no place to argue. Sometimes a cop might try to bait you into an argument (they're human and we all have bad days). But, usually, an argument can be avoided. If you can't get the officer to see things your way by calmly and clearly stating your case, don't keep going. If you do, you will only antagonize him.
As for ignorance, think again. It might work if you're a cute girl, but for most guys, it's just a lame excuse. When you get your license, you agree to abide by the rules of the road, so ignorance just isn't going to fly. Plus, it's a common excuse, which means cops hear it all the time and are less likely to let you off with just a warning.
Ask for a warning
It never hurts to ask for a warning. But don't beg -- that's a sign of weakness. It's also very annoying. When an officer gives you a warning, he's doing you a favor, so try to approach asking for a warning the same way you might ask a friend to help you move. It's a big favor on his part, and you've got to make him want to help you.
Present a strong case
Presenting a strong case is about knowing the law. While it will help to review the relevant portion of the driver's handbook, the judge doesn't need you to tell him about the law; trust me, he knows it. Instead, focus on making yourself an effective advocate: Be organized, be on time, speak clearly and dress appropriately. All of these things will set you apart from most of the people the judge sees every day, and he'll be more inclined to rule in your favor if you make his job easier.
Accept a plea
If you're looking at multiple charges, ask to plead guilty to the lesser charge in exchange for dismissing the others. You can do this before your proceeding begins. Oftentimes, judges will do this to save time. The benefit to you is that you can save money and points against your insurance. But remember: The plea bargain only benefits you when you're facing many charges.
Use an attorney
If you're facing serious charges that may result in you losing your license, getting heavy fines or jail time, it's worth bringing a lawyer. That should go without saying, but a lot people think they can fly solo because it's traffic court. Wrong: When your license and your freedom are on the line, you need a lawyer. Ask a friend or consult online listings and reviews to find a lawyer who specializes in traffic offenses.
Request a trial by mail
Most jurisdictions let you make your case by mail. The advantages are twofold. First, you can sit down and think out your case without the pressure of being on the spot and facing the arresting officer and the judge. Second, if you lose, you can request a trial in person, which means you get a second bite at the apple.
If there is a common denominator to these tips, it's that you need to know how to handle yourself in a difficult situation. While many men know how to handle a tough day at work or a fight with their girlfriends, an encounter with the law can be a bit scary. The best advice is to relax and fall back on what you've learned.