No matter how responsible of a driver they are, most people get a speeding ticket at some point in their lives. When you spend enough time behind the wheel, chances are that eventually you’ll get pulled over and given a pricey ticket for going too fast. Maybe you’re in a hurry, and driving too quickly. Maybe you’re having fun testing out your new car. Maybe you had a momentary lapse and didn’t realize your speedometer was creeping up. Or maybe you weren’t driving egregiously fast, but you got pulled over and ticketed anyway.
If the latter happens to you, you probably will want to fight your speeding ticket. You can fight a ticket even if you were legitimately speeding, but your odds of winning will be much better if you feel that the ticket was not actually deserved. However, in either situation you may want to consider contesting the ticket. Fighting a speeding ticket may sound like a lot of work, but it’s actually relatively straightforward. All you need to do are follow a few simple steps, and you can potentially save yourself a lot of money.
Try to avoid the ticket when you get pulled over
The first way you want to fight a speeding ticket is at the point when you're about to get one. Just because you got pulled over doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically get a ticket; you can still work your way out of one.
Start by being fully compliant and polite. Once you’ve been pulled over, roll down your windows, and place your hands on the steering wheel, in the 10 and 2 position. Answer all questions politely, and don’t appear annoyed or angry at the police or highway patrol officer. If the officer asks you for your license and registration, tell them where it is, and ask if you can get it. Anything you can do to keep the officer comfortable will increase your chances of having the ticket dropped.
If you were indeed speeding, then you’ll want to express that you’re sorry, and possibly offer an excuse. Don’t make up any excuses – that makes it that much harder to fight the ticket – but let the officer know if you’re running late and why, or if you have a new car and had a little bit of a heavy foot. Admitting that you made a mistake, expressing regret for it, and letting the officer know why it happened (and why it’s unlikely to happen again) can go a long way towards having your ticket dismissed.
If you don’t believe that you were actually speeding, then ask the officer a few questions. You can ask them what method they used to determine your speed, if you can see the radar gun display, or how recently their radar gun was calibrated. Be sure to ask these questions calmly and politely, so as not to sound accusatory. If the officer starts the conversation by asking you why you were pulled over, say you don’t know, and politely ask them why.
If you still receive a ticket, continue to act politely, and apologize once more. Once you get home, write down as many details as you can about the driving environment, such as the traffic, the road and weather conditions, and any witnesses that you may have.
Contact the officer that pulled you over
After you’ve received your ticket, try to contact the officer that issued it to you to plead your case a little bit more. You can call the department where the officer is working, or write a letter. Use this opportunity to once again express your regret, and the reason for your speeding violation (if you were indeed speeding). This will show the officer just how committed you are to getting your ticket overturned, and also how honest and heartfelt your apology is. The officer may drop the ticket then, but even if not, it will make you look better when you contest the ticket in court.
Contest your speeding ticket
The final step in fighting a speeding ticket comes in court. The first thing you need to do is formally contest the ticket, which must be done in a timely fashion. Different states have different time limits and processes for formally contesting a ticket, so you’ll want to use the Department of Motor Vehicles to learn the process and deadlines in your state. If you can reasonably get the court date postponed, do so, as it pushes the ticket further out of the memory of the officer.
Once in court, you’ll have to plead not guilty, and then give your honest account of what happened (you should also bring any witnesses that were present). Provide any evidence you have, such as the conditions that you noted on the day you got the ticket, and the type of detection method that was used to determine your speed. It’s important to remember that nothing bad can happen to you when defending your speeding ticket, so don’t be nervous or scared; the worst case scenario is that you end up having to pay for the ticket, so act with conviction, and cover all of your bases. If the officer used a radar gun, ask the judge for proof that the gun was recently calibrated. If the officer used the shadowing method, ask if the vehicle’s speedometer had recently been calibrated. Any potential holes in the speeding detection increase your chances of having the ticket dropped.
If the judge is not convinced by your defense, then ask for a reduced penalty. Some courts are willing to drop the ticket if you attend driving school, or offer community service.
When in court, make sure that you dress appropriately and always treat both the judge and the officer with respect. Try to convey confidence in your innocence, but never be rude. Every little thing you do affects your chances.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have a decent chance at beating your speeding ticket. Having your ticket dropped is a huge relief, because not only are speeding tickets costly, but they usually increase your insurance rates as well, which is the biggest problem. Whether you were given a speeding ticket in error, or simply feel you have a legitimate excuse for the speeding ticket you received, it may be worth putting in a little bit of time to contesting the ticket, and hopefully getting it dropped.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Fight a Speeding Ticket and was authored by Brady Klopfer.