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Traffic Court Advice

EvanderEvander Registered User regular
edited December 2007 in Help / Advice Forum
First off, I just want to be clear that I am NOT looking to cheat the system, or get out of anything that I deserve, or anything. I am looking for advice on working within the system in order to recieve a lesser penalty, because I feel thatthe one I recieved was too harsh.

Anyway, I was pulled over for speeding (going 75 in a 55) and given a ticket, a few weeks back. Although I have been pulled over two times previously, this was my first actual ticket. I am 23 years old, with no criminal record or anything.

The reason I was speeding was simply because I had my eyes glued to the road, and was not checking my speedometer at all. I was in the far left lane, and the road in front of me was wide open. I am also used to driving on a nearby highway where the speed limit is 65, and average traffic speed is probably closer to 80. I stopped IMMEDIATELY upon seeing the officer's light flash; he did not have time to start the siren up. I also had my liscence and registration ready for him.

This occured in the state of Maryland, where I live. I know that one of my options here is to plead "guilty with explaination", which means I will have a hearing rather thana trial, and I can ask the judge to throw out the charges, or reduce the penalty, or to give a verdict of "probation before judgement", rather than guilty. A verdict of PBJ would still carry a fine (possibly lessened) but would have no points associated with it, and would not count as a conviction. I would also potentially be able to have it expunged from my records after three years. I don't care too muchabout the fine (not happy about it, but I'll live) but it is the points thatconcern me, since it'll affect my insurance rates.

What should I do in this situation? Do I really have a chance to get a PBJ verdict, and if so what should I do/say at the hearing to improve my chances? What parts of my story would the judge not care about, and I shouldn't bother saying?

Anyhelp is appreciated.

Evander on

Posts

  • meekermeeker Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    The one time I was in traffic court, I never met with the judge.

    The city attorney gave me a chance to argue down a reckless charge and offered me a deal for $50 court cost, no same or similars within a year and it would be expunged.

    My understanding is this is fairly routine to not actually meet with a judge.

    meeker on
  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    In California, a friend of mine was able to do community service instead of paying fines. I believe this also negated any points on his license. You may want to investigate that.

    Lord Yod on
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  • DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is. In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    First things first.

    His siren not being on doesn't mean a thing. I don't think I've ever been pulled over with a siren on. The thing to remember with cops is if they see you, it's too late to slow down. If they're looking for speeders, chances are they've got you locked into the radar gun.

    Second, you were going 20 over the limit, which around Colorado can land you in jail, if I recall correctly. Be thankful you only got a ticket.

    Third. Judges are very different from one another. One judge might commend you for being brave enough to try to get a lesser ticket, while another might think you are wasting his time.

    At the hearing, some obvious things, but dress sharp. Suit and tie, or at least slacks with a collared shirt. Pretend you're going into a job interview. Say "Yes sir" and "No sir." When speaking to someone in a courthouse, look them in the eye.

    Never say you weren't paying attention to your speed. You are expected, upon getting your license, to maintain awareness of your vehicle at all times when on the road. At least, this is what I learned from a defensive driving course.

    I would ask to maybe take a defensive driving course to defer your ticket, to make it like it never happened. Try to show the judge that you want to improve your driving skill. It might cost more than the ticket, but it worked for me and I lost no points. You'll have to sit through an eight hour course, though.

    Your mileage (pun) may vary.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Deadfall wrote: »
    Second, you were going 20 over the limit, which around Colorado can land you in jail, if I recall correctly. Be thankful you only got a ticket.

    In Maryland 20-29 mph over the speed limit (as long as it does not involve an accident) is a $160 fine, and 2 points on your liscence.

    This is the third speed tier, the first being 1-9 ($80 fine, 1 point), and the second being 10-19 ($90 fine, 2 points)

    Does the fact that I was only in this particular tier by one mph make any difference? It wouldn't affect points, but 90 to 160 is a steep increase for one mile per hour.

    Evander on
  • StaleghotiStaleghoti Registered User
    edited November 2007
    I did the "explanation" thing

    Got slammed for 90 in a 60 (kms), The cop giving me the ticket told me to do it, say I was a student, and I couldn't afford the points on my insurance.

    So I told them the cop told me to do that and they knocked it down to 75 in a 60, no points, woot

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  • DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is. In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Evander wrote: »
    Deadfall wrote: »
    Second, you were going 20 over the limit, which around Colorado can land you in jail, if I recall correctly. Be thankful you only got a ticket.

    In Maryland 20-29 mph over the speed limit (as long as it does not involve an accident) is a $160 fine, and 2 points on your liscence.

    This is the third speed tier, the first being 1-9 ($80 fine, 1 point), and the second being 10-19 ($90 fine, 2 points)

    Does the fact that I was only in this particular tier by one mph make any difference? It wouldn't affect points, but 90 to 160 is a steep increase for one mile per hour.

    I could be wrong then. I apologize. But it does vary from county to county around here.

    As for one mile an hour over: Technically, one mile an hour over 55 in a 55 zone is grounds for a speeding ticket. Most cops give you ten miles an over leeway, but they're not required to. One mile an hour over is still one mile an hour over, no matter how fast you were going.

    Think of it this way: where does it end? You could argue, that you were only going 56 in a 55. Then you could argue you were only going one mile an hour over, 57 in a 55. But then you could argue you were only going one more mile an hour over that, 58 in a 55. See where I'm going? They won't care about that argument, I think, so I wouldn't try it.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    That makes sense. I wasn't planning on using it, but I figured I might as well ask.

    So. other than the whole "I'm 23 and this is my first ever ticket" part, what parts of my story SHOULD I bring up to the judge? There was absolutely no one in front of me in the lane, as I said earlier. Is that worth anything?

    Evander on
  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Not usually, no. Like Deadfall said, not realizing/paying attention to your speed is not the way to go, as you are required to be aware of it at all times.

    You may be able to get away with it by telling them that you don't usually drive on that road, didn't realize it was a 55, and missed the posted limit. (Probably won't work but it's worth a shot)

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Lord Yod wrote: »
    Not usually, no. Like Deadfall said, not realizing/paying attention to your speed is not the way to go, as you are required to be aware of it at all times.

    You may be able to get away with it by telling them that you don't usually drive on that road, didn't realize it was a 55, and missed the posted limit. (Probably won't work but it's worth a shot)

    I actually do drive up and down the road right next to it every day, where the limit IS 65, and almost never on that road itself.

    Still, wouldn't failure to notice road signs be just as bad as failure to notice my speedometer?

    Evander on
  • DeadfallDeadfall I don't think you realize just how rich he is. In fact, I should put on a monocle.Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    It's a tough one, and here's why. The fact that this is your first violation might help. Be honest about your speed, don't make up an excuse like you were driving to see your dying grandmother or something. But also don't make it sound like you were daydreaming.

    Yeah, it's a catch-22.

    I would say something like this:

    "Yes sir, I was speeding. I was following the flow of traffic, and the officer over there (nod to him) can verify that I was a safe distance from all cars around me. I have no excuses for you."

    Usually, being honest and respectful will get you a Simpsons "Boys will be boys, case dismissed!" But you can get a judge who is in a pissy mood and will ignore your pleas for a downgrade because you are wasting his time.

    Then I would definately try to defer your ticket through defensive driving school, if you don't mind sitting through eight hours of lecture. Like I said, it can cost more than the ticket, but it will be as if the ticket never happened. Plus it can show the judge that you are willing to improve your driving skill.

    Good luck.

    Quick edit: I remembered something from when I deferred the ticket through defensive driving. If nothing else, there is a ticket with just a fine (no points) called something like "Unlawful waste of natural resources." Basically, you were wasting gas. That might be something to plea down to, if nothing else works.

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  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Evander wrote: »
    Still, wouldn't failure to notice road signs be just as bad as failure to notice my speedometer?

    They're not exactly the same thing, and the fact that you would still have been speeding in a 65mph zone may mean you'll get the ticket anyways. However, I have gotten off with a warning the one time I told a cop this, so it may help. (Only warning I ever got)

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    I have no intention of being anything less than honest.

    Also, if I ask for a hearing for a Guilty with Explanation plea, the arresting officer will not be presen, since it is a hearing rather than a trial.

    Evander on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    An aside I noticed while I was reading through this. You said that you had your license and registration ready for him when he showed up. Unless you have your license and registration sitting in plain sight at all times, DO NOT do this. You think what you're doing is showing your cooperation by saving him the time of asking you stupid questions. Unfortunately, the officer walking up to the car cannot read your mind, and he cannot tell whether you are getting your paperwork, hiding your drugs, or searching for a weapon. Keep your hands on the steering wheel, preferably the top, to show him that you are not a threat.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Scrublet wrote: »
    An aside I noticed while I was reading through this. You said that you had your license and registration ready for him when he showed up. Unless you have your license and registration sitting in plain sight at all times, DO NOT do this. You think what you're doing is showing your cooperation by saving him the time of asking you stupid questions. Unfortunately, the officer walking up to the car cannot read your mind, and he cannot tell whether you are getting your paperwork, hiding your drugs, or searching for a weapon. Keep your hands on the steering wheel, preferably the top, to show him that you are not a threat.

    The previous time I had been pulled over I did the exact same thing, and it helped lead to my only getting a warning.

    Evander on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    No. You happened to get a warning. Unless the cop specifically said, "I was going to give you a ticket but since you had your papers ready I'll make it a warning," you don't know why you got that warning. Maybe he just liked you being cooperative and not giving him shit.

    The statement I made has been reiterated by numerous police officers, as well as lawyers who specialize in getting people out of traffic violations, DUIs, etc.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Scrublet wrote: »
    No. You happened to get a warning. Unless the cop specifically said, "I was going to give you a ticket but since you had your papers ready I'll make it a warning," you don't know why you got that warning. Maybe he just liked you being cooperative and not giving him shit.

    The statement I made has been reiterated by numerous police officers, as well as lawyers who specialize in getting people out of traffic violations, DUIs, etc.

    She specifically thanked me for having the stuff ready.

    This is really far off topic from my question, though. I'm concerned with what to say to the judge, not what minor mistakes I may have made when I got pulled over.

    Evander on
  • DocDoc Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited November 2007
    I got a ticket a while back. I just did the probation thing, paid a $100 court fee, and got no points on my license.

    Doc on
  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Doc wrote: »
    I got a ticket a while back. I just did the probation thing, paid a $100 court fee, and got no points on my license.

    What did you say in order to convince the judge?

    I've never done anything at all like this before, never even watched some one else do it, so I'm not sure what types of things tend to convince them.

    Evander on
  • ScrubletScrublet Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Have you checked your state laws? In Indiana, you're supposed to be able to get your first ticket "removed" if you don't get a second violation within a specified period of time.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Scrublet wrote: »
    Have you checked your state laws? In Indiana, you're supposed to be able to get your first ticket "removed" if you don't get a second violation within a specified period of time.

    Yeah, that's how I found out about the "Probation Before Judgement" verdict. You pay a fine, but there is no conviction, and if you don't get a second violation within three years it gets expunged from your record.

    Evander on
  • InvisibleInvisible Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    I'm guessing it was city police and not highway patrol, right? Have you tried going to the city's website or calling the city clerk? I was caught speeding a similar zone, called the clerk and setup an appointment to go to their traffic class (this is assuming they offer traffic school, but I know many cities do). It was like $40 less than fine I would have received and I didn't receive any points on my license.

    If it's Highway Patrol, just try to get on the judge's good side. I just dressed nice, spoke to him politely and he cut my fine in half and reduced my speed from 82 in a 70mph zone to 74 in a 70mph zone so I didn't receive any points either.

    Invisible on
  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    State trooper, actually.

    Evander on
  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Generally, as long as you're honest and take the court seriously, the judge will remove points and reduce the fine simply for showing up. It shows that you take it seriously, accept that you made an error, and understand the consequences.

    But you may get a judge on a bad day who won't do anything (that's rare), or you may get a judge that just wants to go through the line and get on with things (more likely). Most judges generally don't care about traffic violations, as the vast majority of people who willfully commit violations simply pay the fine w/o showing up. Therefore the people who do show up are those who feel they were wronged somehow, whether it's a bad cop or a bad law.

    Emphasize that you're willing to pay the fine because you were speeding but as it was your first offense you're there to get the points taken off. Plead guilty since you were actually speeding quite a bit.

    edit to add: is this county or city in MD? If it's city, you're good to go just by showing up. If it's county it'll likely take more work, or is more of a crapshoot. It's still very likely to have the points removed and the fine reduced simply by showing up.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    EggyToast wrote: »
    Generally, as long as you're honest and take the court seriously, the judge will remove points and reduce the fine simply for showing up. It shows that you take it seriously, accept that you made an error, and understand the consequences.

    But you may get a judge on a bad day who won't do anything (that's rare), or you may get a judge that just wants to go through the line and get on with things (more likely). Most judges generally don't care about traffic violations, as the vast majority of people who willfully commit violations simply pay the fine w/o showing up. Therefore the people who do show up are those who feel they were wronged somehow, whether it's a bad cop or a bad law.

    Emphasize that you're willing to pay the fine because you were speeding but as it was your first offense you're there to get the points taken off. Plead guilty since you were actually speeding quite a bit.

    edit to add: is this county or city in MD? If it's city, you're good to go just by showing up. If it's county it'll likely take more work, or is more of a crapshoot. It's still very likely to have the points removed and the fine reduced simply by showing up.

    It's a county offense, I guess, but like I said, the cop was a state trooper.

    And are you saying that I should plead guilty instead of pleading "guilty with explanation"? in the state of maryland the two are seperate pleas. As far as I am aware, if you plead guilty to a traffic violation in maryland, you automatically get the full fine.

    Evander on
  • Steel AngelSteel Angel Registered User regular
    edited November 2007
    Evander wrote: »
    What should I do in this situation? Do I really have a chance to get a PBJ verdict, and if so what should I do/say at the hearing to improve my chances? What parts of my story would the judge not care about, and I shouldn't bother saying?

    I'll rehash what I've been told by my friends that are lawyers.

    First off, they've always recommended actually going to court, not just a hearing. Apparently MD state troopers have a reputation for often not showing up to court too, though this may vary county to county.

    Get a copy of your driving record from the MVA so you have physical proof that you have a clean record. The judge will probably have a copy they're viewing from the bench, but it apparently proves you're not pulling stuff out of your ass on your end I guess.

    You'll basically be pointing out that it's a first offense, you have a clean record, etc. I'll try to get some specifics, I need to talk to my friends over the weekend for an issue of my own.

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Yes, guilty with explanation. Otherwise how do you explain yourself? :D

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Alright, my court time is in just under 2 hours.

    My plan is to go in, and saythe following:

    "I am extremely sorry for what I did. I am 23 years old and this is the first ticket that I have recieved. I am a full time student with two part time jobs. I would like if I could have the points removed and the fine reduced from my sentance."



    Does that sound about right? The most awkward part for me is the last bit. I am a bit confused as to how best to request that the points be removed from my sentance without sounding like I'm telling the judge what to do.


    As for attire, I am wearing a shirt & tie, plus khakis and a sports coat. I even shined my shoes last night.

    Evander on
  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Evander wrote: »
    Alright, my court time is in just under 2 hours.

    My plan is to go in, and saythe following:

    "I am extremely sorry for what I did. I am 23 years old and this is the first ticket that I have recieved. I am a full time student with two part time jobs. I would like if I could have the points removed and the fine reduced from my sentance."



    Does that sound about right? The most awkward part for me is the last bit. I am a bit confused as to how best to request that the points be removed from my sentance without sounding like I'm telling the judge what to do.


    As for attire, I am wearing a shirt & tie, plus khakis and a sports coat. I even shined my shoes last night.

    It might help to instead say 'I'm not sure if I'll be able to afford insurance if I get any points, is there anything I can do to remove them?'

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  • EggyToastEggyToast Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Getting to the point like that is good -- you're telling the judge why you're there and what you hope the outcome to be. No need to wax poetic or tell him your life story, you've covered your background and why you're there in 3 sentences.

    You probably won't be the first person to present your case to the judge today, so feel free to modify your statement slightly after hearing other people's. If he's being hard on people, emphasize that you're working hard to better yourself through school but having to pay the increased insurance premiums from points will kill your finances. If he's being lenient, stick with what you've got.

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    After a quick talk with my father, I'm going with the wording (at the end) "I'm here today to ask you to reduce the point and fine that are associated with my ticket."

    I think that makes it sound more like a request than it did previously.



    The truth is that my parents pay my insurance, and while I will likely have to pay the difference on any increase, it won't really ruin me financially, so I'm not going to lie like that to the judge.

    Evander on
  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Ah okay.

    Yeah that line sounds good, if I were a judge I'd knock the fine down just for showing up, so you'll probably be fine.

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  • Steel AngelSteel Angel Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Oh, well I guess I didn't get back to you quite in time. My own court date was yesterday and I wound up getting a not guilty due to my trooper not showing up (I don't think I saw any state trooper cars in the parking lot actually, only county and city precinct cars). For reference, in MD a clean record for the last 2 years seems to be the litmus test to get PBJ. The judge was granting that to everyone that plead guilty and fit the criteria without the defendant having to specifically request it. He also seemed to be in a rush though, apparently the court was short one judge that day so he had to pull double duty. Some judges are less lenient (and mine didn't cut as much slack for one kid with a bad record. Whole court collectively winced when they heard some of it.) and a friend of mine once had to appeal once to get a PBJ.

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  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Evander, I hope you have good news on this front. *crosses fingers*

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  • EvanderEvander Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    I indeed have good news, and thanks to all of you for the help.

    After saying exactly what I said here that I would say, I recieved a verdict of "Probation Before Judgement" (meaning no points, and my record only shows probation, not a conviction) and my $160 fine was reduced to $135 (which, when you add the $25.50 court fee, means that I ended up paying 50 cents to remove the two points. Not bad.)



    My judge seemed very nice, and was giving probation before judgement to basically everyone who was honest, and had a clean record for the past three-four years. One very odd thing, though, was that she asked me who would be paying my fine before saying what the dollar ammount would be, which she did no ask of ANYONE else, even though other people did mention being students. I'm guessing it had something to do with the fact that my attire, and the way I seemed far more prepared than most people that had gone before me, made it look like I might come from a more affluent family, or something. I dunno.



    I have a couple of other stories about other cases, but those don't really belong in this thread, and I am too tired from navigating home through the snow to type them up. I just want to thank you all again for your help. What I did not mention earlier (nor did I mention in court) is that I actually still have a Provisional Driver's liscense, since I did not bother to get liscenced until I was already 21. At my age, the ONLY restriction of a provisional is that I must hold it for 18 months without any moving violations before turning it into a "real" license. My eighteen months are up in January, and if I had had to start over so soon before it it would have been really annoying.

    Evander on
  • Lord YodLord Yod Registered User regular
    edited December 2007
    Glad to hear it man. 8-)

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