After extensive research and preparation I successfully beat the speeding ticket I got in September and am extremely excited to share my tips.
- Know the law. On your citation will be the violation code - look it up. Mine was 22350: Basic Speed Law. No person shall drive a vehicle upon a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable or prudent having due regard for weather, visibility, the traffic on, and the surface and width of, the highway, and in no event at a speed which endangers the safety of persons or property.
This means, even if I've exceeded the posted speed limit, which was 30MPH in that area, I can legally drive faster than the posted limit IF it's deemed safe given the conditions at the time. So, regardless of what the radar gun said (allegedly it clocked me at 40), I was likely in the clear and had a strong chance of beating the ticket. Had the gun said 70, probably not so much, and of course that has never ever happened. Ever.
- Prepare. In addition to knowing the law, prepare your defense and any questions you might want to ask the citing officer. When you get to court, the officer will testify first, then you have the option of cross examining the officer. This is when you can ask, "So?" in reference to going slightly over the speed limit, or "Is this how we protect our communities, citing hard-working Americans who are just trying to make a living!?"
You can also ask when the last time the radar gun was calibrated, or ask to see the radar gun and point it at the judge or bailiff and see if it detects their speed sitting still. If it reads anything other than zero, you might have a chance of beating it right then. You don't have to ask the officer any questions, but if you want to, be prepared. After the officer testifies, then it's your turn to defend yourself. You can also plead the 5th and not say a word, which seems silly if you've gone to all this trouble to come to traffic court, but that is your right.
- Rehearse. Spend every spare moment before your court date rehearsing your defense. If you already talk to yourself constantly like I do, this will be easy. Be sure to stick to the basics - don't go down any tangents that are irrelevant to the case. For example: "Thank you, your Honor. I realize the radar gun may have reported my speed as 40MPH, but given the conditions at the time in that location - a clear, sunny day with excellent visibility and no traffic - I felt I was driving safely in that situation and had no idea I was exceeding the posted speed limit."
Do not continue on to tell the judge about how you almost stopped for Peet's but thought, Nah, I'll go home & save the $2 and then I can be back in my sweats and bathrobe that much faster and watch some Food Network while I dork off on Facebook for a couple of hours and BLAM! that's when she got me with that crappy radar gun - had I only stopped for coffee this would have never happened, and boy, I can tell you, I'll definitely stop for coffee in the future because now I know those lazy cops love to sit at the bottom of that hill and poach for unsuspecting part-time freelance photographers who daydream about coffee and pancakes.
- Wardrobe. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of wardrobe when you attend court. Remember, you're trying to look responsible, but not so fancy like you're too special to get a speeding ticket or attend traffic court with the unwashed masses. You need to look put together, but not so dressy that you look ridiculous for coming to court to fight a $200 ticket. This means leave all the sparkly jewelry at home, along with the designer purse, sunglasses and/or shoes, if you have them. This is easy for me as I have none of these distracting items.
Do not dress too casual or like an idiot. Not recommended: sweat pants, hoodies, flip flops, wife beaters, stained t-shirts, camouflage cargo pants, super noisy jewelry that clinks when you move, offensive perfume that chokes everyone around you, crazy high heels that scrape the floor like nails on a chalkboard, and absolutely no pants that have words of any kind plastered on the ass.
For my court date I wore basic black khakis, a clean white t-shirt with a fitted flannel shirt over that, beat up Dansko clogs, a simple silver wedding band, my lucky fire agate ring, lucky necklace and my lucky panties. I may have also tapped every surface I touched three times and promised to volunteer with disadvantaged kids if I got off.
- Hair. Wash it. This is non negotiable. Have you ever smelled unwashed hair? I'm on the verge of puking just thinking about it. This has nothing to do with the topic of this post, but this is a huge peeve of mine. If you're going to get up, put on clothes and leave the house, why wouldn't you do all of us a favor and take a damn shower and wash your greasy, smelly head? Please? Oofah - that smell is disgusting. Never mind how it looks - it's the smell. Please. Wash it. Five minutes - what's five minutes to prevent mass barfing?
- Be punctual. Get to court on time. If the time says 8:45, get there at 8:30. You'll have to clear security - that reminds me, leave your knives, guns, crossbows, etc. at home - they'll confiscate them at security. You might also need to find parking, pee, and text message your friends about how sucky it is that you had to get up early and go to traffic court and couldn't wear your fleece robe. Well, you could, but...
- Check in. When you get to court and the clerk opens up the courtroom to let in the
losersattendants, check in once he/she is back at the desk. The bailiff will remind you if you wander in and just sit down.
- Wait. Wait patiently in your seat for court to begin and *silently* rehearse your defense. Try not to whip your head around every time someone comes in, wondering if it's the officer who cited you. Act casual. You're confident in your defense. You're a good person and this was just an unfortunate misunderstanding. Try not to look totally effing annoyed that here you are again, wasting valuable time you could be spending catching up on Twitter to deal with this goddamm ticket.
- The officer. The officer who cited you will have been subpoenaed to attend court and will likely show up, which is why you need to do your homework and prepare your defense. Do not expect that he/she won't show and you can just stand up when your name is called and have the judge tell you "case dismissed." That would be nice, but it rarely happens. Hours of research, preparation and careful wardrobe selection (including lucky panties) is critical to helping to successfully beat the ticket and get it dismissed. I cannot stress that enough.
- Be polite. When the judge enters the courtroom everyone has to stand up as the bailiff announces that court is now in session and the honorable Judge McClearmyticket is presiding. Then the clerk will ask everyone to raise their right hands and swear that the truth is truthy, then you can sit down and wait until the judge calls your name. If you got to court on time to check the docket posted outside, you'll have seen your place in the roll call to know when your name will be called.
The judge will then explain how traffic court works and often will tell the court that there will be several cases dismissed. He'll then start down the list of cases and one-by-one, ask if the citing officers are present. When he gets to your case he'll first ask if the officer is present. When he realizes she is not, he'll say your name and that's when you stand up and hear him tell you "case dismissed" and the bail you paid will be refunded in time for Christmas. Try to refrain from shouting "FUCK YEAH!" and instead politely thank the judge and skip out of the courtroom and take yourself out to a pancake breakfast.