When it comes to the legal system, there are more than enough myths and misconceptions floating around, and the realm traffic violation tickets is no exception. In this post, we’ll be clearing up some of these common misconceptions, as well as offering advice on what to do when you’ve been issued a ticket.
Dispelling Some Myths
Myth 1: “I was just going with the flow of traffic” is a valid excuse.
When it comes right down to it, a police officer can issue you a ticket for virtually anything, and speeding, even if doing so among a group of other speeders, is certainly one of them.
Many people believe it is less dangerous to break the speed limit in order to keep up with the flow of traffic around them. However, there is no real evidence that this is the case. In almost all cases, increasing your speed is going to result in a more dangerous situation.
There are also no statewide laws that allow for people to speed just to keep up with the flow of traffic, and explaining this motive to a police officer is unlikely to get you off the hook. Sure, it might be unfair. After all, why were you the one singled out? Was it because you drive a bright car? Was it because the officer didn’t like your shirt? Whatever the case may be, you were still speeding, and the ticket is still legitimate.
Myth 2: Traffic tickets only apply to the state in which they were issued.
It’s almost impossible to run away from a traffic ticket. Let’s say you were issued a ticket on the day you were moving from one state to another. You might be thinking that ticket won’t be enforced once you set up residence in your new state. However, most states share traffic ticket information, and failure to pay your ticket in the next state over is going to result in all the same legal repercussions.
Myth 3: Paying extra on a ticket will keep it off your record.
Despite what you might be thinking, the reasoning for this isn’t about somehow “bribing” the court into letting you off the hook in terms of how your ticket will affect your record. Rather, it’s one of those all-too-common myths about the legal process itself. The claim goes like this:
You’re issued a ticket, and then pay the fine in the mail. However, you add some extra money (even just one cent extra), and then later receive a refund for the extra amount that was paid. The belief is that if you never cash your refund check, your ticket will never finish processing and thus stay off your record.
If this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Traffic tickets usually show up on your record and thus affect your insurance rates the moment they enter the system. You’re also unlikely to receive a refund for any extra money you’ve paid.
What To Do When You Get Pulled Over
It’s easy to get complacent with your own driving. After all, most of us aren’t issued traffic tickets on a regular basis. Often people go long periods of time without any interaction with law enforcement and thus make careless decisions due to their own complacency. Then, those red and blue lights appear in the rear view mirror.
Here’s what you should do:
- Try to stay calm. You’re likely to experience a level of anxiety you didn’t quite anticipate. That’s the whole point of the siren and flashing lights – to intimidate. That said, keep things in perspective: this is a routine traffic stop, not a life or death situation. The calmer you are, the better things will go.
- Turn on your blinker and pull over in a safe place. If you’re on the freeway, pull over onto the right. If you’re on a city street, you may want to look for a safe place to pull over away from traffic, such as a parking lot or side street. If one isn’t readily available, pull over on the side of the street as far away from traffic as possible.
- Turn the music or talk radio off. Nothing says “I have no respect for you, officer” like having your radio on when they approach the vehicle. Even if you don’t respect the officer, showing it is unlikely to get you anything but an increased traffic ticket or worse.
- Have your license, registration, and proof of insurance ready, but keep your hands on the wheel when the officer approaches. This will let him or her know that you’re cooperating and not going to be a threat. This will put the officer’s nerves at ease.
- Slowly hand over the documentation when asked, and be respectful of the officer. Now is not the time to fight a ticket. If you decide to, that will come later. If you don’t have all of the documentation, simply tell the officer.
- Once the interaction is over, turn on your blinker and safely move back out into traffic. There are no set rules regarding who leaves first.
What To Do When Issued a Traffic Ticket
The first thing to do is relax. It’s easy to get yourself amped up thinking about storming into the courthouse and yelling about how it was unjustly issued, or how you aren’t going to pay it. However, this is a fantasy and it will simply not work out in real life.
Another reason to relax is that the ticket is not likely to have any immediate effect on your life for at least a couple of weeks. There’s probably nothing you can do about it now, so get a good night’s sleep and deal with things in the morning when you’ve cooled off and can act more rationally.
Now, you have two options.
Paying the ticket
If you decide to do this, you should do so immediately. Not only will this give you peace of mind, it will make sure you don’t end up with late fees or some other kind of legal repercussion.
Fighting the ticket
Perhaps you think the ticket was issued unjustly, or the amount is unreasonably high, or you’re sure you have an excuse that will get it dismissed. Whatever the case may be, you should know that it’s almost never a good idea to try and represent yourself in court. Even many attorneys don’t represent themselves in court, as they see the benefits of having an objective third party there to represent them.
Not only that, but let’s face it: you’re probably a layman when it comes to the law. A regular citizen trying to represent themselves in court almost never works out for anyone but the court.
If you decide to fight your traffic ticket, you are urged to seek professional legal representation.