“I got a speeding ticket. Is it worth it to fight it?”
This is a question I hear almost everyday. The short answer is…yes. At the very least, it’s worth seeing if the case is challengeable, and here’s why:
1. Traffic is a very technical area of the law—There are all sorts of requirements the State must meet to prove certain traffic violations in Georgia. On a speeding case, for example, the State has to show that the grade of the road was less than 7%, the radar or lidar (laser speed detection device) was used properly, the device was functioning properly when used, the officer using detection equipment has appropriate training and did a visual estimate of your speed before using the device, the officer was not hidden from view, on and on and on, and this list doesn’t include what the State has to show if the case occurred near a speed reduction sign. The State bears the burden, so it’s worth it to see if the State can actually meet that burden.
2. Even the best officers have fuzzy memories—Officers dedicated to traffic detail work a lot of cases, even in small towns. After a while, each day can run into the next. There is nothing special about these officers’ ability to remember what actually happened in your case. More importantly, most traffic citations are issued without any accompanying report, audio, or video. This means the officer relies on the citation as a prompt to remember everything that happened, and there is no real evidence beyond the officer’s word. It’s worth it to see what evidence is available (or not); lack of evidence can be the greatest weakness in the State’s case.
3. A conviction can negatively affect your ability to be or remain employed. If you plead guilty or are found in violation of certain traffic charges after a trial, you can end up with points on your license, a license suspension, or worse, you could end up in trouble with your boss. If you hold a commercial driver’s license, even a small offense has the potential to wreck your driving history and your employability. If you don’t have a commercial license, but have to drive to do your job, your employability is diminished with the conviction on your record. It’s worth it to see if you can reduce—or completely avoid—the damage that might occur if you are convicted.
4. Prosecutors in traffic courts are busy. They have dockets that almost never grow smaller, and many of them genuinely understand that a traffic offense is the type of “there but for the grace of God go I” infraction. Many of them are willing to work out cases, given the right facts. It’s worth asking to see whether they will offer a warning and dismissal, reduction, or amended charge so that you can avoid the negatives of a citation while they resolve a case.
The Traffic Tip is only for informational and educational purposes. It is not intended to be legal advice. If you need help with a legal matter, you should contact a licensed attorney in your state who understands the facts and circumstances of your particular case and the law that applies.
Check out my next Traffic Tip on Thursday, October 5, 2017: "Is It Worth It to Hire a Lawyer on a Traffic Case?"