Putting It All TogetherHow to Decide Whetherto Fight or Fold

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Here are some questions I always ask to determine whether going to court makes sense:

  • Was the officer's view of what occurred obstructed by other moving vehicles or stationary objects like trees, fences, or buildings? If so, this allows you to argue that the officer could not have clearly seen the alleged offense and gives you an opening to sell your version of events to the judge.
  • Did the officer stop the right car? It is quite possible in heavy traffic for an officer to see a violation committed by one white minivan (a 1995 Plymouth Voyager, for example) and to stop another (an almost identical white 1994 Dodge Caravan) farther down the road. Your ability to claim this happened ( "the officer got the wrong driver, Your Honor") obviously goes way up if you can show that because of a curve in the road, construction project, or just heavy traffic, the officer lost sight of the offending vehicle between the violation and pulling you over.
  • Were you charged with speeding when you were driving safely, even though you were driving over the speed limit? In about 20 states, the law says it's legal to drive slightly over the posted speed limit as long as you can prove conditions made it safe to do so.
  • Was there an actual, provable error in the officer's approach or methodology? In citing you for speeding, did the officer correctly pace your vehicle or properly use VASCAR, radar, or laser to establish your speed? We discuss what the officer needs to prove for many types of tickets, in Chapters 6 and 7.
  • Do any other legal defenses exist to the law you're charged with violating? For example, if you were charged with driving too slowly in the left lane of a multilane highway, it is a legal defense (provided for in most state's laws) that you were planning to turn left.

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