Traffic tickets often have consequences—there can be significant fines and you might have points added to your driving record, potentially increasing your insurance premium. Is it worth trying to challenge a ticket? If so, under what circumstances should you consider fighting a ticket, and what strategy should you take?
Before you make any decision, do a cost-benefit analysis. Determine what the short-term and long-term consequences of paying the ticket. What is the fine? What is the potential increase in your insurance premium? Compare that to the cost of either attending court yourself (likely more than once) or hiring an attorney to help you challenge the ticket.
Your ticket will identify the specific law you are alleged to have violated. Look up the law—it will tell you what the prosecutor must show to prove guilt. If there’s little question that you violated the law, let it go and pay the fine. However, if you believe you can show that you didn’t commit one of the acts required, it might be worth your time and money to challenge the ticket.
A traffic violation is treated the same as a criminal charge—guilt must be established beyond a reasonable doubt. If you believe you can show reasonable doubt, you might be able to have the ticket thrown out. As a general rule, factual defenses carry the most weight, and the more specific the facts, the better. For example, if you are charged with making an illegal turn, but you can show that the officer had an obstructed view, you may be able to successfully challenge the ticket. However, defenses that are simply rationalizations or excuses rarely carry much weight—the judge won’t care if you were speeding because you were late for work or ran a stop sign because you were distracted by a passenger in the back seat.
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