Tuesday, April 24, 2007


As a lawyer, people often ask me how to avoid getting traffic tickets.

Assuming you're not blatantly breaking the law, i.e. speeding 20 mph faster than the flow of traffic, weaving between lanes, speeding all by your lonesome at 2:00 A.M. and driving a red Corvette with alcohol on your breath, while doing all of the above, there are helpful ways of handling the situation.

If you see flashing lights behind you, pull over as quickly as you can safely do so. Pull out your license and insurance card and put your hands on the wheel where the officer can see them. Please keep in mind that the officer is apprehensive also, because he or she has no way of knowing if you're a wanted terrorist or just an average taxpayer. This can be a tense moment, and you always want to start off on good terms.

I always greet the officer with a smile and "Good Morning" (except when it is afternoon or evening). As you can see, I have a lot of experience in this type of encounter. The officer will usually ask, "Do you know how fast you were going?" Or, "Do you know what you were doing?" Its OK to answer, but don't say too much, as your admissions can be used against you. Most people are speeding, but not necessarily in an unsafe manner.

I usually say, "I'm not sure how fast I was going", or "I don't know, did I do something wrong?". The point here is: don't be belligerent and argumentative with the cop. If you have a bad attitude, you're fairly certain to get the ticket. Don't say, "The mayor/police chief/politician is my buddy/cousin," even if he is. That won't help you, and it may get you in even more trouble. In my case, I do know many chiefs and politicians and certainly judges, but you can be certain I'll never volunteer that information to the cop.

The other line often heard by officers is "Do you know who I am?" The standard answer by the cop is, "No, but I will when you show me your license." Remember, even if you are a big shot, you probably don't want the local newspaper to report it as news. Its better to keep a low profile.

One other thing: If you have a radar detector in the car, you're fairly certain to get a ticket.

If it's late at night, the police often will follow a car and look for a pretext to pull you over to see if you've been drinking. Officers have told me that if they follow any car for a quarter mile, they can find a minor violation to give them a reason to make the stop. If you follow the drill above and you haven't been drinking, he'll probably let you go without a ticket. I've had it happen to me many times--I don't drink--I get stopped for touching the center line or the fog line. I just go with the flow, and the officer moves on to the real drunks. If you are very impatient, try to control it, because it looks suspicious.

Keep in mind that officers are instructed to write a certain number of tickets because, besides showing a presence to keep the roads safe, the fines from the tickets are used to pay for squad cars and equipment along with other village necessities. But officers have some discretion to let minor offenders go--there's plenty of major offenders they can catch.

And remember, don't ever, ever, back into the squad car like I did last year. But that's a story for another day.




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