FindLaw advice on a traffic stop
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(ARA) - Every day, thousands of speeding tickets are issued to motorists on our nation's roads and highways. According to various sources, an estimated 40 million speeding tickets are issued each year (1 for every 5 motorists) with an average fine of $150.
What can you do to avoid a speeding ticket? And what should you do if you're stopped for speeding? Here are some tips from FindLaw.com, the nation's leading online source for legal information.
Be familiar with speed limits. You should always be aware of the speed limits on the roads and highways that you drive. Being unaware or unsure is not an excuse. Also keep in mind that it's possible to receive a speeding or reckless driving ticket under special circumstances even when you're not driving faster than the posted limit, such as driving faster than severe weather would allow.
Give yourself enough time. One of the reasons many people speed is because they didn't give themselves enough time to get where they're going. Plan ahead and give yourself enough time to arrive early so you can avoid going over the speed limit to make up time.
Be aware of speed traps. Pay attention to signs alerting drivers to speed zones, especially when nearing schools, small towns or suburban neighborhoods -- where the speed limit abruptly changes from 55 mph to 30 mph, for example. These are often areas where police step up traffic enforcement.
Say cheese! More than a dozen states use photo radar to issue motor vehicle violation tickets for speeding or going through a red light at an intersection. Is your state one of them? Cameras are strategically set up to record speed or other traffic violations, and are used by local police departments to free up police officers for other types of law enforcement work. Make a traffic violation and days later you'll receive a ticket in the mail.
Pull over. If you're stopped for speeding, it's important to cooperate with the police officer. Here's what you should do: Pull over quickly and safely, pulling over as far to the right as you can. Turn off your engine and put your keys on the dashboard. Roll down your window and put your hands on the wheel in plain sight of the officer. Do not get your driver's license and proof of insurance out -- let the officer ask you to get them so he or she can see your hands at all times. Take off your sunglasses if you're wearing them. If you're stopped at night, turn on your interior light. Be friendly, polite and cooperative, and avoid arguing.
Let the officer do the talking. When you're stopped for a motor vehicle violation, let the officer do the talking. Don't say anything that can be recorded or used against you at a later time, such as in traffic court. Officers are trained to let you incriminate yourself by letting you admit to violations or admit that you were careless or negligent. Respond politely to an officer's questions, and never get into an argument with an officer.
Avoid a car search. If an officer asks to search your vehicle and you do not believe you have anything to hide, you could save yourself time and effort by letting the search proceed. If you don't want the search to proceed, you should state clearly that you don't give the officer your consent. Taking this path does not imply guilt, but it may mean that the officer will seek a search warrant or put you under arrest, if the officer has probable cause for his or her suspicions.
Paying the ticket. If you plead guilty to a traffic charge, the court will automatically require you to pay the maximum fine allowed by law and will record the conviction on your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) record for a period of years (varies by state). Pleading guilty to a speeding ticket can increase your insurance premiums. Also, traffic violations can mean you'll accumulate points against your driver's license (if you have other motor vehicle violations) that could lead to the loss of your driving privileges. If having a clean record matters to you, you may want to seek the help of an attorney who specializes in traffic violations.
Challenging a ticket. Speed limits and how they're defined can vary by state. It's important to know how your state defines speed limits before attempting to challenge them. There are limited defenses for challenging a speeding ticket. The three most common are: claiming that you were speeding because of an emergency; claiming that the officer misread your speed; or claiming that the officer mistook your vehicle for a similar one that was traveling near your car or motorcycle. You can attempt to challenge a ticket on your own, or with the assistance of an attorney experienced in traffic violations.
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