So I got busted speeding a few months back. Apparently I was going 76 in Haltom City where they prefer you to only travel at 65. I was pretty sure that was not right, so I decided to challenge the ticket.
Haltom City has a great method for making sure you just pay your money and be done with it. If you want to plead anything other than guilty, you have to make a trip to the courthouse. If you decided to plead not guilty, you have to come back and tell the judge in person a couple of weeks later. The room is packed. They love to give out tickets for speeding. Still want to plead not guilty? Fine, come back for the pre-trial in a month and we’ll discuss it. You show up to a prosecutor whose bored and cannot believe all of you made it this far. They’ll knock $20 bucks off the fine. What? You want to plead not guilty? Fine, come back to trial in two months.
Funny side note. The person right before me was made an offer and turned it down. When he went before the judge, she mentioned that up till the date of the trial, he could accept the plea and walk away. When I came up, she started to say the same thing, but stopped when she noticed the prosecutor had left that part blank for me. She seemed surprised, but was professional enough to recover quickly.
So I decide to take this all the way. I have had maybe 6 tickets for speeding in all the years I have driven. Each time I did the lawyer (rip off) or just deferred adjudication. I was curious what happens when you fight the ticket. So here it is.
I show up for my trial and the prosecutor once again tries to get you to take a deal. He’s got a lot of cases and he just wants to get this done quickly. The deal is for $128 (the original fine was $188). I ask for half that amount and he shows me that the State of Texas gets $102, and the city needs its cut, so $128 is the best he can do. I decline at which point he gets visibly upset and tells me that fine, I can wait hours to get to my case. I sit down and watch as the same thing happens and additional four times. There are not that many people here. In fact, there are more cops showing up in the back than defendants. They call the docket and half don’t show. Warrants are issued. The few deals that were accepted go up and finish. There are two people left and only one has a speeding ticket. Finally, I am called and the case begins.
Let me pause here. In my research, I had found some instruction on doing this on www.beatmyspeedingticket.com. I will not go into the specifics as this is how the guy makes his living. The info is generally very good and I am sure in capable hands they can get you out of a ticket. I got the packet after I went to pre-trial, which may have been a mistake. Also, I could not get any info on the type of device that was used against me. While the material covers all forms, I based my defense on the most used and was wrong. This through me and likely lost my case.
So I ask to approach the bench and deliver the case law that was pertinent to my case. The judge tells me to just sit down, so I do. The Judge took the time to explain how everything works, reads me all the legalese and the trial begins. The prosecutor starts asking the cop questions, division of work, years of service, type of device, training in using it, etc. The guy is bored and has clearly done this a lot. I realize, too late, that I was suppose to question the use of laser as a measuring device. I was thrown when I heard it since I had based my defense on radar. The state rest and I get to question the cop. I start asking questions about how the device is tested and used. I’ll skip the epic failure and skip to the funny part. The laser is tested by pressing a button which test the internal circuits and then aimed at a stationary object. Not a moving target? No. How do you know it is accurate? The green light tell you. I say that only tells you it is working inside and that something external is needed to show accuracy. The stationary post does this. Sigh. The officer also says that he can tell a car is traveling at precise speeds. He knows from personal experience that I was going 76 and the laser only confirms this. I ask if he means he can tell the difference between 74, 75 and 76. He says yes. I ask what kind of training is required for that. 10 years on the force. Does that work with baseballs too or just cars I ask. Just vehicles (smirk) Sigh. I ask for dismissal for lack of evidence. Denied. I ask to introduce case law as to the need to test a measuring device. Denied.
By now, I am so thirsty I can barely talk. Water is not allowed, so I am up a creek. I rest my case and make closing arguments that the state failed to shoe the accuracy of the devise used against me. The judge makes a show of considering my arguments before predictably finding me guilty. So I get to pay the $188 and have a mark on my record, but I have a very personal understanding of the money machine know as speeding tickets. Why did I do it? I don’t mind taking a few chances. Also, I like to try and stick it to “The Man” if I can. It irritates me to no end that cops are rarely there to catch that person weaving in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed. They don’t usually set up at rush hour, but during those time when few people are on the road. At least for that little while, I prevented one cop from giving out tickets.
So, what did I learn:
Fighting it Pros:
So, what did I learn:
Fighting it Pros:
- You may win and not pay anything.
- You delay action against you for a while
- You stand up for yourself and can take pride in that fact.
- You occupy the court for a while and make them earn their money.
Fighting it Cons:
- The emotional distress. I cannot emphasize this enough, it will eat away your time and energy. It take a lot of fortitude to go through this. Be prepared.
- Money. It will cost you if you loose. Time, the fine and your insurance.
Taking the plea Pros:
- You get it done quickly.
- You keep it off your record, provided you don’t get caught speeding again.
Taking the plea Cons:
- You are accomplice to the ticketing money machine.
- Not knowing if you could have beat it.
However, it is best to just not speed. I am not entirely sure what I will do if it happens again in the far distant future for that momentary lapse. I might push it all the way to trial and just plea out at the last second. Or I might go ahead and prepare better and try again. I’ll just have to live in the moment and see.