Five Myths About Traffic Tickets

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We often hear "tricks" on how to get out of traffic tickets from people who are not attorneys. One of the reasons these tricks do not get told by attorneys is that they generally do not work. But some people want to believe that they can avoid a big fine by pulling a fast one on the cops or the court. Here are five things people often say about getting out of a ticket that are not true.

If the cop does not show up for court, the ticket will automatically be dismissed. Read that carefully: the word "automatically" is what I am quibbling with. In many courts, if the cop does not show up, the court will adjourn the hearing and make you come back when the cop can be there. So, calling in "sick" the morning of your hearing three times in a row – if the court would put up with that – will not get you anywhere. I have had people ask me to do that for them – adjourn the hearing over and over so the cop would get tired of it and just not show up. Guess what? If the court would allow you to do it, they'd allow the cop to do it. Once in a great while, I have seen a ticket dismissed because of the officer's failure to show. But it is very rare and almost impossible for you to orchestrate.

If the ticket has a mistake on it, it will be thrown out. I have clients show me where the officer made a scrivener's error on the ticket – writing the person's birth date wrong, for example – and hope the court will dismiss the ticket. That's not how it works. The court will, if necessary, let the prosecutor amend the ticket. I have seen a prosecutor amend a ticket to increase the charge against a defendant who pissed someone off. If they can change a "10 over" to a "20 over" at the last minute, don't you think they can fix a typographical error? (This is theoretically possible where the person had been doing 20 over and the officer wrote the ticket for 10 over - before the driver did whatever it was that ticked off the wrong person.)


If you overpay your ticket by a penny, the ticket won't show up in the system until you cash the refund check for a penny – which you don't do, leaving the ticket in limbo. No, they don't care if you cash their checks, especially when most of them say "Void after" some period of days. Why would they tie those two events together? This one is so dumb it made Snopes.

Refusing to sign the ticket will invalidate it. Some states have the police officer ask the driver to sign the ticket to acknowledge receiving it. Some people claim that signing the ticket is admitting guilt – which it is not – or that if you refuse to sign it, it is invalid. Since you are only acknowledging receipt of the ticket, why refuse to sign for it? Do you refuse to sign for Fedex and UPS? All this will do is annoy the officer and that is probably something you don't want to do. Not all states ask you to sign the ticket but I have been told that there are states where refusing to sign might get you arrested. And obviously, your refusal to sign the ticket will not invalidate it.


You can just ignore tickets you get in other states. Anyone who has gotten a ticket in another state knows that this is bad advice much of the time. Actually, it's 88% of the time to be exact. 44 states belong to the Driver License Compact and share ticket information back and forth. (Wikipedia says 45.) Even the ones that don't belong to the compact often share some info with some other entities. Get a ticket in Ohio and your home state of Indiana will find out about it and the points will go on your record. It's a hassle, but do what you can to fight the ticket you get out-of-state.


Those are the five myths I hear most often. I will now brace myself for the deluge of comments which will fall into two categories. The first will be the tl;dr's who will say, "I skipped the words-section of this piece but wanted to tell you that a surefire way to avoid the points is to overpay the ticket by a penny and then refuse to cash the check." The second will be the people who will call me names because they have done each and every one of these and they worked every single time. They zip around town now ignoring all traffic laws because the police know it is useless to try ticketing them. They have gotten out of so many tickets using these and other top secret methods that the police have simply given up trying. Go ahead and tell us all about it. That's what Kinja is here for.

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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, and has defended hundreds of traffic citations in dozens of courts. He also handles Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler's Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit's Coolest Creation.


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