Speeding-Ticket-HOWTO?

...or maybe that should be, "Speeding-Ticket-HOW-NOT-TO".

This was originally intended to be an off-topic reply for a mailing list posting. It got long and I decided it would be better placed here and a link sent to the list.

...
I'll chip in here with my two bits. This includes things I have heard/read as well as things I have worked out on my own.

Be respectful. After all, they are in a position of authority over you and have the power to seriously inconvenience you if you get on their nerves. This includes addressing them as "Sir" or "Ma'am", and/or "Officer". Answer questions with a "Yes, Officer", "No, Ma'am", or the like (as opposed to "Yeah" or "Nah"). I've found that subtly letting him know that I'm his bitch in this manner, while it may not always make things better, tends to keep things from getting worse. Be submissive. It strokes a person's ego. This is no time to be macho; money and your license are on the line. Who cares if you have to kiss a little tail to save yourself the aggravation of a ticket? It'll be over soon. Bitch about it after The Nice Man With The Gun leaves.

For God's sake, don't get the man nervous. An officer of the law never knows whether this is going to be a routine traffic stop or something much, much worse. He's a person just like you; getting nervous gets him upset. Taking this to its logical conclusion, do what you can to reassure him. If you get stopped at night, turn on the interior light in your car. Put your palms flat on the steering wheel so that the officer can see them, if possible. (I'm not sure how the passengers should place their hands so as to be visible. Haven't thought that much about it yet.) Don't be rummaging around in the car before he approaches and can see what you're doing. When he asks for your papers, say, "Yes, Sir," and tell him where it is. ("Yes Sir, my license is in my wallet in my back pocket and the insurance and registration are in the glove box. I'm getting them now.") While you're gathering the paperwork, do it quickly, but don't make sudden movements either. If you have a CCW permit, simply hand it to the Officer with your paperwork and let him know where it is when he asks about it. CCW, for those that don't know, means "concealed carriage of weapons". Basically, you want to be the one to tell him (in a discreet manner) rather than having him discover it on his own. (Re-read the first sentence of this paragraph.)

Be boring, be forgettable. Don't be a butthead and argue and scream and shout. Resist the temptation to inform him that you'll go to court and "get this taken care of". The idea is that if you don't give him any reason to remember you, he might not; then, if he can't truthfully say, "Yes, I remember stopping this person," it gives you a stronger case when you do go to court. If he's going to give you a ticket anyway, better to meekly accept the ticket and maybe have a better chance of contesting it than to be a jerk and tell him what you're really thinking and have extra cost and points.

Offer an explanation if you wish (or if he asks), but shut up if he tells you to. This goes along with the last two points about stroking his ego as an authority figure and being forgettable.

Turn off the radio. Same rationale. Don't annoy the man.

If you're wearing sunglasses, take them off. This is a subtle way of being submissive; it's a psychological position of power to be able to see the other person's eyes if they can't see yours. At the very least, you remove yourself from this position; even better is when he's wearing his and he gains the mental advantage. Ego-stroking. Say it with me now: "I'm your bitch."

If you smoke, dispose of the butt in the car ashtray, not out the window. Besides the possiblity of an even more expensive littering charge on top of the already-expensive ticket, smoke in your face is unpleasant and irritating whether or not you're a smoker. Irritation leads to tickets. Tickets lead to fines and points. Fines and points lead to being broke and without a license. And broke with no license leads to the Dark Side.

If you're chewing gum, get rid of it inside the car. Swallow it or put it in a piece of paper. Don't be smacking your gum while he's telling you how badly you just screwed up; it'll come across as insolent. (Ego. Appeal to his authority.)

When you see flashing lights, immediately put on your turn signal and start slowing down. This says, "Yes, I see you, and I'm trying to comply with your order as quickly as I safely can, even if I can't do it right away." Find a suitable spot to pull off. On the interstate, this means a wide, firm shoulder. Pulling off on a narrow shoulder that looks soft is just asking for trouble since you can't pull off very far. This means that when the officer is talking to you, some Very Honorable Law Enforcement Rump is hanging over the white line. See how chipper you are while tons of metal go whizzing past your derriere, inches away, at 60, 70, 80 miles per hour. (It'd be irritating, no?) Find the most suitable spot you can quickly, and pull over as far as you can. Your wallet might thank you.

Fortunately, I haven't had the opportunity to try this yet, but a high school teacher of mine said the proper answer to the "Do you know how fast you were going?" question is "Yes, I know exactly how fast I was going." When "How fast?" is replied, respectfully (remember?) say, "I can't tell you since that might incriminate me." The theory is that you avoid looking like an irresponsible chump by saying "No", and you avoid giving further ammunition by giving a speed. ("95? Really? I only clocked you doing 83. I'll take your word for it.") I'm not entirely sure how well this would work; if you find out, let me know.   ;-)

It's all about respect for the badge. Respect makes a person feel good.

I don't exactly get pulled over regularly, so I (fortunately) don't often have the opportunity to practice this. In the ~3.5 years that I've lived in the Philadephia area, I've gotten pulled over twice. I can't quite recall when the last time was before that, but it was a while. My anecdotes from the last two times:

Late one night, on a side road, I got pulled over. I found the most suitable pull-over spot that I could and pulled over as far as I could. I turned the radio all the way down, illuminated the interior of the car, placed my open hands on the wheel near the top, and looked straight ahead. The officer approached the car, I rolled down the window, and he asked me, "Do you know why I pulled you over?" I honestly didn't. I had been observing the speed limit, and I was doing the limit when I saw the flashing lights. (This was a 35MPH zone.) I replied, "No, Sir." He continued: "You have a headlight out. You need to get that fixed." "Yes, Sir. Thank you; I didn't realize that." (Well, I did, and I had been meaning to get a new one for a couple weeks, but...) He then said a few more words and let me continue on my way. My passenger was amazed and said, "Wow. If that had been me, I would've been like, 'Um... speeding?' and he probably would've said, 'Oh really?'" I replied I was just telling the truth, that I honestly didn't know why I had gotten pulled over.

Last February, my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Arizona. I had been tagging along on an unrelated trip of hers (we decided to make it our honeymoon as well) and so hadn't done any driving. The last day, we had somewhere in the neighborhood of twelve or thirteen hours to kill before our flight, so we rented a car to drive from Phoenix to near Tucson to visit the Biosphere. Well, as I said, I hadn't been driving the whole week so I hadn't paid much attention, but I had noted that the speed limit on the interstate between Phoenix and Flagstaff was something like 75. We had just rented a car and gotten on the interstate heading south and leaving town when das blinkenlights appeared in the rearview. I was doing 80. I was a bit puzzled, but put on my right signal and pulled over quite far onto an exceptionally wide shoulder, almost to the barricade (this was an elevated road). The officer came over to the passenger's side and talked to me from there. After the initial "pleasantries", I asked if the speed limit wasn't 75. Turns out we were still in the city limits, where the limit is 55. Ouch. It gets worse; now I'm in twice as deep because I hadn't opted for the rental company insurance and my insurance card was hundreds and hundreds of miles away in eastern Pennsylvania. Double ouch. To add insult to injury, I had stopped the car maybe 30 feet in front of a 75MPH (I think) speed limit sign. I tried to explain and play on his sympathy a bit by explaining that I hadn't been driving all week and we were on our honeymoon and today was our last day there, and... He cut me off, though, shortly after I said "honeymoon" and told me to be quiet, and I promptly complied. I think just before he went back to his car to write up the ticket I tried explaining again (or asked if I could), to no effect. So we're sitting there sweating it while he's doing whatever it is cops do after they finish writing the ticket to make you wait longer and unsettle you even more (What do they do that takes so long? Work on the crossword puzzle? Their taxes?), and he came back and handed me a written warning for doing 60 in a 55 and failing to carry proof of insurance. I was grateful, I really was, and I gave him my heartfelt thanks. With the business taken care of, he dropped his gruff demeanor and got significantly friendlier. He asked where we were going, and we told him. We chit-chatted briefly (no more than a minute or so), and then he left and we were free to go on our way. You better believe I got a lot more observant of the traffic signs there after that.

Anyway, this is just my experience and opinion. I could be way off the mark here, but it's worked for me. And as always, if you need legal advice, consult with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction, because I'm certainly not and this certainly isn't. If you need legal advice, what are you doing reading a web page written by a random stranger?   ;-)   I hope you at least had a good time reading this, though.


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