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How to Defend Yourself Against a Speeding Ticket
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While the goal is always to avoid getting a speeding ticket in the first place, even the most prudent drivers have been known to get caught disobeying the law. Traffic infractions range from running a stop sign, tailgating, and going over the speed limit to far more serious offences. Driving while inebriated in any fashion is a widespread and entirely avoidable issue. However, there are situations where, while perhaps not totally innocent, drivers get a ticket they wish to contest. If this has ever happened to you, it’s no secret how overwhelming the situation can be. To help you prepare, this piece details everything you need to know about defending yourself against a speeding ticket.
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Cost of Speeding in Canada
The cost associated with a traffic infraction depends on what offence you committed. More severe infractions, such as driving under the influence or speeding through a school zone, will have heavier penalties. Conversely, less significant issues, such as going ten km over the limit on a highway, will likely result in a simple ticket. Though the main punishment for speeding infractions is financial, there is a wide range of measures law enforcement can take if you speed. These include:
- Monetary fines: The most common repercussion of speeding is a ticket. The amount of the ticket will vary depending on where you were speeding and how fast you were going. Speeding through a construction zone, for example, triples the cost of the ticket.
- Demerit points: Speeding tickets and other traffic infractions pose a risk for your driver’s profile. In some situations, you may be issued demerit points. These ultimately lead to more serious consequences.
- License suspension: If the incident is severe, or if you have a series of demerit points already on record, you are at risk of losing your license. Demerit points can be incurred for a wide range of reasons, not merely speeding. From failing to stop if flagged by a police officer to abandoning the scene of a collision, there are several ways for drivers to get their license suspended if they are not careful.
- Increased insurance premiums: Suspension of your driver’s license is not the only risk associated with getting demerits on file. Demerit points remain on your record for a full two years. While demerits are not a metric directly associated with higher premiums, insurance companies take them into consideration when determining the cost of your plan. A driver with more demerits is a higher risk; and, therefore, will be expected to pay a higher amount.
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Should You Fight Your Speeding Ticket?
The first thing to do when determining whether to fight a speeding ticket is to take an honest assessment of the situation. Ask yourself what your odds are of actually winning. Ultimately, if you believe that it is most likely that you are going to lose, it is better to avoid court. Consider what evidence is against you.
Did the ticketing officer document the incident thoroughly? Was the court date set quickly after the infraction? As the driver, are you responsible for committing the infraction? If you answer yes to these questions, then chances are it would be better to avoid court.
Consider that, to fight the ticket, you will need to take a full day off work to attend court in person. Even if you attend, there is no guarantee of success. With this in mind, weigh the sunk cost of your time off work (and potential professional repercussions) against the value of contesting the matter.
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How do You Fight a Speeding Ticket?
If you decide to fight the matter, then the first step is to familiarize yourself with the process that lies ahead. Understanding the procedure ensures that you will follow the proper steps and are in a position to do everything within your power to fight the ticket.
When you are issued the ticket, you get the option of a court date. If you plan to contest the matter, then you need to show up, in-person, at the courthouse. A window is given, and it is your onus to be at the location throughout. This is to give personal testimony about the incident. The issuing officer can attend court to provide their account of the matter. If the officer is there to ensure that the ticket goes through, it becomes a matter of word of mouth, where more weight will be placed on the testimony of the officer. However, officers get busy and the individual who gave you the ticket may be unable to attend. If luck’s on your side in this regard, you are off to a good start.
Watch Out For Plea Deals
The true financial repercussions of a ticket are not the cost to pay it, rather the increase in your insurance as a result of the fine. A plea deal means that you will incur the fine, though will only be responsible for paying a small portion of it. Though plea deals can sound appealing because of the reduced upfront cost, since the fine is still issued under your name, you are likely to see an increase in your insurance premiums. So, if you are able to fight the ticket (like a speeding infraction taken by an unmanned radar), then be sure that you don’t get talked into taking a plea.
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Ask For Disclosure
In order to fight the ticket, you need to have all the relevant information. When you learn of your court date, the first step is to file for the disclosure of information. All the documents, including the officer’s notes, will be submitted to you for review prior to the court date. In some cases, the notes are thorough and hard to contest. In other situations, the notes have apparent flaws that you can use to make your case.
Find Out The Type of Speeding Equipment
Be sure to learn what type of equipment was used to determine the rate at which you were travelling. The technology used in a radar gun is different than that in a laser speed gun. Traffic cameras also rely on their own set of technology. The quality and reliability of the equipment, both generally and specific to the device that flagged you, gives you a fighting chance at contesting the ticket. Radar guns are older tech that is more prone to errors. Resultantly, you are more likely to win a fight against these devices as opposed to the others.
When is Your Court Date?
Due to the limitation dates set forth by Canadian legislation (procedural deadlines to ensure the smooth flow of our judicial system), if your court date falls more than a year after the infraction, you can file to get the ticket thrown out. As long as you don’t plead guilty and diligently follow the proper procedures to contest a ticket, you have a reasonable chance at winning.
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What to Watch Out For When Fighting a Speeding Ticket
It can be overwhelming to fight a speeding ticket, so it’s important to know potential pitfalls along the way so you can avoid them. Be careful about your plea. If you plead guilty to the charges, then the fine will go on your record. It is highly probable that, though a plea deal can result in a reduced fine, it will cause your insurance premiums to rise. Within a matter of months, you might find yourself out more money than you would have otherwise been.
Additionally, be wary of services that promise to either lower your ticket penalty or make claims that they can get the matter thrown out. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. These companies usually just pursue a plea deal, and will likely charge you a fee for the service.
Finally, thoroughly review any paperwork. Pay special attention to locations, speeds, dates, and times. From the rate of travel at the time of the ticket to when you are required to appear in court, it is essential that you keep track of the specifics surrounding the matter. In some cases, simply showing up at court makes a huge difference, so if you plan to fight the ticket, make sure you are punctual.
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The best way to ensure a desirable outcome is to honestly assess whether it makes sense to contest the ticket. If, in good faith, believe that the ticket is wrongful and that there is a good chance of winning, then fighting the ticket may be worthwhile. However, if you are unlikely to win or are probably going to spend more time fighting it than the ticket is worth, it may be better to avoid court. Every speeding ticket results from a unique situation, so there is no universally correct answer to defending yourself. Simply do your research, follow the administrative procedure to the letter, and drive carefully.
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