Unless you drive like a senior citizen, there’s a good chance you know the terrible feeling of seeing those unmistakable, flashing red-and-blue lights ignite in your rearview mirror after you’ve been zooming down the road. Now, we realize that nothing we say here will stop your heart from pounding as you get pulled over, but we’ll try anyway. Remember: Traffic stops happen to everyone and they’re definitely not the end of the world.
That said, if you employ some insider know-how and a little bit of charm, there’s a good chance you can talk you way out of getting a dreaded ticket—and avoid accruing points on your license and that oh-so-wonderful trip to traffic court. If that sounds good to you, Steve McQueen, read on, and good luck! And if you find run-ins with the law to be particularly stressful, it may help you to remember the Single Best Way to Beat Stress.
Respect the officer
Demeanor is important. So don’t slam on the brakes when you pull over. Position the car as far off the road as possible to make the officer feel safe from becoming road pizza, produce your license immediately, answer all of the officer’s questions clearly, and stay in your car. Officers make notations as to the attitude of the driver. People who take out their aggression on the trooper are making a big mistake, says Massachusetts-based lawyer Geoffrey G. Nathan, a former prosecutor who specializes in speeding tickets.
Sit down with the law
Few people fighting their own tickets think to call the prosecutor who will present the case against them to the judge, and/or the police officer who wrote the ticket, to request a pretrial conference (yes, this is legal). Nathan finds that negotiating with the law usually works. Most people who lose their license drive anyway, he says, and police don’t want to turn the average guy into a criminal.
Offer a bribe
Okay, we really don’t mean a bribe, but money does talk. “I had a client in Mississippi who made a charitable contribution in exchange for withdrawal of the ticket,” Nathan says. It’s not as bad as it sounds; you don’t need to donate to the Policeman’s Ball. Nathan’s had clients donate to homeless shelters or volunteer to do community service in exchange for leniency.
If all else fails, sometimes the best defense is one of the oldest: Beg the court for mercy, says Nathan. A first-time offender is ripe for that.
Just show up
On any given day, a court might have 200 cases, and they can’t get through those in a day if there’s a trial for every case, says David Michaud, a New Jersey-based attorney who practices criminal and traffic law. The court will generally reduce your ticket to the next lower level and give you a point reduction just for showing up. If you’re aiming for a major reduction–say, reducing a four-point ticket to a no-pointer–then you’ll definitely need help from a paid professional. Sometimes you’re paying a plumber to fix a leak you could repair yourself, he says. Other times you’re paying a plumber to fix a cracked pipe because you don’t have the tools. And for those feeling emboldened by sliding past the clutches of the law, here are 10 Ways to Speed Without Getting a Ticket.
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