You’re cruising down Interstate 95 with the radio on and your mind millions of miles away. That is, until you’re jolted to reality by the blare of the police siren and the glare of the squad car’s flashing blue lights. You pull over and start assembling your excuses. Before you can blurt them out, the officer has handed you a ticket. The charge: speeding. Driving home at a sheepish 54 miles an hour, you realize you were doing at least 70. You start to worry about car insurance — you can barely afford it now. Should you try to fight the ticket even if you know you broke the law?
Yes, says Mark Gold, the Miami lawyer who owns The Ticket Clinic, a high-volume legal practice that concentrates on helping drivers get off the hook.
“I recommend to everybody to challenge it,” Gold said, “especially if they have a bad record.”
For one, a guilty plea will smack 3 points on your license – rack up 12 points in 12 months, and you’ve lost your drivers license for 30 days. A conviction could also hike your insurance rates or get your policy canceled. Even if you plead no-contest and go to driving school, your insurance company may drop you.” He said.
“There are no guarantees,” he said, “but we’ve been relatively successful. Out of 45 speeding tickets we defended last month, only one person was found guilty and four people had an adjudication withheld. The rest were dismissed.”
Gold, who sports a red Ferrari and has beaten several tickets of his own, doesn’t have a magic wand. What he does have is a battery of defenses aimed at breaking down the government’s case. Gold is a master of traffic technicalities.
To defend a routine speeding case, Gold typically charges $200. A typical fine in a speeding case is $70 plus $39 for court costs, he said.
“If you know the rules, you can usually find some error in the way the citation was issued or the machine was calibrated.” He said.
Police typically use three methods to trap speeders — radar, a pace clock and a time distance computer. The radar machine the police use must be tested for accuracy every six months by a federally licensed technician. Gold often tries to prove that the machine hadn’t been tested recently or questions the qualifications of the technician. He also relies on standard courtroom rules of evidence, such as requiring the officer testifying to produce original documents, not photocopies.
More serious than speeding violations are cases involving reckless driving, driving with a suspended license or an expired tag or leaving the scene of an accident that results in property damage or injuries. All these involve the possibility of jail time.
Reckless driving is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $25 to $500 for a first conviction, but it’s often difficult for prosecutors to prove because they must show that the person was driving with a “wanton disregard” for safety, Caso said. These cases often involve attempts to elude a police officer in a chase.
“We view these very seriously because, when someone does that, they usually do it at a high rate of speed and they’re putting other people’s lives in danger.” He said.
Driving with a suspended license is punishable by up to a year in jail. Three such convictions within five years can result in a license being revoked for five years. In such cases, Gold says he tries to prove that the officer had no reason to stop the car or that the driver had not been properly notified by state regulators.
In cases involving an expired tag, a driver can often lighten his penalty by bringing a valid registration to the hearing.
Leaving the scene of an accident is perhaps the most serious traffic violation – next to driving under the influence. When you get into an accident, you are required by law to give your name, address, and vehicle registration number to the other driver. You are also supposed to remain at the scene until an officer shows up and, when he does, to show the officer your license.
The penalty for leaving the scene or refusing to provide this information is a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail. Gold said he successfully defended a client against this charge by proving that there was no property or bodily damage.
The best thing for drivers to do when they are pulled over is to act courteously Gold said. “My advice is to just be quiet and polite.” He said. “Don’t say anything: just ‘yes, sir,’ ‘thank you, sir.'”