So You Got a Speeding Ticket
We all know that sinking feeling when you are cruising down I-5, and all of a sudden, you see a Washington State Trooper sitting on the side of the road. You instantly look down at your speedometer and see your speeding. Your foot immediately slams on your brakes, hoping to avoid a costly speeding ticket. As you pass the Trooper, you look back in your rear-view mirror, and your stomach drops as you see the Trooper pulling out. In a matter of seconds, you see those colorful flashing lights in your rear-view mirror and realize you’re busted, about to be pulled over by a Washington State Trooper, and given a speeding ticket.
As the Trooper hands you the speeding ticket, a number of questions start running through your mind. What is this going to do to my insurance rates? Is this going to affect my current job or impact my future employment opportunities. How can I beat this speeding ticket?
After you get home, you read the fine print on the front of the ticket, your questions about your options still linger. What’s the best choice? You can’t afford the time to go to court, or you get nervous, even imagining that prospect. But you were going with the flow of traffic and didn’t think you deserve this speeding ticket. You start to think maybe it is better to just pay the damn thing and move on. After all, the Trooper said he gave you a break and reduced the speed. You start to wonder again, how can I beat a speeding ticket?
The Real Cost Of Not Fighting Your Speeding Ticket
The fine you pay for a speeding ticket is insignificant compared to the impact the conviction will have on your car insurance premium. In Washington State, once a speeding ticket is on your driving record, it will remain there for 3 years. Even if you have maintained a clean driving record up until that point, a single speeding ticket conviction will increase your car insurance rates. You can kiss that good driver discount goodbye!
According to Insurance.com, being convicted of a speeding ticket for 1-15 MPH over the limit could result in a 20 percent increase in your car insurance, based on a national average. A speeding ticket for 16-29 MPH over the limit could result in a 22 percent increase. These increases are for a single ticket on your record. As tickets pile up, these increases get substantially worse. Drivers with two violations paid 34 percent more.
What Does That Mean In Terms Of Dollars And Cents?
In Washington State, according to quote wizard, the average cost of car insurance is $884.24 per year. So, if your car insurance premium is $884.24, then you could see a $177.00 increase from one speeding ticket conviction. When you multiply that by 3 (number of years a ticket is on your record), you would be paying $531 more then you would have been before you received your speeding ticket and decided just to pay it.
These are significant numbers and if you get another ticket in that three-year period these costs will continue to rise. The damage to you is far greater than the cost of the fine.
Unfortunately, most drivers who receive a speeding ticket fail to comprehend these long-term consequences. It’s easier to pay off the fine and move on with your life.
Failing To See The Forest For The Trees
In 2019, Washington State officers wrote 706,773 traffic tickets. Producing more than $106 million in fines from Washington drivers. According to the latest state data, 43 percent of those drivers decided to simply pay them.
Another 13 percent of drivers asked for a mitigation hearing. This means they admitted guilt and asked for a reduction in the fine, but the ticket still went on their record and impacted their insurance rates.
Eight percent of drivers asked for a deferred finding. You can read more about deferred findings here. At least these drivers took steps to protect their driving record and avoid the increased insurance rates.
Unfortunately, only 13 percent of drivers saw the Forrest and decided to put up a fight and protect their driving record and insurance rates by asking for a contested hearing.
So, You Got A Speeding Ticket In Washington State.
Okay, so you were issued a speeding ticket. In Washington State, you have three options for resolving your speeding ticket.
It is important to remember that if the speeding ticket was given to you in person by the officer, you must respond within 15 days. If the ticket arrived in the mail, a response is due within 18 days.
What should you do with a speeding ticket? Drivers have three options:
- Pay it
This is a terrible option because the ticket will go on your driving record and likely impact your insurance rates.
- Ask for a mitigation hearing
With a mitigation hearing, you agree you committed the infraction, but want to explain the circumstances to a judge. The Judge may lower the fine, but it’s important to note that the ticket will become part of your driving record. If you request a deferred finding, the ticket may be placed “on hold” for six to twelve months. If all conditions are met, including getting no additional tickets during that time, then the ticket will be dismissed without going on your record. But a deferral can only be requested once every seven years for moving violations, like a speeding ticket.
- Contest the infraction
This is the only way to keep the ticket off your record, outside of a deferred finding. With a contested hearing, you either are asserting that you did not commit the infraction or that you require the state or city prosecutor to prove that you committed the infraction by a preponderance of the evidence.
Most traffic tickets in Washington State, like speeding tickets, are civil, not criminal. This means that the Judge determines your guilt or innocence on a lower standard of proof. In a criminal case, the standard of proof is beyond a reasonable doubt. While a civil traffic infraction (like a speeding ticket) is judged on a preponderance of the evidence standard. This means that the Judge will review all of the evidence, and will determine whether or not it is more likely than not that you committed the offense. You must understand this distinction before you contest your speeding ticket.
Before you decide, you should consider several factors.
- How many tickets do I currently have on my driving record?
- How will a speeding conviction impact my car insurance rates?
- How will a speeding ticket conviction impact my employment?
- Do you have enough time to adequately prepare your defense so you can beat a speeding ticket?
Preparing For A Contested Hearing – Give Yourself A Fighting Chance To Beat A Speeding Ticket
- Read the Infractions Rules of Limited Jurisdiction (IRLJ). These are the rules that govern contested hearings in addition to the rules of evidence.
- Request “discovery” from the prosecutor and court at least 14 days before your contested hearing. It’s best to either hand-deliver your request or else mail it via certified mail. You can download a template I have prepared here.
If you choose the personal-delivery method, bring three copies of your request: one for the prosecutor, one for the court, and your personal copy that will be date-stamped by both the prosecutor and the court. If you choose certified mail, request a return receipt from both parties.
If you choose to mail it, you must be aware of the mailbox rule, which adds three days to the time frame, so it should be mailed 18 days before the hearing. If the third day falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, then additional days must be added.
IRLJ 3.1 (b) requires that the prosecutor must provide a copy of the discovery to the individual – if it was timely requested – at least seven days before the hearing. If the discovery is not provided within that seven-day window, then the discovery will be suppressed upon a showing of prejudice in the individual’s case. If it’s not provided 24 hours before the hearing, then anything not provided must be suppressed.
The only things that are required to be provided are:
- A copy of the officer’s sworn report. In Washington, police officers are not required to be present at a contested hearing. Instead, the court will rely on the officer’s report, which includes how the police officer came in contact with the driver; the speed measuring device used to obtain the speed; and other foundational requirements. This report is what the court will use to determine the case, so it is vital that individuals get their hands on it if they want to fight their case.
- A copy of video or photographic evidence the prosecutor proposes to introduce at the contested hearing.
- The names of any witnesses not identified in the citing officer’s sworn statement.
- Visit the court before the contested hearing, to become familiar with traffic court and the Judge who will hear the case. This is probably the most important step in the success or failure of beating your speeding ticket if you chose not to hire a traffic ticket attorney. The reason being is that each court is different. In some courts, there will be a prosecutor at the hearing that you may be able to work out a deal with. While in other courts, it will only be you and the Judge.
- For example, in King County District Court, a prosecutor will almost always be present at your contested hearing while in Pierce County District Court and Thurston County District Court, it will only be you and the Judge. You need to know what you will be dealing with on the day of your contested hearing.
- Pro Tip: When you go to court to observe the process before your assigned contested hearing date, pay attention to the arguments that traffic ticket attorneys like myself are making to the Judge. Hopefully, by this time, you have got your hands on your police report. Review it and see if any of the arguments that we are making can be used in your case.
- Learn the issues that WON’T help you beat a speeding ticket. Examples include:
- Errors in factual information – The officer made mistakes in what was written on the ticket, such as the spelling of your name or your weight or hair color. In Washington State, a speeding ticket will not be dismissed for a minor defect, imperfection or omission that does not substantially prejudice your rights to a fair hearing.
- The officer had your speed wrong – You were just going 5 mph, not 15 mph, over the limit. Or you were driving with the flow of traffic, or the officer must have pulled over the wrong car.
- You didn’t see the speed limit sign.
- Your speedometer or cruise control malfunctioned.
- Learn the issues that CAN help you beat a speeding ticket. Examples include:
- Insufficient Notice of Infraction – This section of the law lays out what must be included in the Notice of Infraction, the ticket that was given to a driver by the officer. The ticket must include certain details such as the vehicle make, model, style, and so forth. However, because of the issues outlined above, this rarely is a successful argument with most judges.
- Improper venue – This section requires that the contested hearing be heard in the District Court or Municipal Court, where the infraction occurred. For example, if you were speeding in Pierce County. The case could not be heard in King County.
- Untimely filing of infraction – This section requires that a ticket that was handed to a driver from a police officer was filed with the court within five days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays). Day one would be the day after you received the ticket. The court clerk can provide the date of filing. It can also be located by requesting a copy of the docket for your case and finding the date it was filed.
- Untimely Scheduling – The court must give you a hearing within 120 days from the date the ticket was issued. However, the law waives this requirement if you don’t object to the hearing date set in a timely way.
- Inadequate SMD Certification – The officer’s Speed Measuring Device (SMD) must be regularly maintained and calibrated according to specific rules.
- The police report doesn’t contain elements of the violation – Consult the Washington state speeding statute. Be on the lookout for: Does the officer say what the speed limit was, and what your speed was? This typically is a stronger argument with non-speeding traffic infractions, because they have additional elements to the charges. However, because Washington is a “per se” speed limit state, if you are traveling even one mph above the posted speed limit, you are in violation and can be cited with a speeding ticket.
- Evidence is Hearsay – Hearsay is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
Should You Hire A Traffic Ticket Attorney To Beat A Speeding Ticket?
The average cost of hiring a traffic ticket attorney in Western Washington is $250. Most attorneys have very high success rates.
Most people would agree that it makes sense financially to pay more upfront so that you can save a significant amount of money down the road.
But the comparative costs of hiring an attorney versus dealing with insurance rate hikes are just part of the story.
How much is your time worth? Typically, you don’t need to even appear in court if you hire a traffic attorney. You can save yourself the stress and time involved with both preparing and presenting your own case.
So, if you’d prefer not to pay more over the next three years, give us a call. At Garguile DUI & Traffic Lawyers, we fight traffic tickets throughout the greater Puget Sound. Call us today for a free case evaluation on your traffic ticket and let us help you keep your insurance rates low.