Learning About Criminal Law Proceedings

What You Should Know About Presumed Speed Limits And How You Can Successfully Fight A Ticket

There are times when contesting a speeding ticket may be to your advantage; for example, if a conviction will result in the loss of your driving privileges or cancellation of insurance, then it is probably a good idea to fight a ticket in court. While there are a variety of defense strategies to use in a speeding ticket case, some individuals miss out on the big picture by not understanding their own state speeding laws. Below is more information on presumed speed limits and how knowledge of this legal doctrine can benefit you in court:

Presumed versus absolute speed limits

It may surprise you to learn that the posted speed limit in some states may be legally violated in certain circumstances. These states use what is known as presumed speed limits to govern the speed of a motorist, rather than a "line in the sand", known as absolute speed limits.

Presumed speed limit legal doctrine, in its most-distilled form, provides for a defense in court for drivers who were cited. If the cited driver can establish their speeds were safe and appropriate for the conditions at the time, then the court may choose to dismiss the violation.

Thirteen of the fifty United States adhere to some form of the presumed speed limit doctrine, including populous states such as California, Texas, Colorado and Michigan. That means if you receive a speeding ticket in a jurisdiction governed by presumed speed limits, then you will want to explore your special options for contesting it.

Strategies to use when contesting a ticket in presumed speed limit jurisdictions

If you have been cited for speeding in a presumed speed limit state, then there are specific strategies you can use to help get the ticket dismissed. Below are a few of these strategies:

Avoid contesting the officer's assessment of your speed

In an absolute speed limit jurisdiction, the best defense is often to cause the court to doubt the officer's assessment of your true speed. However, this approach is not without possible pitfalls, one of which is the negative emotional impact you might make on a judge by questioning officer competence. That is why in presumed speed limit jurisdictions, it is best to avoid making this particular argument and rely on other approaches instead.

Provide photographic evidence that conditions were safe

One of the best ways to establish your speed was reasonable for the conditions is to introduce photographic evidence. To do so, return to the location where you were cited, then take multiple photographs that demonstrate the conditions were safe. For example, take photos that show lane markings are clear, visibility isn't obstructed, traffic is light and other factors that will be in your favor.

Conversely, don't take pictures on rainy or snowy days, in rush hour traffic or in other circumstances that would cause the court to doubt your assertion. After you take the pictures, have them enlarged to eight-by-ten inch prints that can be easily-shown to a judge.

Provide concrete data that supports your case

Along with photographs, it can also be to your advantage to introduce documented evidence that supports your case. There are several hard facts you can cite as a defense:

  • Average speed - If you are able to access a radar gun, then taking speed measurements of vehicles passing through the point at which you were cited may prove to be helpful. Handheld radar guns may be available to borrow from baseball coaches or a "friendly", local police officer.

  • Accident data - Obtain data that helps establish the number of traffic accidents is low for the area in which you were cited. Police and court records, as well as insurance companies, can help you locate this information.

  • Your driving record - If you have an accident-free driving record, you might be able to introduce this factor as evidence of your overall, superior driving ability. This can help sway the court by providing credibility about your assertion that you can competently judge driving conditions and respond accordingly.

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