Hire a Traffic Attorney.
Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, who gets a speeding ticket, should hire a traffic lawyer to put up the best possible ticket defense. The big reasons are that you don’t have to show up for court, the traffic attorney will fight your ticket for you, and the best traffic lawyers know how to beat a speeding infraction. Let’s start off with what you need to do before you even get behind the wheel.
Carry valid license and insurance. This is pretty obvious. Not so obvious is the fact that your registration needs to be signed. If it isn’t, you can get a ticket for that too. You also want to make sure that all of your lights work. If you have a third brake light, each light has to work. We see a lot of infractions that include a “burned out tail light” when the only light not working is the third brake light in the rear window. Make sure everything functions.
License plates: you are required to have a front license plate. You are not allowed to have anything obstructing the plate. This includes ball hitches, dirt, and license plate covers – even the clear ones. For you motorcycle guys, the plate has flat, not angled, but 90 degrees to the ground, and the alpha numeric must be oriented so that the tops of letters and numbers are
Tinted windows look cool, and the privacy is nice, but if they are too dark, the cops can give you a traffic infraction. You can run a little tint on your front window, but it can’t obscure your vision while driving. If you look at your windows by the front pillars, you’ll see little lines that indicate the maximum distance from the top of the window that stickers or tint can extend to.
Even though a cracked window does absolutely nothing to obstruct your view, an officer can use it as an excuse to pull you over and write you an equipment violation. If you were drinking, you’ll also end up doing a breath test back at the station. See our DUI blog for more info on what to do and not do following a DUI stop.
If your car is squared away, then you’re ready to go into the world. If your car has some equipment issues, you are likely going to get pulled over; especially in Fife or Lakewood, or if the WSP are around. (Brotha alert: Never, never, ever go to Lakewood. “Black” and “Gang Member” mean the same thing there.) Once you’re on the road, follow the laws. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as you think. Especially in the Cities of Lakewood and Fife where anything can be a traffic violation.
Use your signal every time you change lanes, or want to turn. If you’ve missed your turn, continue on until you can safely turn around. Cops love citing people for failing to signal. They also love to claim people fail to signal when they make a DUI stop. Always signal.
Obey the Speed Limit. If you don’t obey the speed limit, then don’t admit it when you get caught. Minimizing your speed is the same as admitting breaking the law. For instance, if the speed limit is 60 mph, and you’re cruising along at 75 when the cop hits his lights, don’t pull over and tell the cop that you were only doing 65. That’s admitting to breaking the law. The cop won’t care, and the judge won’t care. The cop will cite you for speeding regardless of how fast you say you were going.
Since you don’t have to say anything to the cops when they pull you over, say nothing. Have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready to go, and politely decline to answer questions, which brings up another point: Be Polite. Cops have a tough job. Don’t make it any tougher on them, or yourself, by arguing with them about your infraction. That’s a fight you will never win.
If you have anything you don’t want the cop to see, do not have it in the passenger compartment with you. Put that stuff in the trunk where a cop isn’t likely to look and is very unlikely to see it. Drugs (medical marijuana included), guns (if you have a CCP advise the cop that you are armed if there is ANY chance he will see your piece), hookers and stolen/illegal stuff, should be kept in your trunk. Incidentally, if you are usually strapped, do not drink and drive while armed. Cops can take your weapons, and prosecutors, at least in Pierce and King County, will attempt to forfeit your weapons. If you’re gonna drink, unload your weapon, clear your weapon, and secure your weapon in your trunk.
For those of you with a CDL, all of the above is very important. The most important thing to do during a stop for speeding, reckless driving, negligent driving, speed too fast for conditions, or failure to maintain a safe distance, is keep your trap shut and don’t make any statements. Your traffic ticket attorney can do a better job for you if you say NOTHING.
Once you get a traffic infraction you will probably wonder, “how do I fight a traffic ticket”, or “how do I fight a speeding ticket?” Your best bet is to hire a traffic attorney to fight things for you. These cases are won on technicalities, and not the facts. But first things first. You need to request a “Contested Hearing”. Incidentally, all of this information applies only to tickets in the State of Washington.
Check the Contested Hearing box (third box down on the ticket) and sign and date the ticket. Fill out an envelope with the appropriate court name and address which you’ll find on the ticket itself. Put a stamp on the envelope. Make a photocopy of the front of the ticket and the front of the envelope showing the proper address and postage. Put the ticket in the envelope and mail it within 15 days of the citation. Keep the photocopy somewhere safe as it’s proof you timely requested the traffic court hearing. When you get the court date, make sure you show up. Alternatively, hire a traffic lawyer to do all of this for you, so you can chill.
Before you go to court, you need to get a copy of the discovery. Discovery includes a copy of the infraction, the officer’s statement about what happened, and the “6.6 Declaration” from the expert who certified the speed measuring device used. When you go to court for your speeding ticket, if you didn’t hire an infraction attorney, you need to know how to attack the most basic technical errors with tickets. This requires paying attention to some things. Read your ticket several times looking for the following problems.
Vehicle type. Most courts will dismiss if the officer forgot to put vehicle type such as sedan, pickup, motorcycle, etc. Make sure he didn’t put the vehicle type elsewhere in the ticket, though.
Timely filed. Cops have five business days to file. Business days don’t include weekends, or holidays, so basically, they have at least one week to file. The new tickets that come on 8.5”x11” paper are pretty much automatically filed, so there won’t be a filing issue. However, the old green tickets
RCW 9A.72. The green tickets require the declaration be signed “under the penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington.” The declaration has to be signed by the cop who witnessed the violation and it has to have this language. If it doesn’t, ask to have the ticket dismissed.
6.6 errors. Look for information within the 6.6 document that the speed measuring device (SMD) was “tested under the direction of…”. The guy who signed the 6.6 is supposed to test the SMD, not some unknown person.
6.6 Attachment A. This little steaming pile nonsense is rarely signed as required by 9A.72. Even when it is, nobody has any reasonable explanation for what specifically it is accomplishing. Sadly, not every court understands this. Judges are elected, not necessarily brilliant.
Pace. Did the cop follow you for at least ¼ mile at a consistent distance and speed? Does he mention his training to pace, or looking at the speedo? If not, there is no foundation for how fast you were going.
SMD Testing. The device needs to be tested before and after the stop. Does the cop’s declaration say this? If not, ask for a dismissal. The tests include checking the LED lights to make sure they all work, an internal diagnostic, and for lasers a reticular alignment test, and distance test at a minimum of 100’. If the cops declaration doesn’t detail all of these tests, ask for a dismissal.
There is much, much more to fighting tickets including the caselaw that supports everything traffic attorneys do to get infractions kicked out of court. Do yourself a favor though and let your lawyer get grilled by the judge and prosecutor while you sit at home, work or school. We know how to beat these things, so let us work for you and keep your record clean, and your insurance low. We have decades of combined experience defending drivers and riders. Call for your free consultation.
~ Jim Oliver is a partner at Durflinger Oliver. When he’s not in court defending motorsports enthusiast accused of driving too fast, he can be found on the road wringing out his ’65 Mustang Fastback at triple digit speeds whenever he gets the chance.