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Traffic ticket - worth fighting?
Old 04-18-2014, 10:31 AM   #1
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Traffic ticket - worth fighting?

I'd be interested in some opinions on what to do about a traffic citation I received recently. It was for "driving through a no-passing zone to get to left turn lane"... a very minor offense (IMHO). The fine is $140, which seems stratospheric for this kind of minor infraction. I went to traffic court yesterday and got an automatic continuance of my case for another 5 weeks. Now I need to figure out what to do when I go back, because I'll have to either plead guilty and pay the fine, plead "nolo" and pay the fine, or plead not guilty and go back to court later for a bench trial.

What would you do in my situation? I am tempted at this point to just plead "nolo" and pay the exorbitant fine, especially because I understand that by pleading "nolo", the state of Georgia will not assign any points to my driving record (I currently have 0 points). Apparently you can plead "nolo" once every five years for minor violations like this and not receive points.

Part of me wants to plead not guilty and have my day in court to try to get this dismissed and avoid the fine. I think I have a fairly strong case, but it's definitely not a slam dunk. Is it worth the extra time and hassle to try to fight it, just to save $140? I have not had a traffic citation in over 15 years prior to this, so my experience with the municipal court system is basically nil.

Appreciate any and all opinions!
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Old 04-18-2014, 10:51 AM   #2
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Take whatever action results in your insurance company NOT finding out about the infraction.
I tried in the past to fight a speeding ticket, but afterwards realized the futility of the endeavor ! So the most important thing is to NOT have your rate go up.
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Old 04-18-2014, 10:56 AM   #3
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$140 not worth the hassle to me. You might be stuck the whole day in the muni court.
Plead nolo and pay the fine. (In a lot of jurisdictions you can do it online).
Also - The judge might not accept your nolo, but if you have not had any citations in 15 year it would be very unusual.
BTW: It must have been a while if you think $140 is a big fine? City of Doraville and ATL routinely give $200-$400 speeding tickets

sailor,
who has last one about the same time as you, but have a lot of speeding coworkers going to traffic courts.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:02 AM   #4
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Why do you think you have a good case? While it isn't clear to me what you did, it sounds like it was not within the letter of the law. That is what they will look at in deciding the case.

While you and I may feel that the infraction is minor and didn't create a danger, if it was a violation your don't have much of a defense. It would be the same as getting caught doing rolling stop through a remote intersection with no other cars anywhere nearby. Is it an innocuous violation? Yes. Did it create a danger? No. Will you be found guilty? Yes. The judge will look at the law.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:08 AM   #5
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If it makes you feel any better, I got (not recently) a couple of parking tickets that costed $30 each. Guess the community has to generate income somehow

I would pay the ticket to get that out of the way. That's what I did with the parking tickets. Otherwise, the more you wait, the more of a ripoff the ticket feels like.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:12 AM   #6
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Every state (and every jurisdiction) is different, but normally the exact infraction should be written on the citation. As a police officer, I have serious doubts that "driving thru a no passing zone to get to left turn lane" is an actual listed in fraction. I'm trying to picture in my head what you did and can't figure out what you did or what he thought you did. A no passing zone would normally include crossing a double yellow line, but I cant figure out how you did that. Did you pass some cars on the left that were backed up at an intersection and blocking you from entering the left turn lane that was empty? Need details.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:15 AM   #7
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This is a job for a traffic attorney. If it is indeed minor and easy to challenge the fee shouldn't be much more than the fine itself. No harm in checking.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:25 AM   #8
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I think I have a fairly good case because of how the relevant section of Georgia code is phrased. Section 40-6-46 states that no-passing zones must be "in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person" and must be "clearly marked". The particular no-passing zone I was accused of driving through is quite faded (the yellow lines look as though they haven't been repainted in 10-15 years) and also is very difficult to see from a reasonable distance because the zone is on top of a fairly steep hill as it flattens out near the intersection. I have some photos to show this, but of course it's all very subjective and the judge could easily say the no-passing zone was clearly visible. Honestly, this no-passing zone is one of the least well-marked ones of any in the area (I have taken notice of lots of them since I received the citation), but again, that's probably not legally relevant.

And yes, $140 does seem like a lot to me for this kind of thing. The last ticket I got way back in the 90's was for a similar violation and cost all of $60!
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:28 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by utrecht View Post
Did you pass some cars on the left that were backed up at an intersection and blocking you from entering the left turn lane that was empty? Need details.
Yes, this is exactly what I did. The no-passing zone was not visible when I drove into the turning lane and started driving up the hill to reach the left turn lane. The no-passing zone did become visible just before I reached it, because the hill flattened out near the intersection, enabling me to see the no-passing zone striping.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:32 AM   #10
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I see now. I seem to recall that around here people have avoided similar violations where the markings were very faded so it may be worth a shot.

We got DW off a speeding ticket a number of years ago because the distance between the speed 25 ahead sign and the speed limit 25 sign was less than required by statute. Interestingly, the speed 25 ahead sign was moved further back the very next day.
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Old 04-18-2014, 11:43 AM   #11
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[QUOTE=Sojourner;1439751]I think I have a fairly good case because of how the relevant section of Georgia code is phrased. Section 40-6-46 states that no-passing zones must be "in place and clearly visible to an ordinarily observant person" and must be "clearly marked". The particular no-passing zone I was accused of driving through is quite faded (the yellow lines look as though they haven't been repainted in 10-15 years) and also is very difficult to see from a reasonable distance because the zone is on top of a fairly steep hill as it flattens out near the intersection. I have some photos to show this, but of course it's all very subjective and the judge could easily say the no-passing zone was clearly visible. Honestly, this no-passing zone is one of the least well-marked ones of any in the area (I have taken notice of lots of them since I received the citation), but again, that's probably not legally relevant.

Traffic court judges are really not looking too deeply into these cases...they presume you're guilty. Your proposed defense has some merit, but more importantly there is enough legal/technical basis to not rule in your favor. That's all the Judge will need to rule against you.
From a practical perspective, if that Nolo plea will not affect your insurance that is one better option. Another possible option: up here in New Jersey/NY, a poorly kept secret is to plead not guilty. Then, prior to going before the Judge they have you meet with a Court attorney who lets you plead down to some sort of non-moving violation - no points, and often a slightly lower fine.
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Old 04-18-2014, 12:01 PM   #12
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You got caught. Pay the ticket.
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Old 04-18-2014, 12:41 PM   #13
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Back in the 1980s I once pled down to a violation which had a lower fine but with 1 more license point because I knew in a few months I would be able to renew my defensive driver course and get the points removed. No increase to my (New York) insurance rates but instead a continuation of my defensive driver course discount for the next 3 years.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:27 PM   #14
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In my state you meet with the prosecuting attorney over most minor traffic citations before appearing before a judge. The purpose: to cut a deal on a reduced charge. Often speeding becomes "defective speedometer," unsafe lane deviation becomes "improper parking." The reduction clears the court calender while allowing the defendant to get off with a non-moving violation.

So basically all you have to do to get the charge reduced is to show up.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:35 PM   #15
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If you fight the ticket and lose, you're going to have to pay court costs on top of the ticket. You're $140 fine may become $300+ if you lose. Based on your description of the incident, I would say its 50/50 whether or not you can beat the ticket depending on the judge. Some traffic court judges think everyone is guilty. Some are predisposed to think cops love writing tickets for no reason other than the fact that they can, and let people off all the time. So you're basically flipping a coin for $150 or more and you going to waste half a day. Personally I would plead no contest and pay the fine. Its not worth the hassle.
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Old 04-18-2014, 01:37 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Mr._Graybeard View Post
In my state you meet with the prosecuting attorney over most minor traffic citations before appearing before a judge. The purpose: to cut a deal on a reduced charge. Often speeding becomes "defective speedometer," unsafe lane deviation becomes "improper parking." The reduction clears the court calender while allowing the defendant to get off with a non-moving violation.

So basically all you have to do to get the charge reduced is to show up.
I can vouch that this is true. Also, depending on the cop, there's a better than avg chance he wont show up which means the ticket has to be dismissed.
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Old 04-18-2014, 02:42 PM   #17
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The answer, as with most things, is "it depends".

If it were me, and I had a 9-to-5 job, and would have to take time off work to fight it, or pay a traffic attorney, or risk having insurance go up, I'd pay the fine in whatever way would let me avoid points, and get on with life.

However, if I had plenty of time (retired), not concerned too much with money or insurance rates, and felt I was truly in the right, I'd fight it. I'd hire the best traffic attorney I could, go for a jury trial, etc. The whole enchilada.
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Old 04-18-2014, 02:43 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
Yes, this is exactly what I did. The no-passing zone was not visible when I drove into the turning lane and started driving up the hill to reach the left turn lane. The no-passing zone did become visible just before I reached it, because the hill flattened out near the intersection, enabling me to see the no-passing zone striping.
So you admit to breaking the law, but don't want to pay your fine.

Don't do the crime, if you can't do the time (or can't pay the fine)
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Old 04-18-2014, 02:54 PM   #19
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It seems to me the OP clearly broke the law simply due to impatience. He should pay the ticket and be glad he didn't cause an accident.
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Old 04-18-2014, 03:12 PM   #20
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Okay, yet another opinion.

Traffic courts are probably highly local, procedures vary widely so what works in one jurisdiction may be irrelevant in another.

That said, if you're still working and have to take time off I'd just pay it. If you're retired and feel like taking the time, show up for court. First thing is to determine if the officer who wrote the ticket is present. If not, it's a slam dunk to plead not guilty. No witness, no evidence, the judge will almost certainly dismiss it rather than continue it for yet a third time. That works in MD, perhaps not in GA.

Otherwise show up with the photos (enlarged to at least 8x10 please) showing the lines were faded and not clearly visible and plead not guilty. The judge may or may not buy that.

And it's worth a shot to ask to have a talk with the state's attorney and ask about pleading to a lesser offense. Where I worked they were extremely overworked people and didn't have time for that but GA may be a bit more laid-back.
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