BY JUDGE STEVEN WALLACE, ORDERVILLE JUSTICE COURT
Most people don’t contest a speeding ticket. It’s a law that everybody violates and they’re counting on another law – the law of averages – to protect them from getting cited.
But the law of averages is not only a presumption, it also works both ways. So people get caught, they know they were speeding, and they pay up. Usually. A man cited for speeding in my courtroom recently contested the ticket and presented the unique defense that the deputy had written on his ticket that he had a Georgia tag when he actually had a Florida tag. Perhaps I was supposed to deduce that the deputy couldn’t tell a peach from an orange, assuming that was even relevant. In the process of testifying, he admitted that he’d been speeding. He had driven an hour and a half from his home to produce this modest imitation of Perry Mason.
People who contest speeding tickets are rarely that unique.
Most arguments are both familiar and unconvincing. What follows is a top ten list of common defenses heard from speeding ticket contesters.
1. I wasn’t speeding. Nothing is ever proffered to support this position, nor is any attempt made to question the validity of the speed detection device utilized by the law enforcement officer. “He must be wrong” is essentially the defense.
2. He must have clocked the car next to me. This invariably is presented with a straight face on the unstated supposition that the law enforcement officer must have been inadequately trained to distinguish one vehicle from another. I look forward to the day the cop counters that he’d have stopped both vehicles except the other one was driven by an attractive blonde.
3. I was just going with the flow of traffic. A common explanation for this phenomenon is that the driver really was just going with the flow but only because he’d just caught up with it and was waiting to pass.
4. If I was speeding, I didn’t mean to. Most people don’t realize that speeding is not an offense requiring proof of intent.
5. He targeted me because I’m from out of state. Maybe this was the same cop who couldn’t tell Florida from Georgia.
6. My speedometer said I was doing the speed limit. This is a defense where its truth or falsity is irrelevant. Perhaps the driver needs to have an expert check his eyes or his speedometer’s accuracy.
7. I was late for work. At best this one is a plea for mitigation of sentence, since it’s not a valid defense.
8. I was trying to get away from a guy who was tailgating me. This might be deemed the traffic court version of a selfdefense plea.
9. I was going downhill. Whenever I hear this, I have to ask if the driver knows what that other floor pedal is, you know, the gizmo referred to as a brake.
10. I heard it’s okay if you’re only 10 mph over the limit. A too common misconception, probably peddled by drivers who eventually end up getting suspended for points.
On occasion ill-informed people are heard to complain that justice courts are nothing more than cash cows for their towns or counties. It may be that things such as speeding tickets bring in revenue, but that’s not why these laws are enforced. What is at work here is an honest effort to keep citizens safe and protected from scofflaws who flaunt speed laws and put innocent bystanders and other drivers at risk in the process. Enforcement of speed limits is important work, just as is giving drivers who want it their day in court.