How to Defend Against a Red Light Ticket in Traffic Court

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At some point in your driving career, you are likely to get a traffic ticket. It is usually easier to pay the fine and go to traffic school to keep the ticket from increasing your car insurance rates. However, at times, it is advisable to fight the ticket. This is especially true if you have proof that you are not guilty of the violation. Contrary to popular belief, many officers do show up as witnesses in traffic court. It is best to go to court prepared to face the judge and the officer with proof in hand to defend yourself.

Red Light Traffic Signal.
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Step 1

Begin preparing your defense. Use the notebook and paper to write out and organize the specific defenses you plan to use.

Prepare your defense.
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Step 2

Step into the officer's shoes. Take pictures from the officer's position on the same day of the week and at the same time of day as when you received your ticket. If traffic was heavy, the police officer may not have been able to see if your vehicle was already in the intersection the moment the light turned red. Keep these pictures in a pocket of your notebook. This evidence may help the judge determine that you may not have committed the red light violation.

Put yourself in the officer's shoes.
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Step 3

Find out if there were any bushes, signs or buildings that could possibly have obscured the officer's view of the traffic signal or your vehicle. Take pictures of any possible obstructions. Place this evidence in your notebook.

Were there any obstructions obscuring the officer's view?
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Step 4

Take pictures of the icy or wet road at the intersection where you received the ticket. Keep these photos in your notebook. Write an explanation in your notebook. Explain that you applied your brakes, but your vehicle began to slide into the intersection. Argue that to regain control of your vehicle safely and avoid a collision, you had to run the red light. Please note that this is an excuse for violating the vehicle code, so only use it as a last resort. A judge is likely to find that you have a good excuse, but you are still guilty of the violation.

Take photos of the icy or wet road at the intersection where you received the ticket.
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Step 5

Defend yourself by creating doubt that you entered the intersection after the light turned red. Write out a detailed explanation showing that you are certain the light turned red after your vehicle entered the intersection.

Create doubt that you entered the intersection after the light turned red.
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Step 6

Research the vehicle code indicated on your ticket. In your notebook, keep a copy of the code section you are accused of violating. Find an element of the vehicle code for that violation that you did not violate. Write out a defensive statement that explains how you did not violate the specific element noted in the code. In most states, entering the intersection against a red light is a violation; however, being in the intersection when the light turns red is not a red light violation.

Research the vehicle code indicated on your ticket.
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Step 7

Pay your ticket by the due date. To obtain a court date, you must pay the violation fee and request a trial simultaneously. A trial date is usually set within 60 days of the violation. Many states have speedy trial laws that require trial dates be set within a certain amount of time. However, the timing of this date is subject to the laws of your state.

Pay your ticket by the due date.
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Step 8

Take a half-day off from work to be a spectator in a traffic court. If you know the judge and courtroom your trial is set in, try to go to that same courtroom and watch how your judge handles the defendants. Take notes and keep them in your notebook.

Take a half-day off from work to be a spectator in a traffic court.
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Step 9

Practice presenting your defense in front of friends and family members. Practice in front of a mirror. Use your notebook to go through your defenses one by one. Show up to court prepared with your defense, notebook and pictures. Be sure to dress appropriately and arrive early. Remember to plead "Not guilty."

Practice presenting your defense in front of friends and family.
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Tips & Warnings

  • Object if the officer says that he observed the traffic light turn red when he was not facing the traffic light. If he was not facing the signal, then he was not an eyewitness. How can he turn to look at the signal and see when your vehicle entered the intersection at the same time? Request that the officer describe how he observed both the traffic light turning red and the moment your vehicle entered the intersection.
  • In cases where a negative outcome could severely affect your driving privileges, seek the advice of a knowledgeable traffic attorney.

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