Beating a Speeding Ticket: This is TERRIBLE advice.

If you are looking for a video with some absolutely horrendous legal advice, I have just the thing for you. You can thank me later. Here it is:

Please don’t watch it. I did. If you watch it you’ll be less likely to have any idea what to do in court. I watched it and now I’m not even sure I know what I’m doing in court. Over 111k people who aren’t me have also watched it.

America, you scare me.

Going no farther than the preview image, give me 3 minutes (or less) of your time to explain why this video will hurt your chances in court:

  1. Be Nice

This is actually good advice. Be nice to the clerks, the bailiffs, the front door security… no matter how grumpy they are to you. Being a jerk will never help.

2. Talk to the police before your trial.

OH. HELL. NO.

Look, it’s very possible you could have a good, constructive dialogue with the cop. It’s also very possible you’re about to admit things to the cop you shouldn’t and that will be used against you if the case goes to trial.

Think about it like this: You already talked to the cop when you got the ticket. How did that work out for you?

Yes, she/he was nice. Yes, they are probably still nice. No, the case isn’t going away because the nice person was nice to you and you were nice back.

Have you ever thought about the fact that that trained, nice officer can probably use that niceness to talk you into taking a deal that might not be your best deal (and make you feel good about it in the process)?

Am I saying they’re manipulative? No. I’m saying they know their way around the system. You don’t. You won’t talk them into doing something they don’t want to do.

Am I saying to ignore or be a jerk to them? No. See point 1. above.

Don’t believe me? Google search “should I talk to the police” and let a million other lawyers explain it to you.

3. Dress nicely.

Won’t hurt. Could possibly backfire if you’re dressed too nicely. Better to look good than not good, though.

4. Pleading guilty early will reduce your fine.

YOUR WHAT HURTS?

Look, I know there are situations where mailing in a ticket with a plea of guilty might result in less financial pain, but this is TERRIBLE advice. In Illinois, anyway, mailing in a plea of guilty will also result in your having to do a minimum of 4 hours of traffic school, or taking a conviction (which will likely effect your insurance rates).

Often times you can avoid that minimum 4 hour traffic school and/or conviction in court.

Am I telling you to NOT plead guilty early? Not at all. I’m telling you that the blanket advice to plead guilty early to avoid higher fines is terrible.

(especially if you go to trial and win, in which case the fines are zero- a number likely lower than you’ll get on an early plea)

5. The police officer can remove counts.

Are you guys even seeing this crazy nonsense? The officer’s chance to remove counts happens when she or he writes you those tickets. Did those tickets already end up in court? Yeah? They did? Cool.

Now that officer is going to waive a magic wand for you? Gotcha. Keep on believing. Forget that the judge and prosecutor have any say (the final say).

6. If you’re going to go to trial don’t confess.

I changed his language on this but it’s not terrible by itself. Although you’d be better off if you didn’t confess to anybody at any point.

7. Delaying Court.

If you watch the video he talks about how delaying things may end up with the officer switching departments, moving away, etc and being unable to testify at your trial. That’s true.

Since we’re talking about traffic tickets, how much of your own time do you want to waste waiting for an officer who may work there another 20 years to not work there? How many vacation days are you willing to burn playing this game?

All of them? Cool. Odds are the judge will tire of your requests for delay before the officer disappears. Maybe not. Take your shot if you’re feeling lucky (and don’t value your own time enough to think sitting in a courtroom for half a day, several times, is a waste of money).

8. Police officer not present.

The case might get dropped (depending on the type of ticket) if the cop is unavailable to come to the trial. If it’s not set for trial the cop doesn’t have to be there.

None of this is really advice. If you know how to make a cop have better things to do than to show up at your traffic ticket trial, good for you. Most officers like their jobs and won’t randomly miss trial dates. And most traffic court dates aren’t for trial.

9. Be prepared.

Be the best little boy scout you can be. Not totally terrible advice.

10. Request documents.

This is a great point. You can use something like FOIA to get the legal documents for your case. You can also ask the prosecutor, who might (but doesn’t always have to) give them to you.

You can also look at the ticket the cop gave you because unless you REALLY screwed up the only document there is to get is the ticket.

Get those documents that are going to look exactly like the documents you already have. Go nuts. You be you, Perry Mason.

On the other hand…

Here’s some legitimately good advice: there are a lot of “how to beat your ticket” videos on Youtube. If they’re made by a current/ex police officer or some random dude that went to traffic court one time, click past them and waste you time watching Defense Lawyers Watching Videos.

5 Expert Tips For Talking To The Police, and A Bonus 6th That Will Blow Your Mind!

The police want to talk to you. Maybe they’ve called you. Maybe they’ve stopped by your house. Maybe they’ve even pulled you over and arrested you for DUI. What are you going to do?

Sounds like a tricky situation? Not if you take this splendid advice. Utilize these pro tips and never worry again.

Tip 1: Don’t talk to the police.

Sure, they’re being nice. They just want you to come down to the station “to clarify some things” or answer some questions to “make sure you’re o.k. to drive tonight.”  That’s all totally legit as they’d never lie to you, but the smart money says you should just shut up and not help them out (because if you talk, you will).

Tip 2: Don’t talk to the police.

They want your name and identification? Fine. Give it to them.  They want to know where you were last night or how many dead people are in your crawl space? Just a thought, but maybe you shouldn’t tell them.

I know it sounds simple, but they’re not just going to come out and ask why 41 kilos of crank are in your pants. Plus, they’re not going to believe you when you say they’re not your pants. So, maybe it’s not best to walk down the path to certain confession. Don’t start talking to them no matter what they tell you they want to know.

Tip 3:  Don’t talk to the police.

In case you missed the first two tips, here’s the fail-safe third one. Try it some time. Lawyer up, shut up.

You might want to start writing these down. It’s getting complicated.

Tip 4: Don’t talk to the police.

Have you ever walked into a place you’ve never been, in a city you’ve never seen and been struck with an eerie feeling of familiarity?  You know you’ve never been there, but it’s too familiar for you to have not experienced it before?  Some call that Déjà vu. I call that Tip 4. Why have you even read this far? Do you not get the point?

Tip 5: Don’t talk to the police.

If you can just go explain yourself you can talk them out of charging you with that murder rap, right? 5 minutes of your slick tongue and they’ll realize you didn’t kill him. Or if you did you did it in self defense.  There had to be a great reason. He’s not dead for no reason, right?

Let’s be honest, there are times when you might be able to talk yourself out of something. It’s happened.

Not to you, though. You don’t know what the police know. You don’t know what information they’re really after.  Unless you’ve dealt with the police often enough to become fearless around them, you’re out matched. Just don’t.

BONUS Tip 6: Hire a lawyer. Let them talk to the police.

You didn’t pay for 6 tips, but I’m going to give you one anyway.  That’s the kind of guy I am. I’m a giver.

It’s a two-part tip, too.

Part 1 of Tip 6: Just don’t talk to the damn police already.

Part 2 of Tip 6: If you’re determined to talk to the police, hire a lawyer to sort it all out for you.


If you enjoyed these tips, be on the lookout for my next post, “The 6 effective legal tips most often ignored (And the 6th tip is a two-part shocker)!”

Ponderings on Possession, Part Two.

I’ve struggled with Windypundit’s possession post.  If you’re not keeping pace, last week he brought up an interesting scenario (or two) resulting in people innocently going about their business but somehow obtaining items it’s illegal to possess. I took a stab at giving what I thought would be decent advice based on the scenarios presented (and also tried to explain the reasoning).

It wasn’t particularly easy, but many things in the world of criminal defense aren’t.

The shame of Draughn’s legal problems isn’t really the absurdity of possession crimes, though. While the hypotheticals do a great job highlighting that absurdity, the root of their difficulty is in a  couple of much more pervasive aspects of the system. Continue reading “Ponderings on Possession, Part Two.”

Ponderings on Possession.

Mark Draughn’s “Windypundit” blog is one of my regular reads. He’s somehow found the magic ability to post both frequent and frequently interesting new thoughts.  Today he posted an interesting hypothetical regarding possession of contraband:

To make it more concrete, suppose I’m walking down the street, minding my own business, when a stranger confronts me, thrusts a duffle bag into my hands, and runs away. When I open a duffle bag, I find a tightly wrapped kilo of cocaine, a pile of child pornography, and a MAC-10 submachinegun. As I look up, I notice several police officers coming down the street, obviously searching for someone or something. They haven’t noticed me yet. What should I do next?

Well, then. What do you do?

From a strictly legal standpoint Continue reading “Ponderings on Possession.”

…But The Problem Isn’t Plea Bargaining.


Earlier this week somebody forwarded me the Economist article on eliminating plea bargaining.  Like most mainstream suggestions on how to “fix” the system I ignored it because… well, because I don’t care what the Economist has to say about criminal law.  I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
Continue reading “…But The Problem Isn’t Plea Bargaining.”