Nothing ruins your day faster than seeing flashing red and blue lights in your rearview mirror. Few moments are as stressful as a police encounter. If you get a traffic ticket and choose to fight it, you’ll need to deal with a confusing maze of vehicle codes in traffic court.
So if you’re preparing to fight a new traffic ticket or you’re worried about a future police encounter, you’ll want to get these commons myths out of your head.
MYTH #1: You should do whatever cops say because they might throw your traffic ticket out.
For the most part, it’s cool to comply with some police requests. For example, when the officer asks for your license and registration, you should give it to them. Or if the officer orders you to exit your vehicle, you should do that too. But if the officer tries to use your traffic violation as a basis for further investigation, be prepared to flex your rights.
Never let an officer trick you into thinking they will throw out your ticket if you comply with search requests. (Police are legally allowed to lie!) You have the right to refuse. Politely take the ticket, and ask if you are free to go.
MYTH #2: Don’t sign the traffic ticket!
That’s poor advice. It’s commonly believed signing the ticket is an admission of guilt, but this is false. It’s merely a confirmation that you received it.
It’s also a myth that if you refuse to sign the ticket, you can later claim that you didn’t receive it. On the contrary, refusing to sign it might needlessly escalate the hostility of the encounter. If an officer asks you to sign the ticket, you should do it. You can always dispute the charges later.
MYTH #3: Cops never show up to hearings!
Not true. Testifying in court is part of a police officer’s job, and appearing often earns them overtime pay. Officers work in conjunction with the courts to schedule as many citation challenges in one day as possible, so they don’t have to appear on multiple occasions. If you contest your ticket, expect the officer to be there.
If by chance, the officer doesn’t show up, judges will most likely dismiss the violation because there’s no accuser to testify against you. But that’s not always the case, so make sure to have a defense prepared either way.
MYTH #4: Traffic tickets don’t transfer to other states, so you can ignore it.
If you think that crossing state lines will save you from paying a ticket, think again. Online communication has strengthened the relationships between states. Most notably, the Driver License Compact is an agreement among 46 member states that makes it virtually impossible to evade the law.
Through this compact, your driver’s record can be impacted by violations committed in other member states. For example, if you get hit with a speeding ticket in Texas, but you’re a resident of Pennsylvania — the Pennsylvania DMV will be notified of the infraction.
Because of this reciprocity, you should treat a citation from another state as if you got in your home state. Disregarding the ticket may result in a suspension of your license and further criminal charges. But, as always, check your local and state codes for specific information about traffic ticket laws.