How to Beat a Speeding Ticket in Washington State
The act of fighting Washington State speeding tickets can be daunting for some. Many people will simply send a check in the mail either because they feel they can't win in court, or that it will be too much trouble.
The Washington State courts rely on this fact, knowing that our laws are actually set up in favor of most Washington drivers, which is why they give you the option to "mitigate" on the back of their ticket. This option is there to tempt people into paying a reduced fee (easy money for the state), who would otherwise be fighting (and probably beating) the ticket in court.
Beat Washington State Speeding Tickets Without a Lawyer
You may be tempted to hire an attorney to fight your speeding ticket, but they often charge twice as much as the original speeding ticket cost; not a budget friendly option for most of us. Going into a Washington State court armed with the same tools and knowledge that the best traffic lawyers have access to can save you hundreds of dollars.
Every state has their own laws and procedures involving speeding tickets and other traffic citations, making it impossible to provide you with a universal guide for beating speeding tickets. This particular guide will help you navigate the Washington State legal system, and provide you with the information necessary to beat almost any speeding ticket issued in Washington State.
Understand that this guide is not written by an attorney, nor is it meant to be advertised as such. This is simply a guide written by a person who has a proven track record of successfully fighting speeding tickets for himself and others in the Washington State court system.
Myths: Things You Should Not Do to Fight Speeding Tickets
First and foremost, it is sickening to see how many people truly believe the most outlandish myths for beating speeding tickets in court. Getting these ideas out of your head is vital because many of them will not just be useless in court, but some may actually help you lose your case, putting more free money into the already overflowing pocketbooks of Washington State lawmakers.
- Dropping a pencil and asking a police officer to state the speed of the falling pencil is preposterous. A pencil is not a car, nor do police just look at you speeding by and write down how fast they "think" you were going. This will get you laughed out of the courtroom.
- It is true that if you subpoena the officer that cited you, and he or she doesn't show up to court that the case must be dismissed by law. The big flaw with this strategy? The officer will probably show up. If they do, you may as well just pull out your checkbook. Your odds of winning with the officer present become slim to none, which will be explained later.
- Asking the officer to show you the laser/radar gun is pointless. The belief that there is some law out there requiring that they do so on request is false, and it is not likely that they are lying about the numbers displayed. Making this request will often result in a speeding ticket when the officer had planned to let you off the hook. Or if they're in a particularly bad mood they can come up with plenty of other silly (but legal) citations to slap you with.
- It does not matter if the officer was wearing his hat. This is another silly myth created by someone with a sick sense of humor. The courts do not care if the officer was wearing his hat, his shoes, or his underwear. Their only concern is to decide whether or not you broke the law. Don't ever try beating a speeding ticket by griping about officer attire.
What to Do When You Get a Speeding Ticket in Washington State
The first steps to fighting a ticket successfully start at the time of the citation. If you are reading this because you have already received a ticket then this will be of little help, but it is good information nonetheless.
- Pull over safely. Use your turn signals, and slow down quickly (but not so fast that the officer has to slam on their brakes). Pulling into a nearby parking lot, if there is one, will garner points with the officer. Traffic cops are constantly in danger of being hit by passing cars; doing your best to reduce the odds of this happening can only work in your favor.
- Never admit guilt. Police officers know why they pulled you over, and they don't care if you know, because they are going to tell you. The reason they ask is in hopes that you say something like, "Yes officer I'm sorry I was speeding" and proceed to give them some lame excuse. This is a costly mistake that will be in the report. Once you've admitted guilt, you have no chance of beating a speeding ticket in court.
- Make yourself forgettable. Be polite, hold yourself together, and be cooperative. Often times this will prevent a ticket in the first place, but if it doesn't, then you want the officer to completely forget about you. This will decrease the likelihood of them showing up to court, and if they do then it will be more difficult for them to recall specific details.
- Sob stories don't work, no matter what anybody tells you. In most cases, the officer has already decided whether or not they are going to cite you before they've even left their vehicle. Say only what is necessary, without incriminating yourself in the process.
Once You've Received a Speeding Ticket in Washington State
Check over your ticket to make sure the information is accurate. Misspelling "Toyota" is not going to get the case dismissed in Washington State. An incorrect date, or writing down the wrong RCW (Revised Code Washington), however, means your work is already almost done. Your odds of being this lucky are almost nonexistent, but it's worth a try.
The back side of the ticket shows you three options.
- To pay your ticket by sending a check in the mail. If you choose this option, please send me some free money as well.
- To "mitigate" the ticket. You should always consider this option. You will receive a chance to go in front of a judge and explain your story. This will almost always get a speeding ticket reduced by half or more, though it depends on the circumstances, the severity of the citation, and your driving record. But a mitigation hearing does not allow for dismissal in Washington State, so checking this option will ensure the ticket goes on your record.
- To "contest" the ticket. Contesting the hearing is the only way to get a speeding ticket completely dismissed. Check this option, photocopy both sides of your ticket, and make sure it is mailed in within 14 days of the citation. If you've waited a few days too long, send it anyway - often times the delay will be overlooked as long as it isn't too late (depending on the mood of the clerk). Once you receive notice of your court date in the mail, the real work begins.
What is IRLJ?
IRLJ stands for Infraction Rules of Limited Jurisdiction.
This is basically a guidebook of rules that traffic courts must follow during contested hearings. The verbage in this book hold the keys to fighting speeding tickets in Washington State.
Getting a Traffic Ticket Dismissed in Washington State
There is a general list of reasons that a ticket may be dismissed in Washington State court. This list includes (but is not limited to):
- Insufficient Notice of Infraction - IRLJ 2.1(b)
- Improper Venue - IRLJ 2.3
- Untimely Filing of Infraction - IRLJ 2.2(d)
- Untimely Scheduling - IRLJ 2.6(a)(1)
- Inadequate SMD Certification - IRLJ 6.6
- Police report doesn't contain elements of violation
- Evidence is Hearsay- ER 801-802
- Non-response of Prosecutor- IRLJ 3.1(b)
Insufficient Notice of Infraction
IRLJ 2.1(b) lists the information required on your citation. When you are looking over your ticket, this is the section you should be using as a reference. Mistakes on a ticket are okay, as long as none of those mistakes cause any of these conditions not to be met.
Request for Discovery
This is the most important part of fighting a speeding ticket. IRLJ 3.1(b) states that you have the right to request discovery at least 14 days before the hearing date. If this is done, the prosecutor then must provide you with the requested documentation at least 7 days prior to the hearing date. Contrary to what some may tell you, Washington State allows only a few items on this request.
- The citing officer's sworn statement.
- A copy of any photographic or video evidence intended to be used as evidence, or the web address where such evidence may be found.
- The names of any witnesses not named in the officer's sworn statement.
A simple web search will provide you with many templates to use in a request for discovery which will all be valid in Washington State. Don't send it in too early, however. Waiting until precisely 14 days before your trial date (I shoot for 15 days to be safe) minimizes the amount of time a prosecutor has to respond. If they do not respond within the time frame required, which happens a lot, then you can motion for dismissal when you show up to court. Send this request via certified mail, so you have proof of delivery date if this happens. From my experience, this rule gets more speeding tickets thrown out in Washington State than any others in this guideline. You also get to go to court already knowing you've won. By far the least stressful.
Untimely Filing of Infraction
According to IRLJ 2.2(d) an officer must file your infraction with the court within 5 days of the date the speeding ticket was issued, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. This is a mistake commonly made by officers, not expecting to be called out on it. If you receive the documents requested in your request for discovery on time, the date of filing will be included here. Failing to file on time is immediate grounds for dismissal in Washington State.
Inadequate SMD Certification
IRLJ 6.6 is the speeding ticket miracle cure. This is the singular law used by Washington State attorneys to get a majority of their client's speeding tickets dismissed. Every speed measuring device used by police officers must be regularly maintained and calibrated. The state is very specific in defining how often calibration must be done and who is allowed to do so. The information must also be documented in order to prove to the courts it was actually done properly. This is an effort to protect citizens from being falsely accused of speeding, and is your best tool for getting a case dismissed. Read more about IRLJ 6.6 as explained by a Washington State traffic lawyer here.
Get Comfortable With Traffic Court
The best advice I ever received was to go to court before my court date, wherever my hearing was scheduled to take place. I have been to a lot of different traffic courts in my lifetime, and each one is drastically different than the next. By paying them a visit some time before your own hearing, you can get comfortable with their process allowing you to come prepared when your hearing date arrives.
Appearance is also vital. It is amazing to see how often people show up in pajamas, with their cell phones ringing off the hook and three babies in tow. Judges are not customer service reps, so they don't have to hide their opinions. It is obvious when a judge has no respect for an individual, and it often affects their final judgement. Making a good first impression, garnering the judge's respect and showing that you aren't there to waste his or her time will go a long way.
Researching Washington Traffic Laws
In this article I list the best defenses for getting speeding tickets dismissed, but every case is different. A small percentage of cases may require something more. Even if the information here seems enough to win your fight, it never hurts to familiarize yourself with all of the laws involving traffic tickets in Washington State. The entire RCW is available online, so punch the numbers written on your ticket into Google and see what comes up. Read through the IRLJ thoroughly; you may find a hidden gem that pertains to your case in particular. Knowledge is power.
Traffic Ticket Attorneys in Washington State
These are a few traffic ticket attorneys in Washington State in case you still aren't confident in fighting your traffic ticket on your own.
- Jeannie Mucklestone - Fairly expensive, but she gets results.
- Donaldson & Knigg - Probably the best traffic ticket attorney on the list, very personable.
- Michael Sheehan - Almost as expensive as Mucklestone, not as easy to deal with, but plenty of people have reported great results.
Hiring an Attorney
This article could just as well be titled "How to Beat a Speeding Ticket in Washington State Without a Lawyer", since the advice reads like a self-help booklet. But that title is long and cumbersome. As a result, I am allowed to say "Lawyers are good!"
I've fought most tickets myself. I've never lost a ticket that I took to court myself. But I'd be lying if I said I've fought them all myself. I've actually hired an attorney for three different citations. All three were dropped. I didn't even have to show up to court. Hell, I've never even met my lawyer face to face. I won't lie; it costs a pretty penny, but paying a little bit more than the ticket and keeping it off of your record however, is totally worth that penny. If you don't feel confident in beating a speeding ticket or any other citation on your own, pony up and let somebody else beat the ticket for you.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Steven Pearson