Written by Gregory Monte.
NOTE: The information in this blog post has been updated. For more information, check out: Speeding Tickets in PA – Radar vs. Electrical Methods of Timing.
My Issue With Traffic Tickets.
I get a lot of negative feedback on Facebook when I suggest using technicalities in the motor vehicle law in order to beat traffic tickets.
Let me state this as clearly as I can.
I am not in favor of ignoring traffic laws just for the fun of it. As a reasonable individual, I realize that traffic-control devices (especially stop signs) are installed in certain places for a reason. They are there to protect motorists, and should be obeyed.
But as I explain in my eBook, Pennsylvania Stop Sign Ticket Defense, most stop sign tickets are issued unnecessarily. While the list which follows specifically addresses the stop sign issue, it could also apply to speeding tickets:
- Stop sign tickets are arbitrary. Thousands of people go through stop signs every day without making a complete stop, but you were one of the ones to get caught. Lucky you!
- You did come to a complete stop, but the judge won’t believe you no matter what you say – it’s the officer’s word against yours. That sucks – but such is life.
- Or let’s say you actually did “roll through” the stop sign, but there was no one else on the road. Because you didn’t endanger anyone, what is the big deal? Let me answer that for you – there is none.
- Off-duty police officers go through stop signs also, but all they have to do is show their ID and fellow officers will let them slide. Yeah, that sounds fair.
- On-duty police officers also fail to obey traffic laws when they are in a hurry. I have seen them go through red lights, fail to signal when turning, roll through stop signs, etc. Who is going to issue a ticket in this instance? Rhetorical question, of course.
- Friends of police officers get PBA cards which allow them a free pass on tickets. That shit should be illegal if you ask me.
- The police are not issuing citations out of a sense of safety. Let’s get real, tickets are used as “revenue” generators for the local government. I put the word “revenue” in quotes, because I find it strange that the government calls money obtained by force “revenue.” Businesses, on the other hand, convince you to purchase products voluntarily, so I can understand why they use the word “revenue.”
- Tickets are nothing more than a tax imposed on those in society who are least able to afford it. Do you think the top 1% care about a measly (to them, at least) $150 stop sign ticket or points? Of course not. First of all, they can afford to pay a lawyer if they choose to do so, and secondly, its pocket change for them anyway.
- It’s all a big game to the local prosecutor or police officer – and the local court is a party to it all. What kind of game? Have you ever watched Let’s Make a Deal? Well, that is what 99% of the individuals who show up at court eventually do. After pleading not guilty to the citation, they don’t show up in court to try to prove their innocence. Instead they “make a deal” with the prosecutor or police officer and end up paying more money in fines, but get the points taken away.
How is Pennsylvania More Reasonable Than Other States?
Now that I got that off my chest, I have to admit that Pennsylvania is actually somewhat reasonable when it comes to speeding tickets. Not only did our legislature clearly recognize that police officers can make mistakes, it also acknowledged that the equipment that they use to record your speed is prone to error.
“No person may be convicted upon evidence obtained through the use of [speed-monitoring] devices … unless the speed recorded is six or more miles per hour in excess of the legal speed limit.”
In other words, you get a 6mph “break” when it comes to speeding. Even more reasonable, in that exact same section, drivers are given a 10mph “break” when the speed limit is less than 55mph – you cannot be convicted of a speed violation …
“… in an area where the legal speed limit is less than 55 miles per hour if the speed recorded is less than ten miles per hour in excess of the legal speed limit.”
More Evidence of Reasonableness – Local Cops Can’t Use Radar.
Further evidence that the legislature erred on the side of caution when it came to speeding tickets, was its decision not to allow local police to use radar.
“… electronic devices such as radio-microwave devices, commonly referred to as electronic speed meters or radar, may be used only as part of an automated speed enforcement system or by members of the Pennsylvania State Police.”
Why Pennsylvania Gave Motorists the Benefit of the Doubt.
The discussion surrounding this particular provision of PA speed law shows just how reasonable the legislature was. I discussed this briefly in a previous blog post Radar Use by cops in PA – Money Mills vs. Traffic Safety, but I expand on it below.
While I couldn’t find a good source for the PA Senate debate on this issue, the PA Supreme Court decision Commonwealth v. DePasquale (1985) provided a brief review of the reasoning:
“[M]embers of the legislature cited the following reasons for their desire to restrict the use of electronic devices to the State Police:”
- “… that the proponents of radar in municipalities are concerned more with revenue raising than with safety.
- “… that the drivers being stopped for speeding ‘were the poor guys who have to go to work and make a living and pay the very taxes to keep the community going’ rather than ‘the speeders’”
- “… that radar has not improved safety on the roads but has only helped the district justices and the ‘arresting mills’”
- “… that police who have access to radar would leave serious crime undetected while improving their records by making large numbers of arrests for a summary offense”
- “that when radar is available to the police, the number of arrests for speeding increases dramatically”
- “… that there would not be an even distribution of justice because the local police would have ‘some sort of campaign on for those whom [they] do not care for’”
- “… that it is unfair to allow municipalities to use radar when the speed limits have not been updated to keep pace with new developments in transportation and in residential and commercial areas.”
I wonder if other states think highly enough of their citizens that they also give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to speeding.