Written by Gregory Monte.
“Traffic control devices … shall be placed only as authorized by a public authority or the official having jurisdiction … All regulatory traffic control devices shall be supported by laws, ordinances, or regulations.”
When it comes to fighting a traffic ticket, that quote is the key to winning your case.
In addition to state-specific motor vehicle codes, all states must also abide by this Federal MUTCD. For example, when a town installs a stop sign or sets a speed limit, it has to follow very strict protocols specified in that manual. Unfortunately (at least for the towns), many don’t realize this. The result is that their traffic controls are not enforceable, and you can then challenge their legality.
My son won his stop sign case as a result of the town failing to pass a required ordinance. If you are interested in the details about this, you can read my 23-page eBook How My Son Beat a Stop Sign Ticket in Pennsylvania.
There are many ways to fight a traffic ticket, but before you do anything else, you should check out this avenue first. Find out if the traffic-control device you were accused of violating (speed limit, stop sign, etc.) was properly authorized. There are two ways to do this.
Online Borough/Town Codes
If your borough or town has a website, find out if it has a link to the municipal code. Many of them use a website called ecode360.com to host their ordinances and other public documents.
Take, for example, a town close to where I live: Honesdale, PA.
Article II of its code (Traffic Regulations) has a section for speed limits and stop sign intersections. While the speed limits for certain roads are specifically stated, the section for stop signs is blank. This suggests that none of the stop signs in Honesdale have been authorized by ordinance.
Pennsylvania is not the only state that uses this ecode360 system. I received an email a short while back asking for advice about a stop sign ticket received in the town of Lake Grove, NY. Unlike Honesdale, this town has authorized every single stop sign. This individual now has to look for other ways to fight his ticket.
Open Public Records Request
In my son’s case, the town didn’t have an on-line listing of authorized stop signs, so I had to submit an open public records request to the Borough officer who handled such matters. The response made clear that his stop sign was never properly installed:
“Hawley Borough does not pass ordinances to authorize stop signs. Therefore, there is no ordinance or minutes pertaining to an ordinance on record.”
As I indicated earlier, he used this information to win his case, and you can do the same.
Now, if you find out that the traffic-control device you allegedly failed to follow was authorized, all hope is not lost. There are several other ways to fight back. When it comes to stop signs in Pennsylvania, I have written the definitive book on how to do this – The Pennsylvania Stop Sign Ticket Defense. Many of the strategies discussed in that book can be transferred to other states. My next project is to produce a similar book to fight speeding tickets.