Written by Gregory Monte.
The Discussion Continues
This post is part of my continuing series of articles to explain the strategy/method you should use to decide if your traffic ticket is worth contesting or not. The original post from Thursday, July 25th provided the entire strategy all at once:
I followed that up with yesterday’s post which provided a somewhat more “compact” discussion of the same strategy/method while also discussing two ways you could get a speeding ticket for actually driving under the posted limit:
Today I want to highlight Part Three of my strategy/method: Find case law to either support or reveal any technicalities that exist in the statute you were accused of violating.
Most Traffic Ticket Advice Websites Are Useless
I can’t stress enough that Part Three of the strategy/method is the most important, and yet most traffic help websites don’t talk about this much at all. This is why I am a harsh critic of these websites which are, in reality, just “fronts” for law firms who don’t want you to fight the ticket on your own. Instead, they want you to hire them (which is why they don’t tell you all that you need to know).
If you are interested in my research into lame traffic ticket websites, I suggest you check out the following blog posts:
And for a discussion about how my website is superior, check out:
- The Traffic Ticket Defense Blog – Its value and legitimacy explained to all of the doubters (and haters) out there.
Step 3 – Find Case Law
When my son got a stop sign ticket last year, I complete step 1 and 2 of the strategy/method and came to the conclusion that his case was hopeless. He claimed that he did stop at the sign but the cop said he didn’t. Unlike driving at an unsafe speed (which is kind of vague), stop sign statutes are pretty cut and dry – you either stopped or you didn’t …
… or so I thought …
Then I went to Google Scholar and started researching stop sign cases. I found about twenty cases which opened up my eyes to all of the possible ways you could fight a stop sign ticket. You can read the basic strategy I discovered in my free PDF: The Pennsylvania Stop Sign Ticket Defense in a Nutshell.
Below you will see how I located case law related to Title 75, Section 3361 – Driving Vehicle at a Safe Speed. When you see how easy it is, you can do the same research to determine if you have any basis with which to challenge your ticket. All you have to do is apply my method to your particular state.
Using Google Scholar to Find Relevant Case Law
I found relevant case law in Google Scholar by clicking on the Pennsylvania case law button and then typing Title 75, Section 3361 speeding into the search bar. Eighty-seven results came up. When I then tried a more specific search using quotes (“Title 75, Section 3361” speeding) to narrow the results, I got nothing.
You may want to try various combinations to see what works best for your particular state. The more results you get, the more work you will have sorting through helpful and useless cases that you find. On the other hand, if you restrict your search too much, you may miss important information that could help your defense.
It is important to note here that the case law won’t necessarily reveal a way for you to get out of your ticket.
You will probably find some cases that are directly relevant to your situation, but most of the others will not be. That is to be expected. Remember, the purpose of using my method is to decide if challenging the ticket makes sense or not. By reading a variety of cases and seeing what others have tried to do in court (even if they failed to win), you can avoid the embarrassment of doing the same thing and looking like a fool before the judge.
How Case Law is Helpful.
If you want to see numerous examples of case law related to driving a vehicle at an unsafe speed, I recommend you go to the full blog post about this: How to Effectively Challenge a Speeding Ticket. Here I am just going to cite one example which provides clarification about the circumstances which would make you guilty/not guilty of this charge. The cop who gave you the ticket probably has no idea about these circumstances so they provide a way for you to be victorious in court.
Commonwealth v. Walker, 5 Pa. D. & C. 4th 631 – Pa: Court of Common Pleas 1990 clarifies the “speeding” part of the failure to drive at a safe speed. Here are the details of this case:
- “The road conditions were dry and visibility was unlimited.”
- “Traffic was light … there were no vehicles between his patrol car and defendant’s vehicle even though defendant’s vehicle was already a considerable distance ahead of Officer Battistilli’s vehicle.”
- “… there is no evidence of any pedestrians in sight …:
- “… Nor is there any evidence of any vehicles attempting to park or attempting to leave parking places along West Mahoning Street.”
- “West Mahoning Street at its intersection with Gilpin Street is primarily commercial in nature and continues to be commercial in nature for a few hundred feet in a westerly direction after which it is primarily residential in nature.”
Even thought the judge in this case acknowledged that Walker was traveling 10-15 miles over the limit, he still ruled in his favor anyway because speed, by itself, without any other applicable conditions, is not enough in a Section 3361 violation. All of those conditions listed above are excellent potential “technicalities” that you may find helpful when contesting your similar ticket.
Final Point – Case Law is Precedent
Another important purpose of using case law is that it is serves as precedent. If you can actually find a case with circumstances similar to yours, you are most likely going to win in court. You may not be successful at the lower court level (my son lost in Magisterial Court) because the judges there are probably friends with the cops (and are not as well-read about the law), but in higher courts of appeal, you stand an excellent chance of coming out on top. That was my son’s experience in the Court of Common Pleas. There, the judge could not ignore the case law he cited so she found him not guilty.
Here is an example of precedent at work. In Commonwealth v. Strausser, the judge found the appellant not guilty of the charge by specifically referencing a similar case. He was compelled to decide for the appellant because another judge had done so:
“… we find the case of Commonwealth v. Walker, 5 D.&C.4th 631 (1990), as very persuasive in reaching our decision due to its striking similarity to the instant situation …