Getting a speeding ticket is never a pleasant experience. In Washington DC, speeding fines can range anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars depending on how much over the speed limit you were driving. In addition to the fine, points may be added to your license which can increase your insurance rates.
If you believe you were wrongly given a ticket or if you want to try to reduce the charges, it is possible to fight a Washington DC speeding ticket. With the right strategy and preparation, you may be able to get the charges significantly lowered or even dismissed completely. This guide will provide you with helpful information on contesting a speeding ticket in Washington DC.
Understanding Speeding Laws in Washington DC
Before contesting your ticket, it is important to understand the speeding laws in Washington DC. The district has both citywide and neighborhood specific speed limits that are strictly enforced.
Some key things to know:
- The default citywide speed limit is 25 mph unless otherwise posted. This applies to all streets in the district regardless of the number of lanes.
- Neighborhood speed limits can range from 15 mph to 30 mph and are clearly marked with signs. Always check for signage when entering a new area.
- Roads such as arterial highways and interstates have higher speed limits that can reach up to 50 mph.
- Speed limits generally drop by 10 mph when near schools, parks, or construction zones during active hours.
- You can receive a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by just 1 mph over the posted limit. Tickets are most commonly issued when drivers exceed the limit by 10 mph or more.
- Speeding fines start at $100 for 1-9 mph over, $150 for 10-14 mph over, $200 for 15-19 mph over, and $300 for 20+ mph over. Additional fees and points may apply.
Knowing the intricacies of Washington speed limits will help when contesting a ticket. Tiny technical errors in the ticket itself can be grounds for dismissal.
Review the Ticket Details Carefully
The first step when looking to fight a Washington DC speeding ticket is to review the actual ticket itself carefully. Make sure to note the following details:
- Date, time, and location of the ticket issuance. Was the time or location potentially incorrect?
- Your personal information – is any of it inaccurate or misspelled?
- License plate number – does it match your actual plates or is it wrong?
- Speed you were clocked at and the posted speed limit.
- Section of district regulations violated.
- Name and ID number of the police officer who issued the citation.
- Deadline for paying the ticket or contesting it in court.
Scrutinize all of these details and identify any discrepancies, misinformation, or errors. Even the smallest technical error like a one digit typo in your license plate could potentially invalidate the entire ticket.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Case
If you do not find any glaring errors, the next step is to gather evidence and documentation that supports your argument. Helpful evidence can include:
- Photos of the location showing the speed limit signs, traffic flow, or any mitigating factors like bad weather.
- Maintenance records showing if your speedometer was inaccurate.
- GPS records from your phone or an app like Google Maps timeline showing your actual speed.
- ** Dash cam footage** if available from your car.
- Audio recording of the officer issuing you the ticket, if legal and consented to in your state.
- Receipts proving you were elsewhere at the time the ticket was issued if applicable.
Compile as much evidence as possible to back up your version of events. Having documentation goes a long way rather than just making verbal claims.
Consider the Type of Ticket Issued
There are a few common types of speeding tickets issued in Washington DC:
- Laser/Radar – If you were clocked by a speed gun device. Errors in device calibration or officer training could invalidate it.
- Pacing – If the officer followed and matched your speed. Human errors in Estimating speed and distance makes this method questionable.
- Aerial – Plane or helicopter clocked your speed from the air. The high vantage point makes accuracy difficult to verify.
- Visual Estimate – No equipment used, the officer estimated your speed. This is the easiest ticket to challenge as estimates can be wildly inaccurate.
Knowing the method used to determine your speed will direct your best defense arguments. Advancements in technology have made some methods more reliable than others.
Fight the Ticket in Person or By Mail
For the best chance of success, it is recommended to contest the ticket in person rather than by mail. There are a few options:
- Hire a traffic lawyer – For a fee, an attorney can represent you in court or even attempt to get the ticket dismissed without you having to appear.
- Request a court hearing – You can request a court date to plead not guilty and present your case before a judge.
- Request mitigation hearing – For minor speeding violations, you can request a mitigation hearing to try to reduce the penalties and points.
- Submit written defense – You can submit documents and evidence by mail to contest the ticket without appearing in court. More difficult to get a dismissal but can possibly reduce penalties.
Appearing before the judge in person, with or without a lawyer, is the most effective way to increase your chances of beating the ticket. It allows you to present evidence, question the officer, and tell your side of the story.
Negotiate a Plea Deal or Reduction
If the prosecutor or judge offers a plea deal or reduction in penalties, strongly consider accepting it. A plea deal may involve pleading guilty to a non-moving violation in exchange for getting the speeding charge dismissed. This can help you avoid points on your license and high insurance premiums.
Fines can sometimes be reduced or community service can be served as an alternative punishment. While not an outright dismissal, plea reductions do help lessen the burden of a speeding ticket conviction.
What to Do at Your Court Hearing
If you decided to contest the ticket in court, preparation and presentation will be key. Here are some tips for what to do at your hearing:
- Dress professionally – You want to make a good impression on the judge.
- Be respectful – Always maintain composure and speak politely to the judge, officer, and prosecutors.
- State your case – Clearly lay out your version of events, discrepancies with the ticket, and present evidence.
- Question the officer – Politely challenge any inconsistencies in their testimony and clarify uncertainties.
- ** Follow court procedures** – Listen closely, only speak when prompted, and do not interrupt proceedings.
- Close strongly – Summarize why the charges should be dismissed or reduced and cite evidence. Reiterate key facts.
The burden of proof is on the prosecution. With strong arguments and preparation, you have a good chance of beating your DC speeding ticket.
Consequences of a Conviction
If you are ultimately found guilty of the speeding violation, here are some of the consequences you can expect:
- You will have to pay the full fine amount listed on the ticket. This can range from $100 into the hundreds of dollars.
- Points may be assessed against your license. In Washington DC, 2 points are added for speeding up to 10 mph over the limit, 3 points up to 20 mph over, and 5 points for 21-30 mph over. Points remain for 2 years.
- Your car insurance rates will likely increase significantly, especially if it is not your first ticket. Expect hikes of 20% or more.
- Accumulation of points can lead to license suspension if a certain threshold is reached.
- Increased fines for any future speeding tickets you receive. Each subsequent ticket within a 12 month period leads to doubling of fines.
The consequences can be severe, so taking measures to fight or reduce the ticket is advised if possible. An attorney may be able to negotiate alternatives to lessen the penalties.
Speeding tickets are serious traffic citations that can negatively impact your driving record and wallet if convicted. However, you do have options when contesting a Washington DC speeding ticket. Following the guidance in this article will maximize your chances of reducing the penalties or even dismissing the ticket completely. The most important things to remember are:
- Carefully review the ticket for any technical errors.
- Gather reliable evidence to support your case.
- Research the type of method used to assess your speed.
- Decide whether to contest the ticket by mail or in court.
- Abide by all court rules and procedures.
- Present a clear, concise case citing evidence.
- Accept plea reductions when offered favorable terms.
With diligence and preparation, you can achieve the best possible outcome for your speeding ticket case in Washington DC. The time and effort involved is worthwhile to avoid fines, increased insurance costs, and license points. Don’t hesitate to consult a traffic attorney for guidance and legal representation.