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How Do I Contest a Careless Driving Ticket?

By Felicia Dye
Updated May 16, 2024
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To fight a careless driving ticket, you need to first establish a trial date. Then you need to find the legal definition for the charge against you. Get a copy of the police report, surveillance tape, and any other evidence that may help your case, and save subpoenas issued for witnesses and prepare questions for the officer. It is also advisable that you consult with a lawyer.

Fighting a careless driving ticket means that you will go to court. Look at your ticket to see if it contains a court date. If so, this will be the occasion when you will be able to contest the charge. If there is no date provided, you need to take the necessary action to get a trial date set. The instructions for doing this should be provided on your ticket.

Before trying to fight a careless driving ticket, you need to understand the charge. Find the legal definition of careless driving, and make sure that you get the definition for the jurisdiction under which your ticket was issued. Do not rely on a general explanation because the strongest basis for your defense may be contained in the specifics.

The police officer who issued the ticket will have to prove that your actions fit the elements of the offense. Get a copy of the police report regarding your incident and analyze the statements made by the officer. Make note of any information that you believe is incorrect or that was omitted. If, for example, the officer alleges that you abruptly swerved into another lane but he did not state that a tree branch was in your lane, this is a notable omission.

Contact any witnesses whom you believe can strengthen your case. If their recollection of the incident is indeed supportive, have subpoenas issued for them. Do not rely on individuals to come to court voluntarily and do not get concerned with whether or not they want to come.

Many patrol cars are equipped with video surveillance equipment. Find out if there is video coverage of the your alleged careless driving. If so, request a copy of the video and analyze it. If you believe the video proves your innocence, you will want to use it as evidence. If you feel that it could be incriminating, do not attempt to use it.

If the officer does not show up in court, the fight against your ticket will be much easier, as the case will likely be dismissed. You have to be prepared, however, for the possibility that the officer will appear. If there are questions that you plan to ask him, these should be well thought out and carefully prepared in advance. You should also have cross-examination questions prepared because there is a chance that the officer may address the court.

You can assume all of the responsibility yourself of fighting your careless driving ticket, and you may be successful. Realize that for the best results, however, you should consult with a traffic attorney. Having a legal professional can be beneficial in numerous ways. In addition to having professional advice about evidence that you should or should not use, you will also have access to someone who is familiar with the traffic courts and the tactics of local law enforcement officers.

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Discussion Comments

By Melonlity — On Feb 26, 2014

Keep in mind that when it comes to most traffic charges, the "innocent until proven guilty" generally goes right out the window absent extraordinary circumstances. That's not as drastic as it sounds -- a police officer is motivated to not issue careless driving (or other tickets) that are groundless because such efficiency is liable to get an officer fired. Keep in mind, too, that officers generally hate spending a lot of time testifying in court. A strong case against a reckless driver will typically result in someone who knows he or she has been caught and will pay a fine rather than going to court.

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