A few months ago, I was driving to work and noticed that my front head light was out. Being a responsible driver, I went to Jiffy Lube over my lunch break to have it fixed. (Yes, I probably could have replaced it myself, but that requires some balling skills I just haven’t developed yet). As I was driving back, feeling happy that I was able to cross something off my mental to do list, it happened: Red and blues. Right behind me. Ah, crap.
Sure enough, I had blown a red light. I pulled out my insurance and registration, rolled down my window and started to think of how to get out of this. “Sir, literally, I was just driving back to work from Jiffy Lube to prevent this very issue,” I pleaded. “Ma’am, this was an accident-causing infraction – I can’t tear this ticket up,” he responded. Then he sent me on my way-$75 ticket in hand.
Being a Baller on a Budget, I needed to figure out a way to avoid this $75 unexpected charge. Options? Defer, pay or fight the ticket. I hadn’t heard of deferring a ticket before. With some investigation, I discovered that it’s an option that the State of Washington gives to their drivers that keeps the ticket from becoming official in exchange for a year of perfect driving. I wasn’t planning on blowing another red, but the idea of potentially getting ticketed again, having to pay two tickets and report both to my insurance company made me a bit uneasy. Instead of deferment, I requested a mitigation hearing.
Two months later, I finally had my hearing. While I was sitting in a windowless courtroom, the judge gave all of us bad drivers the option to defer our tickets one last time. I didn’t raise my hand (and neither should the guy who had 7 previous speeding tickets-the judge was NOT impressed in his request to defer). As I watched the judge grant requests for reduction in fines for speedy soccer mom’s and HOV violator’s, I started to feel confident in my argument. The judge finally called my name. I stood tall, made eye contact and presented my statement. It read as follows:
I’m here to present the mitigating factors for the ticket I received on October 29th and ask for a reduced fine. I’d like to begin by acknowledging that I was in the intersection when the light was red.
However, your Honor, if you’re familiar with the intersection of 112th, NE 8th and 405, than you know that it’s busy, big and confusing. It has 16 visible stop lights as you approach, four or five of which are intended for the three lanes of traffic turning right. As I approached the intersection I saw green lights and the cars in front of me moving. It wasn’t until I was in the middle of the intersection, directly under the traffic light intended for my lane, that I realized the light was red.
I did not do this as a way to save time, push my luck or defy the law: I was confused. In fact, I was on my way back to work from getting my headlight replaced so I would avoid the very problem of getting a ticket.
I ask that the court consider these circumstances and the fact that I have a clean driving record when considering the reduction of my fine.
The judge asked me to clarify where the ticket was given, asked me a few other minor questions and finally said “I’m throwing this out.” Boom! SUCCESS! I can’t chalk the entire dismissal up to my presentation (the cop didn’t write any notes on the ticket explaining his perspective) but it sure felt good to win either way.
How long did the whole thing take me? Probably 3 hours total to get the ticket, mail in my request for a mitigation hearing, prep my statement and sit in court. 3 hours of my spare time to save $75 ($25 an hour), was worth it to me. Low cost, high reward! Although fighting this particular ticket proved to be a success, I found myself quickly adjusting to the ‘no more ticket’ lifestyle I should have had all along. I am really sick of writing responses to parking tickets and traffic tickets. I’m ready to just not get the tickets in the first place! 2 ½ min to feed the meter to save $50 and a lot of hassle? Now that’s a low cost high reward action I can get behind and a life lesson I’m glad I now have (even though I still don’t know how to change a headlight).
If you have the time, you might as well fight your little tickets. But the real lesson is that the few extra seconds it takes to pay meters (and pay attention to your stop lights) could save you not only a lot of fines, but a lot of time!