Beating Your Ticket In Court

So you got flashed by a camera, you got a ticket in the mail that you ignored, and then you got served by a process server, and now it's time to got to court. If you haven't been served by anyone, make sure you go visit PhotoRadarLaw.com and brush up on the law and legal requirements for being served. If you haven't been officially served with a photo radar ticket, you can JUST THROW IT AWAY!

Before you get too far here, we strongly recommend that you consult an attorney. Do NOT rely on any advice presented here. These tactics are suggestions only, it will be YOUR responsibility to research the legitimacy and practicality of these approaches as they apply to your situation. Not all photo operations and state laws and processes are the same.

Also before we get too far, I want to point everyone to a VERY helpful website that I was made aware of just after putting up this page, HighwayRobbery.net. This website has MUCH MORE and MUCH better information about getting out of tickets than the information here. The website is geared toward California laws; however, much of the information is applicable here.

Questionable Identity Defense

The biggest weakness of photo radar systems is that the driver is never properly identified, so it's easiest to make the most of this weakness. All they have is a photo and a vehicle registration to identify you. THIS IS NOT SUFFICIENT! This would never suffice in a murder trial, why is it sufficient for a traffic ticket? The best way to convince a court of your innocence is to explain that you are not the person in the photo. Remember, it is the prosecutor's burden to prove it was you. You don't have to prove that it wasn't you, all you have to do is bring doubt that it is you in the photo. How do you do that? Simple. "Your honor, I have a twin brother/sister or friend that looks like just me who frequently borrows my car. I can't tell and I don't recall if that is him/her or I. I ask you to drop the charges on the grounds that the prosecution has failed to adequately and properly identify the person in the photograph either by asking for ID at the time of the incident, through DNA, or any other conclusive or scientific identification method." Remember, it is not YOUR burden to prove that you have a sibling or friend who looks like you, it is the prosecutor who must prove that it was you and not your sibling or someone else. Remind the court that you are innocent until proven guilty, and they have not sufficiently proven the identity of the driver. Remember also that you are not saying that it wasn't you, you're saying that it might not have been you and that their evidence saying it is you is inadequate.

Hearsay

Hearsay is another possible but untested defense that may work in court. Documents and evidence (photos) produced by non-government personnel are legally considered hearsay unless those responsible for the generation of the documents are present in person to testify about them. Evidence that is hearsay can be objected to and barred from being used in court, making the case against you extremely weak if not non-existent.

Other Defenses

If you're not comfortable with the above defense, here are some more ideas for your trial. Be sure to use as many of these approaches as is reasonable because each one just adds more doubt. Remember, the burden of evidence is on the city/state, NOT on you. Your job is to create as much doubt and questioning of their evidence as possible.

  • Conspiracy Theory - Paint a picture to the judge of a conspiracy theory and/or motive of a for-profit company creating or modifying evidence. Be sure to expose, emphasize, and repeat the for-profit nature of the very existence of the evidence.
  • Discovery - In order to defend yourself properly you're going to need to:
    a) subpoena everyone and anyone who touched the photo or evidence.
    b) request blueprints and schematics for all equipment
    c) request installation blueprints and specifications and
    d) request a copy of all maintenance logs and calibration data. Make the case a big deal.
  • Improper Signage:
    a) Check your local laws to see if there are any signage requirements for photo enforcement zones. In Arizona, ARS 28-654 requires signs be posted at least 300 feet before photo installations.
    b) Check that the posted limit is properly posted! For example, sometimes mobile vans are parked on the freeway immediately after an on-ramp but before a speed limit sign.
  • Signal Timing - If it's a stop light, find out what the legal limits or standards are for the length of yellow lights. Cities love to set the yellow light times lower in able to generate more revenue.
  • Machine Malfunction - Since no one is monitoring the machine, there's a good likelihood that the machine was malfunctioning. When a human cop stops a speeder, they first visually estimate the speed and then confirm it with their radar equipment. They won't pull you over if there's a discrepancy. With photo-enforcement, there is no redundancy and no active monitoring so no one can be certain that the machine reading is correct. Ask the judge or tell a story about unreliable electronics that you've owned that worked fine one moment, but worked screwy the next. Everybody has owned something like this. Explain that this is likely to be what happened when you were flashed by the machine, and that the city/state lacks evidence to prove that their machine was working properly at the time of the citation - despite the fact that it may have been checked or calibrated hours, days, or weeks before or after. Even make sure you question the authenticity of the maintenance logs. Would they really throw out a few days worth of citations if they found a malfunctioning machine? Not if doing so would cost them thousands!
  • Discovery Not Possible - If you are flashed by a mobile unit or a stationary unit that has been taken down, you can argue that your opportunity for discovery of evidence was destroyed, and this is a direct result of them taking 180 days/weeks/months to serve you with your citation.
  • Raise Doubt and Question Everything - Bring in articles from this website to reinforce your positions and cause the judge to question the city/state's evidence. If they talk about how qualified or competent their equipment operators are, bring out the article about the van operator arrested for DUI while on duty. If they talk about how reliable their machines are, pull out some of the articles about malfunctioning machines.
  • Uncertain Identity - Make sure you emphasize that they have not convincingly identified the driver of the car. If they had bothered to pull you over and check your ID, we'd all know for sure. But since they merely took a photo, all we know is the driver of the car in the photograph is alleged to be you. Mention that you're not sure if that's the day your brother/sister borrowed your car and that you look a lot alike. Ask the prosecutor how they know that it's you and not a family member. The answer is they DON'T KNOW. All they have is a PHOTO! You don't even have to prove that you have a sibling - they have to prove that YOU are the one in the photo.
  • Photo/Evidence Manipulation - Remember the for-profit motive of the photo equipment operators? In order to make more money they're likely to modify and make-up evidence to generate more revenue. And there's on thing that anyone with a computer and PhotoShop knows is that it's very easy to convincingly alter a photo. Even though the photo may have been encrypted or may have a special code on it to "ensure its authenticity," in the end, you can take any photo, modify it, and print it out just like the print-outs they'll be showing in court. Remind the judge that it's worth doing if there's money to be made.
  • Check and then challenge the Private Investigator license status and legal requirements of the camera operator in your state. In Arizona, the statutes are ARS 32-2401:2413 and check their status here.

When you're all done making your case, make sure you have a powerful summary. Remind the judge about what they did NOT prove (such as your identify) and remind the judge how flimsy their evidence is, that machines break and malfunction all of the time, and that their motive is profit.

We hope this list will be helpful to you in your defense. If you have a success story or if you have additional ideas, be sure to let us know so we can add to this page and make it better!

Regardless of whether you win or lose, we all win when you contest your ticket because contesting tickets costs the photo program more money. And the more money the program costs, the more likely it is that it will be discontinued. Remember, their motive is profit, NOT safety!