The following are true stories
I fought a ticket with some
success. Please note that there is some updated information near
the end of the article. Please note I am not an attorney and I
am not giving legal advice.
Cruising west bound I-96 just past
I-275, nice warm summer early evening, windows down, radar
with light traffic. I was driving a nice safe speed for traffic
conditions in the right lane.
My pleasant evening came to an abrupt end as my radar detector
off the dash having received a large dose of instant on K-band
radiation. Sure enough, it was a Michigan State Trooper.
Checking my rear view mirror, I
see him as he came roaring after me and I pulled over.
Here is what I recommend you should do when pulled over.
- Be respectful and polite at all times.
- Do what the officer asks - the officer has no idea who you
what your intentions are.
- If you are on your best behavior you may get off with just
- Don't admit guilt! This will come back to haunt you since
officer is probably taking notes.
- Ask the officer where he was and where you were when he
determined your speed.
- Ask him how he determined your speed. I do not believe it
worth asking to see his radar or lidar reading as this will
your word against his in court.
- If the officer comes back with a ticket take it politely
the officer a good day.
Now it is critical that you write down everything that just
- Where you were and the officer was when he observed you
- The location of any other vehicles between you and the
- The weather and traffic conditions.
- Any other unusual circumstances such as if the highway
to an airport.
So now I had my 75 in a 55 (speed limit has since been changed
to 70) $110.00 ticket. My next step was to go down
to the local library and find everything I could about Michigan
I found out that speeding is called a Civil Infraction in
Michigan. You can not be sentenced to jail for a civil
you certainly can lose your license and the green stuff in your
Civil Infractions follow different rules than offenses you can
There are three steps to fighting a speeding ticket and other
1. The Informal Hearing.
you cannot have a lawyer present and unless
you have money to burn you do not want one anyway. The hearing
usually presided over by a magistrate. It is important to note
magistrate is not a judge! The magistrate is not bound by the
rules as a judge. In my case, the magistrate was an ex state
officer, this was not good for me. You may have better luck and
You must call and/or write to the court listed on the ticket and
an informal hearing. They will mail you a court date. You should
prepare your case for the hearing. In my opinion it is not worth
preparing too much for the informal hearing because the system
stacked against you. This doesn't mean that you should come
but I wouldn't spend too much of your time in this phase of the
process. Your best chance is that the officer does not show up
hearing in which your case will be probably be dismissed! It is always
worth requesting an informal hearing because quite often the
does not show up!
You can also ask the court to delay you hearing. One
tactic is to delay the hearing as much as possible in the hope
officer will be transferred or not available for some other
also delay paying your fine and receiving your points. If you do
your hearing make sure you have a written confirmation from the
showing your new hearing date.
If the officer does shows you will most likely lose the informal
because here is where the system begins to
Immediately after losing
informal hearing, go to the
court clerk and request a formal hearing. You will probably have
post a bond equal to the fine of your ticket. You will get some,
or none of this money back depending on how the formal hearing
Many people give up at this point. The system is designed to get
quit! If you are persistent you will get results so always
appeal to a
However, there are a couple of potential negatives that can
happen at a
hearing you should be aware of. The judge could increase you
speed to the speed the officer observed you at. So if the
you a really big break when writing the ticket you should take
to consideration. Also, the court could impose additional court
Most courts probably won't do this but it might be worth asking
court clerk if it is common practice if this is a big concern to
2. The Formal Hearing
The formal hearing will be held before a judge. You can not have
trial for a Civil Infraction. The judge is bound by law to
process. Lawyers can be used here.
If you opt for a lawyer make sure he
or she specializes in traffic law. If you are a member of the National
then use their lawyer referral
You do need to prepare your case for the formal hearing. I
suggest you use the Traffic Defense Kit that the National
Association supplies its members. This is worth the low cost of
membership alone! This story will not go into the details of
When you arrive for your formal hearing you will probably have
opportunity to make a deal with the prosecutor. In most areas,
not want to try traffic infractions because they have more
crimes to worry about. When I showed up for my hearing there
signs or instructions so I had to go find the prosecutors
was easy because there was a large line of lawyers outside the
the office. Show up early and find the prosecutor, do not just
the court and wait to be called, it will be too late to
make a deal
When you meet the prosecutor be professional and explain your
you make a strong impression you are more likely to get a better
offered. You should dress in business attire.
Be aware that the prosecutor will
have ready access to your driving record (as will the judge) and
take it in to consideration. If you have a clean record it will
very big advantage to you. This is why you should fight your
ticket - keep
Of course, you may not make a deal. They may not offer one, or
not want to take what they are offering. If this happens go in
courtroom and wait to be called and be ready to present your
again I will not go in to details here but offer a couple of
- If the officer is not
the judge for a dismissal!
- Do not put yourself on the stand if you were speeding.
you are on the stand you will be under oath and the
prosecutor will ask
you if you were speeding.
- Do not attack the officer directly. Instead focus on
traffic conditions, target errors, and speed limits not in
with Michigan law.
This was my first time at a formal hearing and I wimped out and
the deal. They reduced it to 60 in a 55, 0
license points, and $50.00. If you take the deal it still has to
approved by the judge so you still have to go in to the
wait for your case to be called. Sitting in the courtroom and
several people get jail time for drunk driving and other crimes
$50 fine not seem so bad.
If there is a next time I will not take the deal. After going
it once I feel confident that I can put on a good case. If you
do go to
trial the Judge may still find you responsible but can also
offense and fine.
3. Second Formal Hearing
If you lose the first formal hearing you can
appeal your case to a second hearing which will be held in a
courtroom with a different judge and prosecutor. No new evidence
presented at an appeal. You would use the appeal if you felt
first hearing was biased or did not follow the law. Consult an
attorney at this point.
Even if you lose going through the process will be very
and worthwhile. Do not give up to unreasonable laws without a
you roll over to unreasonable speed limits you have no one to
- February 2007
You can still fight that Michigan Ticket and WIN!
another ticket after a ticket free period of 13 years.
The ticket was issued on the M-14 Freeway in Ann Arbor, Michigan
75 in a 55 MPH zone. My vehicle was clocked at 85 MPH with a
detection device at a distance of 1400 feet.
As soon as the officer turned on his overhead lights, I signaled
pulled over as far right as possible while staying on the paved
the shoulder. It was night, so I turned on the overhead dome
placed my hands on the steering wheel. After a brief period, the
officer appeared and asked if I knew what the speed limit was.
responded 55. He said "what?" and I said "55, sir." Then the
said "Why were you driving 85?" to which I responded "No sir." I
not directly answer his question because there was no way to
without admitting guilt.
After I turned over my license, registration, and proof of
went back to his patrol car and wrote my ticket.
The ticket was for 75 MPH in a 55 MPH zone. He asked if I had
questions for him to which I responded "No sir."
Freeway speeding tickets are handled a little differently in
compared non freeway tickets. Tickets on limited access freeways
lower number of drivers license points associated with them. The
schedule of points
for limited access freeways is listed in section 257.629c of the
Michigan Compiled Laws. As of this writing, sixteen to 25 MPH
over the posted
limit on a freeway is a 3 point violation and has a fine of
$160. You can view the
Michigan Laws at www.michiganlegislature.org.
The officer will write
what section you have allegedly violated on the ticket. Go
www.michiganlegislature.org, look it up, and read the section
Not much has changed in how the system works in the last 13
Speeding is still a civil infraction in Michigan. However, there
been significant change to the law regarding how legal speed
determined and posted. The law was basically rewritten in
2006, rendering many under posted speed limits unenforceable!
The new Michigan Speed Law sets up a system where posted speed
will be set based on engineering principles instead of political
If these new principles have not been used then fighting a
be easier. The section of code changed is 257.627
The section of M-14 I was ticketed in is a 55 MPH zone. This
zone is in
the city of Ann Arbor and is less than one mile long and the
limit is 70 MPH on both sides of this zone. At first, I figured
this section did not comply with the new Michigan Speed Law.
with the help of some other NMA members, it was determined that
section DID comply. So, unfortunately, I could not use the new
strategy. (2012 edit: the speed limit on this section has been
changed to 65mph).
At this point, I called the courthouse to set up an informal
The clerk was friendly but firmly told me that under no
could the hearing date be changed once set and that officers are
ordered to appear to all hearings. In addition, when I received
ticket it came with a "Frequently Asked Questions" slip of paper
also implied that officers always go to hearings. Then, to top
I was told verbally that the judge would really frown on the 30
clocking and may increase the fine to that of 30 over even
ticket is for 20 over. Someone even suggested "You can go to
30 over!" I knew you could not go to jail for a simple speeding
in Michigan (Note - you can in some states!) but the judge
fine is a possibility.
I actually had thoughts of just sending in the money at this
things looked grim but I decided to go on. Remember, the
to get you to quit and send in the money!
The informal hearing was scheduled for three weeks after I
went to the informal hearing expecting to lose. When I lost I
appeal to the formal hearing. Since I had no real strategy to
the ticket on its merits, my plan was to meet the prosecutor and
get a deal. I would try and get them to change the ticket to a
non-moving violation of equal fine. This way they would get
money, my driving record would stay clean, and my insurance
not go up.
I thought that to do the deal I would first have to lose the
hearing and schedule the formal. So to the hearing I went.
Get to the
In this court they schedule defendants in
half hour blocks so I went a half hour earlier so I could watch
block before me. I was shocked to see that the officers were
approaching the defendants and making deals with them on their
They were lowering the charge in exchange for a "responsible"
the magistrate. This was very effective as all defendants took
deal. Of course, the fines were nearly identical on the lowered
Drivers did receive less points on their license though.
were still MOVING violations so their insurance rates will
non-moving violation if you are going to make a deal!
The other shocker was for about 1/2 of the cases the officer did
show and the tickets were dismissed! This despite all the
that officers ALWAYS show up to hearings. I guess 50% is
So now my hopes went up that maybe the officer wouldn't show or
make a deal with the officer for a non-moving violation. If that
work out I would take the "loss" and appeal to a formal hearing.
To bring the tale to a quick end I got to hear the magic words
magistrate. "Since office Smith (not his real name) has failed
appear we are dismissing this case." To think that I was
Exercise your rights - always go yo the hearings!
- Be respectful to the officer at all times. You do not
to remember you negatively because then they will be sure to
- Use the new Michigan
Law to fight a ticket when the speed limit
sign does not conform. This is probably going to be at least
50% of the
- Always go the hearings. Don't let them convince you to not
your right under Michigan law.
- If you make a deal make sure it is for a non-moving
- If you use a lawyer make sure they specialize in traffic
NMA referral guide.
- Don't give in to the propaganda
you should just send the money in!
More random bits of information (updated October 2012).
- A friend of mine got a ticket for 35 in a 25 in a very lightly
traveled industrial area in Farmington Hills, Michigan. When he
went to the informal hearing the officer was not there. They
should have dismissed the ticket but instead they pressured him
other defendants to take a deal even though the office was not
there. He took the deal which still resulted in a fine and
insurance points. If the officer is not there request a
dismissal. Personally, I would not take a deal at this point but
instead insist on dismissal. If they find you responsible anyway
appeal to a formal hearing. I highly suspect they will dismiss
before the formal hearing.
- Novi, Michigan and other suburban Detroit communities are
people for driving faster than the speed limit sign says. They
are then writing tickets for non moving violations instead of
speeding. A common ticket is for "obstructing traffic." Most of
the speed limit signs are not in compliance with Michigan
law. By writing this non moving violation they are getting their
money anyway. The benefit to you is the offense will not go on
your driving record.
- In 2009 I received a ticket for 87 in a 70 near Howell,
Michigan. The Livingston County Sheriff Deputy that wrote the
ticket did not show to the informal hearing so the ticket was
- As of June 2017 no new tickets but I have helped many people
successfully fight their tickets!
Copyright 2017 Parker Thomas