New York speeding ticket. What if I was justified?

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

In April of 2007, I drove my wife to the hospital as she was about to deliver our second child.  We left way before anything had progressed too far and with plenty of time to spare (we thought).

Fifteen minutes later I found myself in the middle of a “this can’t be happening to me” moment and my wife is screaming that the baby is coming.  I’m casually listening to Howard Stern and next thing I know my wife is standing in her seat and tugging at the elastic waistband of her maternity sweats.

We were too close to the hospital to stop and call for help.  We had no choice but to try to get there as quickly as possible.  Most people would have simply sped.  Traffic ticket attorney that I am let my mind wander and I had a brief discussion with myself before speeding.  My baby is about to be born on the Long Island Expressway and I’m lost in thought about what an officer would do if he pulled us over.  Luckily, instinct–either paternal instinct or just an inner voice screaming “birthing is not good for the leather seats”–quickly kicked in and I drove as fast as I could to the hospital.

In case you are curious, we didn’t make it.  I pulled up to the hospital entrance, ran around to let my wife out and couldn’t help but notice a baby laying on the front seat.  Thankfully, all was and is OK.

What did I take away from this incident?

First, leave for the hospital way earlier than you think you should when it’s your second child.

Second, this was a textbook example of a justification defense to a speeding ticket in the event one was issued.

The second point is what’s important here.  Many, many people come to me and tell me they were “justified” or have a good “defense” to the speeding ticket they received.  Fact is that, short of the situation I endured, very few sets of facts comprise a quality legal defense when it comes to traffic tickets. More often than not, those that decide to tell the judge  they were “justified” or have a good “defense” for speeding end up hurting more than helping themselves.

If you decide to open up to a judge or prosecutor and explain why you were speeding, always remember that you are essentially saying “I was speeding but…”.  Thus, if the judge or prosecutor doesn’t believe the “but” you have pretty much admitted to committing the speeding violation.

With that in mind, before you decide to attend court and set forth that you were justified for committing a traffic violation, consider the following:

Do you have evidence?
In my case, I’d like something from the hospital showing my baby was born within minutes of the issuance of the summons (had one been issued).

Is your story reasonable?
My dad was in the car, he wasn’t feeling well and we were speeding to the hospital.  Well, which hospital?  If there was no hospital within 45 minutes you can imagine the story has less credibility than if the hospital was 5 minutes away.

Was the emergency situation in your car?
Your aunt was so distraught you were afraid she would hurt herself?  Your brother was just rushed to the hospital?  Unless you are the ONLY person who can help, chances are authorities want you calling 911 for assistance before you take the matter into your own hands and rush to the scene.  Of course, if the scene is actually in your car then you have no choice but to move quickly.

The best way to fight a speeding ticket is to simply not get one.  If you are speeding because of an emergency, tell the officer, as calmly as you can, about your emergency. If you’re taking someone to the hospital, he may determine you need an ambulance and call one for you. If you’re rushing home for some reason that resonates with the officer, he may accompany you home and help you deal with your situation.

But if for some reason you do get a traffic ticket in the midst of a legitimate emergency, certainly document it the best you can and fight it.  A properly documented and presented argument can make the issuing officer as uncomfortable during the traffic ticket hearing as a woman giving birth to a nine pound girl in the front seat of her car.

Submitted by Scott Feifer.

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