Question:What do you consider an unfair ticket? I am an honest decent person and I got a speeding ticket. I don’t consider the ticket fair or reasonable, but I did violate the traffic law I was cited under. Would you, from a moral, not legal, point of view recommend that I still contest this?
Answer: Yes, I would. It is not immoral to contest an infraction charge. In fact, it is a legal RIGHT to do so. Even if it is illegal to go 70mph in a 65mph zone, I don’t believe it is immoral to do so, as long as the road conditions were favorable and your speed did not, in itself, endanger life or property.
I always contest every charge, whether I’m technically “guilty” or not. You have to remember that guilt or innocence is a result of the process of law as interpreted subjectively by people, including the cop who stopped you and the judge deciding the case. In traffic infraction cases, you are denied a trial by jury. As such, the biases of the cop and the judge and their potential for error and unfairness become magnified. They are not perfect and the process is not perfect. You run a greater risk that they might find you guilty, even if you are not. This is why I contest every case.
I know that I may lose cases, despite my innocence, due to cop and judge errors, including lies and incompetence. I also know that I may win cases where I obviously broke the law, due to cop and judge errors. In the end, I believe these errors balance out, leaving me with some rough approximation of justice. This approximate justice only happens if I mechanically and habitually exercise my legal right to contest every case. There is no other way to overcome the built in prosecutorial bias of traffic enforcers and traffic courts in California.
Let’s say that half of the citations you’re issued are totally fair and legitimate and the other half are bogus and based on overzealous policing. Let’s also approximate that you have a 50/50 chance of beating any particular ticket you contest. If you pay the tickets that you feel were deserved without a fight while only contesting the tickets that you thought were unfair you would be convicted in 100% of the cases where you surrendered and 50% of the ones you contested. By not contesting every case, you become a victim of the court’s prosecutorial bias. However, if you contested every case, you’d beat 2 out of 4 tickets total. It should not matter if you beat two tickets when you were guilty, especially if you are found guilty on two tickets that were unfair. This is what I mean by the term “rough justice” or “approximate justice.” This is why I recommend every citation be contested. You might need to beat a fair ticket now to balance the unfair ticket a cop may issue on a whim in the future.
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