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How to beat that traffic ticket

If you've ever been ticketed for speeding or running a red light, you already know that the fine you pay may only be the beginning of your cost.

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If it's your second offense, that mistake may very well drain a whopping $700 out of your pocket over the next three years. That's because, on average, a driver's insurance premiums can increase by 25 percent after a second violation.

Most traffic courts rely on the fact that nine out of 10 drivers will just pay their tickets and move on. Established to expedite cases quickly and efficiently, traffic courts serve as vital sources of revenue for many counties.

Their desire to get you in and out can work in your favor when fighting a ticket. Attorneys who specialize in traffic court cases have very high dismissal rates based simply on technicalities. In many cases, with a little effort and research you can obtain the same results.

Auto clubs and insurers are unlikely to publicly give drivers tips for beating tickets in court, but there are a number of things you can do on your own to keep your tickets off your driving record.

Alex Carroll, author of "Beat the Cops: the Guide to Fighting Your Traffic Ticket and Winning," says that challenging a ticket is one of the easiest things a person can do in the legal system. Carroll runs a Web site that gives people information they can use to fight their tickets. As a former courier that was "basically paid to speed," he has beaten eight out of 10 of his tickets.

Those who have successfully beaten a traffic citation all agree that one should never immediately pay the fine -- it's an automatic admission of guilt. Even those who are honest about their guilt will find that many counties offer special pleas for first-time offenders that will keep the violation off the driving record under probational conditions that can often include driving school.

Aaron Quinn, communications director for the National Motorists Association, says that his organization pushes for better speed limits and fair enforcement practices. He says the organization played a role in the repeal of the 55-mph national maximum speed limit in 1995 and sells the "Guerilla Ticket Fighter," a tape that shows drivers how to fight their tickets.

"Never plead guilty or no contest, especially if it's your first ticket. If you have a clean driving record, your chances of keeping it off your record are much better," says Quinn.

If that's not an option, you'll need to learn a little bit more about the legal process. Carroll recommends going to the courthouse to file a discovery motion or a public records request. You can check the ticketing officer's notes, calibration records for radar guns and verify that all data was recorded correctly.

Next: "Never go with the date on your ticket. ... "
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