The long term cost of a speeding ticket is more than the cost of a good speeding ticket lawyer. Your speeding lawyer can help you keep your record clean. Most people with a traffic ticket want a clean record. But if you avoid a speeding ticket in the first place, you won’t need a lawyer. And you’ll save money and the avoid other troubles that follow.
How to Avoid a Speeding Ticket in Minnesota
What is at stake?
First, what is at stake in a Minnesota speeding ticket case? Most speeding tickets are petty misdemeanor charges, but prosecutors charge a few as misdemeanors.
A misdemeanor is a crime with a theoretical maximum of 90 days jail or up to one-year probation.
A petty misdemeanor in Minnesota is not a crime, but is a “conviction.” Both become part of the person’s public court record.
Most driving-related offenses or violations will go on your driver’s license record if convicted. And many vehicle-related offenses or violations will as well. This includes speeding tickets, and any kind of traffic ticket.
But in today’s world, most people are concerned about speeding tickets appearing on their driver’s license record. Why?
Three big reasons:
First, too many convictions within certain time periods can result in license revocation or suspension. But even one over 100 mph speed conviction triggers loss of license.
Second, insurance rates can go up.
Third, and most important for most, law enforcement officers will see the violation on the driver’s license record the next time.
So we all want to avoid a speeding conviction.
Over 100 mph
A new Minnesota law makes a speeding conviction for over 100 miles per hour trigger a six-month license revocation.
In these cases, a common goal is to avoid a speeding ticket for over 100 mph. So, many wish to reduce the proven speed, to avoid that severe penalty. That can only happen in court. And a good speeding lawyer like Attorney Thomas Gallagher can help you keep your license.
Sometimes we see a Careless Driving or Reckless Driving charge in an over-100 fact pattern. If the basis for that charge is speed alone, a court should dismiss or acquit. But anyone facing such a charge needs help from a good defense attorney, like Attorney Thomas Gallagher.
Legal speeding: But remember: there is no speed limit at an off-road track. Whether a race club or a driving skills class, track days are a fun way to improve safe driving skills. Sure, they cost money, but less than speeding ticket. Have fun where there are no traffic laws — on the race track.
How to avoid
The first line of defense is avoiding the police stop in the first place.
Few vehicles today drive below posted limits, except in congested traffic. And this is a sign that speed limits in Minnesota today are artificially low and have little to do with safety.
Most drivers drive over the posted.
As a result, it makes sense to be thoughtful about it. And you can make a vehicle more or less easy to read with RADAR and laser speed measuring devices.
Defensive driving skills today include legal self-defense. So exercise situational awareness of law enforcement officer locations and behaviors, to help avoid police contacts.
Defensive driving tips to avoid a speed ticket:
- Drive at a safe, and reasonable speed.
- Watch those road signs and markings.
- Don’t lose your cool. Don’t be the guy with road rage.
- Consider running a dash cam for proof.
- Think like a cop. For example, speed traps by day; and DUI enforcement by night. At night, the real motive for a speeding stop is a bigger prize.
- Study RADAR and laser speed measurement tech and countermeasures. RADAR detectors for road trips.
- Know where the police speed traps are by driving with crowd-sourcing apps like Waze. And set Waze to warn you if you drift over a set speed.
- Learn about classic group defensive driving tactics, like follow-the-leader.
- Consider signing up for track days to avoid a speeding ticket. No speed limits!
Once pulled over, the police officer will seek an admission, like: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” But remember, a respectful apology need not include an admission.
So don’t let a police officer manipulate you into making admissions. But on the other hand, be polite. Rudeness to the police officer will not help you either. It encourages the LEO to write more notes for use against you later in court.
And do not tell the officer that you will fight the ticket in court, even nicely. That will also inspire more officer notes for use in court.
If you don’t get a warning, take your ticket with a smile and begin planning your next move.
To best avoid a speeding ticket, you need to know more about the entire court process, from cop to court.
Should I pay or fight a speeding ticket?
For most people, the goal is to keep it off the Minnesota driver’s license record. To achieve that goal, you must challenge it within the courts, unless it is a Minnesota “Dimler Amendment” speeding ticket.
Minnesota Dimler Amendment speeding ticket
Once upon a time in the 1970s, “the energy crisis” was a media panic.
Politicians reacted with a national “energy conservation” speed limit of 55 mph. Prior to that, speed limits were based upon safety and engineering studies. But since then, they have not been; and have become politicized.
In the 1970s we saw significant political opposition to the “national speed limit.” People in rural areas and Western states have to drive long distances to get to basic amenities. So they need reasonable speed limits.
The political compromise: These states passed the 55 mph limit to avoid losing federal highway tax-refund dollars. But, they created exceptions so that drivers could still avoid a speeding ticket going on that state’s driver’s license records.
In Minnesota, a rural legislator named Dimler sponsored an Amendment to the speeding laws. The Amendment kept a conviction for 65 or less in a 55 zone; off the Minnesota driver’s license record.
Though the court record still showed a petty speeding conviction; a driver could avoid a speed on their driver’s license record.
Remember, these extreme, low speed limits were not about safety, but about “energy conservation.”
The updated Dimler Amendment law
Minnesota voters liked this law so much that the legislature later expanded it to include 60 mph zones. So now, a speeding ticket for 65 mph or less won’t go on a Minnesota driver’s license record if within a 55 mph or 60 mph zone.
Contrary to popular misconception, Minnesota does not have a “10 mph over” exception. The Dimler law only applies in 55 mph and 60 mph zones.
The best public policy solution? Increase speed limits so that, once again, 85% of traffic would be driving within them.
And a half-measure would be to pass a “10 over” law. So, “10 over” wouldn’t go on the drivers license record, similar to the Dimler law. But for now, the Dimler law only applies in a 55 mph or 60 mph zone.
Commercial drivers beware: The Dimler law won‘t work for speeding tickets in a commercial motor vehicle or a driver with a commercial drivers license (CDL). See, Minnesota’s “Anti-masking” statute, Minn. Stat. Sec. 171.163.
Question about the Dimler law and how to avoid a speeding ticket?
Going to court: avoid a speeding ticket
If you go to court to fight a speeding ticket, you can bring a speeding lawyer. Or, you can go without one.
It’s a good idea to fight every speeding ticket, either way.
But by fighting every speeding ticket you will either win, or learn a lot for the future. Dress well and be polite to all you meet at the courthouse.
If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will do the talking for you — an advantage. If not, you must speak to the prosecuting attorney yourself. But avoid debating the merits of your case. Instead, stress your desired outcome and your willingness to pay money as an alternative consequence. If you do, you maybe able to avoid a conviction on the speeding ticket.
Evidence of Speeding at trial
There are two main types of prosecution evidence of speeding, both from the police officer. The first is speed measuring devices such as RADAR and laser. The other type is police officer estimate of speed. Both can vary widely in accuracy and reliability.
There are many books and manuals available about RADAR and laser speed measuring devices. It’s too big of a topic, technical in nature, to develop here.
But suffice it to say that every speed measuring device can be useful to the prosecution. And yet every one can also be inadmissible, flawed, inaccurate and unreliable for various reasons.
Your speeding ticket lawyer may show the judge that the RADAR or laser evidence is unreliable. But the judge may then rely upon the police officer’s visual estimate of speed.
Whether the judge views the police officer’s visual estimate of speed as reliable will depend upon several factors. Those include how much the claimed speed is over the posted, point-of-view, environmental factors, among others. And knowledge can help you avoid a speeding ticket.
Reasonable and prudent standard
Minnesota speeding law says:
“no person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent; under the conditions. In every event speed shall be so restricted as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle, or other conveyance…”Minnesota Statutes Section 169.14, subd. 1.
Two types of speed limits: statutory and posted
Speed limit signs giving drivers notice must comply with the Minnesota Manual on Traffic Control Devices. And it has the effect of law, via Minnesota Rules and statutory incorporation.
Statutory speed limits may apply, even where not posted, for example Minnesota Statutes Sections 169.14, subd. 2; 327.27, subds. 2, 2a.
Speeding Lawyer Thomas Gallagher has won many cases with a sign defense.
Driving Over Speed Limit is Not Necessarily Unlawful
Prima facie evidence
The general rule: A speed over the limit is only prima facie evidence that speed is not reasonable and prudent. Minnesota Statutes Section 169.14, subd. 2.
“Driving faster than the speed limit” is generally not a violation. But, driving “at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions” is the violation.
Prima facie evidence on the surface, supports an inference of guilt, but does not preclude an inference of innocence.
And circumstantial evidence that allows an inference of innocence is reasonable doubt, and not enough to convict.
The government has the burden of proof. And, it must enough evidence to meet its prima facie burden of going forward. Otherwise, the judge will dismiss the charge.
But conviction requires more: proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And that means that if the evidence allows for a reasonable inference of innocence, the defendant is not-guilty.
The defense can rebut the state’s prima facie evidence, so you can avoid a speeding ticket.
In a municipality, Minnesota statutes more recently purport to make any speed over the speed limit presumptively unlawful. Minnesota Statutes Section 169.14, subd. 2.
But even though rebuttable; courts hold presumptions of guilt unconstitutional. And that is because they shift the burden of proof to the defendant. Some courts may be lax stopping this statutory burden shifting in petty misdemeanor cases. (Most speeding tickets are petty misdemeanor violations, not misdemeanor crimes.)
Penalties for Speeding Violations
Courts describe two types of penalties: direct and collateral
Direct penalties are either a non-criminal, petty misdemeanor “civil infraction,” with a fine only; or, a misdemeanor criminal conviction with arrest and jail a possibility.
Adjudicated violations of the speed law are Petty Misdemeanors (fine only). But if a Judge finds the defendant endangered person or property, then its a misdemeanor conviction. And a third or subsequent speed law violation within twelve months is a Misdemeanor. Minnesota Statutes Section 169.89, subd. 1
Drivers License Revocation or Suspension
Collateral, or indirect, penalties for speed violations include:
- the notation of violation on the driver’s license (DL) record,
- increased insurance premiums or loss of insurance, and
- potential loss of drivers license (DL).
An over 100 m.p.h. conviction will trigger your driver’s license revocation for six months.
A third petty misdemeanor in a year can be a misdemeanor charge based on priors. A third misdemeanor in a year (a fifth in two years) can result in license revocation. Minnesota does not use a point system, like some other states. We don’t have speeding points.
Your Drivers License Record
A clean DL record is valuable. It can make the difference between future police officer discretion breaking your way, or against you. And that’s an important reason to avoid a speeding ticket.
So, how can you keep your record clean, if you already received a speeding ticket in Minnesota? A good speeding lawyer helps. And knowing the law helps too.
1. Dimler Amendment
A law adopted in 1986, we call “the Dimler amendment” determines which speeding violations go onto the DL record. (Its author was former Minnesota Representative Chuck Dimler.) The Minnesota Department of Public Safety maintains the record.
Speeding violations are do not go on the DL record if:
- 10 mph above the speed limit (or less) in a 55 m.p.h. zone; or
- 5 mph above the speed limit (or less) in a 60 m.p.h. zone.
But if the court certifies the speed limit is 66 mph or more; the prohibition on recording a violation on the DL record doesn’t apply. So beware. There is no general “ten-over” exception in Minnesota law.
The Dimler law currently only applies in 55 and 60 m.p.h. zones. (10 over in a 55 mph zone, but 5 over in a 60 mph zone.)
So it doesn’t apply if the speed limit is 45 or less; or 65 or more.
And the Dimler amendment does not apply if the court certifies that the violation was:
- in a commercial motor vehicle or
- the driver had a commercial DL (class A, B, or C).
Minn. Stat. § 171.12, subd. 6.
Attorney Thomas Gallagher is aware of a case where it did not work for a person with an out-of-state DL. But it works for non-commercial, Minnesota-licensed drivers.
2. Continuance for Dismissal Without a Plea
The prosecutor can agree to continue the speeding charge for up to 12 months, on various conditions. And at the end, with successful completion of conditions, court administration dismisses the charge. There is no guilty plea, ever. And no adjudication results. So, nothing is ever certified by court administration to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, as a result.
Typical conditions include payment of prosecution and court costs (instead of a “fine”), and no same or similar violations. And the term used for this outcome varies from one local area to another. Other common terms include: Agreement to Suspend Prosecution, Deferred Prosecution, Continuance WithOut a Plea (CWOP).
3. Local or City Ordinance violation citation
Ordinance violation citation, instead of state statute: A police officer has discretion. She can cite drivers with a local or city Ordinance violation; rather than a Minnesota Statute. And if they do, you should be able to pay the fine; but without it going on your Minnesota Driver’s License Record.
This is something a police officer can, in his or her discretion, decide to do for you. Prosecutors can, too. For more on this in Minneapolis, as an example, see our Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer page.
4. Stay of Adjudication
A stay of adjudication prevents the Court Administrator from certifying a traffic conviction to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. That means it won’t go on the Minnesota Driver’s License Record. But, note the above exception for commercial drivers.
So, a stay of adjudication involves either a guilty plea, or a guilty verdict; but the judge stays (delays) adjudication of guilt upon conditions, for a period of time.
If the person does not violate a condition, the judge never adjudicates the violation or conviction. And so Court Administration never certifies it to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to go on the DL record. Typical conditions include payment of money to the court, and no same or similar violations.
In criminal cases, judges are reluctant to stay adjudication without prosecutor approval (or finding an abuse of prosecutor discretion). But in petty misdemeanor traffic cases judges are more willing, even with prosecution opposition.
And there are a couple other ways, less commonly done.
Defenses to Speeding Charges
Some assume that they can’t possibly win a speeding case.
If that were true, why spend time or money on trying to win?
But knowledge is power. And the more you know, the more you can win. So learning about the law and defenses will give you an edge; and help you avoid a speeding ticket.
There are many potential defenses to a speeding charge. But most people who get speeding tickets have a clean record over the previous five years. And this is favorable. A person with a clean record has a better chance of getting a clean-record outcome – though at a cost.
The Rookie mistake is to focus on defenses, rather than a practical focus on outcome. So keep your eye on the prize.
Justice is not perfect in our imperfect world. After all, humans enforce and administer the laws. Even if innocent, paying to keep it off your DL record may be a better result than proving the point.
But a prosecutor may not be willing to offer that, at least not yet. So here is a discussion of some defenses.
A. Reasonable and prudent
Even if you were over the posted on the highway, was the speed reasonable and prudent? Intent can play a role here as well. And relevant factors could include road conditions, traffic conditions, incline, mechanical issues, etc.
It may be reasonable and prudent to exceed the posted limit in order to pass another vehicle. In fact, it can be dangerous not to do so. This defense is even more important for motorcyclists.
What is the proper way to conduct a speed trap with RADAR or LIDAR? In part, it requires two police officers in two police squad cars.
One will operate the speed detection machine, and identify the vehicle he observes speeding. And the other operates the pursuit vehicle to make the traffic stop.
So that way there is little chance of misidentification or stopping the wrong vehicle.
But these days police cut corners and rarely do it the right way.
D. Excuse defenses
Police squad cars with flashing light bars may drive faster than reasonable and prudent; but have the excuse of necessity. But how about the person driving a heart attack victim, or woman in labor, to the emergency room?
E. Evidence issues
Can the government show an evidentiary foundation for its speed evidence – pacer, RADAR, LIDAR, etc? And did the government properly comply with discovery statutes, after a request?
Did you see the news report about the Minnesota State Trooper in a Helicopter with a stop watch?
He claimed a motorcyclist was traveling significantly faster than the maximum top speed for that motorcycle!
“Warp speed, Captain!”
Sure. Anyone can make a mistake. But when a police officer claims an impossibility, we can defend that.
G. Actual speed within speed limit
The claimed, measured speed was wrong, inaccurate. The actual speed was within the speed limit. No trial evidence proves a speed over. But in any event, the speed was reasonable and prudent, with no collision or risk of one.
H. And Many others
In the law libraries, there are multi-volume treatises of defenses to speeding tickets. So these are just a few.
Avoid a traffic stop in the first place if you can.
But after that, fight to keep It off your record. It’s worth doing.
Public Policy Problem?
Many view speeding laws and enforcement of them as harmful public policy. Some falsely blame injury accidents on speed, when it is not a causative factor.
But enforcement of a law is easier with a bright line rule.
After all, with most drivers routinely “speeding;” can anyone seriously argue that driving over the posted is more dangerous than tailgating or following too closely? One is a safety hazard but the other is easy to enforce.
Expediency vs Public Safety
Police and prosecutors have financial incentives to enforce those easy-to-enforce laws, to get their numbers up.
And they ignore traffic violations that actually do endanger safety, such as failure to signal lane changes or tailgating. The public knows and understands this. And it contributes to cynicism about traffic law enforcement.
Bottom line: Avoid a Speeding Ticket
Let’s face it. A speeding ticket is not only annoying. It can cost you a lot of money, over time.
Keeping this one off you record can help you get a warning from a police officer next time. We call it the snowball effect.
So avoid a speeding ticket. And don’t let this one hit your record by paying the ticket. What have you got to lose by trying?