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Traffic tickets: How to fight a speeding ticket in Minnesota

by Thomas Gallagher, Minnesota Speeding Lawyer

Do I need a speeding lawyer for my traffic court case?

Thomas Gallagher, Minneapolis Speeding Lawyer
Thomas Gallagher, Minneapolis Speeding Lawyer

You tried to avoid a speeding ticket.  So, is it time for plan B?

Fight it and win!

You already know that it’s better to have a speeding lawyer defend your traffic court case.  But it costs money to retain one.

Does the benefit outweigh the cost?

Compare the true cost of a speeding ticket vs. the speeding lawyer’s fee.  After all, the true cost of a speeding ticket includes more than the fine.

Having a speeding ticket on your record can cost hundreds of dollars every year just in higher insurance costs.

It can trigger a driver’s license suspension, for a month or longer, for “habitual violators.”

Worse, is the snowball effect.  Because when police see a speed on your DL record, they may a ticket instead of a warning.

Only you can decide whether it’s worth hiring a speeding lawyer to help keep your record clean.

So here is some basic information about Minnesota speeding laws, defenses, tips and traps.  After all, the more you know, the better you will do, even if represented by a good lawyer.

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; 327.27, subd. 2.

Speeding Lawyer Thomas Gallagher has won many cases with a sign defense.

Driving Over Speed Limit is Not Necessarily Unlawful

Prima facie evidence
RADAR speed measurement false positives
RADAR speed measurement false positives

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. So, it must enough evidence to meet its prima facie burden of going forward.  Otherwise, the judge will dismiss the charge.

But conviction requires proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  And proof beyond a reasonable doubt 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, your speeding lawyer should know these key features of the law.

Municipalities

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 generally hold that such presumptions of guilt are unconstitutional, 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.)

A good speeding lawyer can help you fight improper statutory presumptions.

Penalties for Speeding Violations

The 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

Speeding Lawyer protecting your record
Speeding Lawyer protecting your record

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.

Speeding Lawyer: Keeping Your Drivers License Record Clean

A clean DL record is valuable.  It can make the difference between police officer discretion breaking your way, or against you.  So, how can you keep your record clean, assuming you already have received a speeding ticket in Minnesota?  Retaining a good speeding lawyer like Thomas Gallagher helps.  And knowing the law helps too.

1.  Dimler Amendment

A law adopted in 1986, called 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.

The prohibition on recording a violation on the DL record doesn’t apply if the court certifies the speed limit is 65 mph or more.  But caution: 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.)

The Dimler amendment provisions do not apply if the court certifies that the speeding 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. 

Gallagher is aware of a case where it did not work for a person with a DL from another State.  Works for non-commercial Minnesota licensed drivers.

So consult a good speeding lawyer if you have any question about the Dimler law.

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, if all conditions are met, court administration dismisses the charge.  No guilty plea is ever offered.  And no adjudication is ever made.  So, nothing is 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.  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

An Ordinance violation citation, instead of state statute:  Police officers have discretion to cite drivers with a violation of a local or city Ordinance instead of a Minnesota State Statute.  And if they do, you should be able to pay the fine, but keep it off 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 Minneapolis Criminal Lawyer page.  Call a good speeding lawyer with any questions about local ordinances.

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.

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, it never becomes an adjudicated violation or conviction, and so never gets certified by court administration 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.

There are a couple other ways, less commonly done.

Speeding Lawyer: Defenses to Speeding Charges

Speeding Lawyer Gallagher, motorsports enthusiast
Speeding Lawyer Gallagher, motor sports enthusiast

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.

Retaining a good speeding lawyer like Gallagher will give you even more of an edge.

There are many potential defenses to a speeding charge.  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.  Here is some discussion of defenses every speeding lawyer should know.

1.  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.

2.  Passing

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.

3.  Identity

The proper way to conduct a speed trap with RADAR or LIDAR is with two police officers in two police squad cars.

One will operate the speed detection machine, and identify the vehicle he or she observes speeding.  The other operates the pursuit vehicle to make the traffic stop.

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.  Your speeding lawyer can help with that.

4.  Excuse defenses

Police squad cars with their light bar on 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?

5.  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?

6.  Impossibility
"Warp speed, Captain!"
“Warp speed, Captain!”

Did you see the news report about the 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.

7.  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.

8.  Many others

There are multi-volume treatises in the law libraries of defenses to speeding tickets.  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.

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Need a Defense Lawyer’s help with a Minnesota Speeding Ticket?  Call motorsports enthusiast and Minneapolis Speeding Lawyer Thomas Gallagher at 612 333-1500