Street legal: After the fact

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Fighting post-accident tickets

By Brittney MacDonald, Life & Style Editor

As mentioned last week, I hate being pulled over. Possibly the only thing I hate worse (besides people who don’t signal) is being written a ticket after I’ve gotten into a fender bender. In the 10 years I’ve been driving I have gotten into a grand total of three accidents, two of which I ended up going bumper-to-bumper with the person in front of me.

The first time it happened, the man I hit was very cool and understanding. He also gave me probably the best advice I have ever heard from a stranger, which I shall now pass on to you: “Don’t worry, it happens to everyone.”

Pretty soul-shattering, right?

Okay, so maybe it’s not life-changing, but accidents happen—and the chances of you never getting into one in all your years of driving to come are slim to none.

Getting a ticket after such an emotional and traumatizing event is just the icing on top of the terrible cake, and that’s just what occurred five years later, when I got into my second fender bender. It was stormy, the roads were wet, and one sudden stop later I end up at the back of a three-car collision. No one was injured, but someone did call the cops and that landed me with a hefty fine for “following too closely.” I fought the ticket in hopes that the cop who had written it would not turn up. He did, but by walking into that court room I learned something very important: These tickets often can’t be proven.

Normally, these types of tickets are written after the fact, meaning that an accident occurs and the cops are called and they write you the ticket after the illegal event has taken place. If the officer was not present to see you following too closely before the accident, then they are writing the ticket based on an assumption. Lucky for you, an assumption does not hold up in court—something to do with that “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” thing. So all you have to do is ask the officer if he or she witnessed said event themselves. Normally the answer will be “no,” and that’s your golden ticket (no pun intended) out of paying that fine. Even if the cop brings in a witness, say the person you hit—no joke, this actually happened to me—they still can’t prove the ticket is valid, because they did not witness the event in question.