Officers Turn On the Siren Over ‘Beat a Speeding Ticket’ Video
And now, for $14.95 there’s a video called “How to Beat a Speeding Ticket.”
“It informs citizens of their rights and responsibilities in dealing with the traffic system,” co-producer Joe Broido explains.
Not so, say law enforcement officials, more than a little miffed.
“The morality of trying to . . . find loopholes . . . strikes me as being wrong,” says Lt. Dan Cooke of the Los Angeles Police Department.
” . . . A distortion of the adjudication system,” concludes CHP spokesman Kent Milton in Sacramento.
Milton was also upset that the CHP allowed an Altadena officer to appear in the video advising motorists how to react when pulled over for a citation.
Talking It Over
He complained that officer Steve Munday’s important advice was juxtaposed with recommendations about how to beat a ticket.
In the video, a motorist who is an attorney advises drivers that they can minimize the chance of a citation by discussing the alleged violation with the officer who pulls them over.
After upbeat rock music introduces the 30-minute color film, a retired Los Angeles policeman warns that pleading or crying won’t dissuade an officer from writing a ticket.
Amid scenes of heavy Los Angeles traffic, an attorney counsels that 25% of traffic tickets set for trial are dismissed because the citing officer doesn’t appear.
Later Judge Pro Tem Michael Chaney recommends that drivers choosing to fight a ticket in court use witnesses, diagrams, photos and reasonable arguments.
The producers of the video, Dave Bell Associates Inc. of Hollywood, say the film, being test marketed with 40,000 copies at stores throughout Los Angeles, “in no way encourages skirting the law.”
The CHP’s Milton doesn’t quite see it that way. “In our view you get a ticket because you committed a violation,” he responded from his Sacramento office.
“We go to great length to train people to issue a ticket only when you committed a clear violation. For people to attempt to figure out ways to ‘beat’ them does seem to be a distortion of the adjudication system.”
And at Parker Center, the LAPD’s Cooke, who had not seen the film, asked, “What ever happened to ‘Slow down and obey the law?’ ”
Milton noted that when the project was proposed, “it was (described as) an educational video designed to instruct motorists how to act when stopped by a traffic officer.
“Now it’s a video that instructs people how to avoid a traffic ticket. If we had known that was going to be the thrust, we would not have participated.”
And officer Munday complained: “It’s a little contradictory for myself as an officer to be issuing citations for infractions of the vehicle code and then turning around and giving people tips on how to beat it in court.
“It gives people the impression that it wasn’t justified in the first place, which is entirely false from my point of view.”
Producers of the tape cited an acknowledgement at the start of the video that “the only sure-fire way to beat a ticket is to avoid getting it in the first place” and said they were not pointing out loopholes.
” . . . Anybody who watches the video and chooses to challenge a ticket will do so in a more pleasant and positive manner than someone who hadn’t,” Broido said.
Glendale attorney J. Michael Flanagan, who appears in the video advising motorists how to fight a ticket in court, also supported the product.
“Whether it’s murder or speeding, you can be dead-bang guilty and our Constitution says you have the right of trial,” said Flanagan, who has represented traffic case defendants for 16 years.
“The driver has been cited, and now the prosecution has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty. I choose to make them prove it.”
‘In General Terms’
Wayne Threm, producer and director of the video, said he told the CHP “in general terms” what the video would cover.
Threm likened the producer’s situation to a reporter’s interview. “They don’t tell the subject everything they’re going to put in the story because they don’t know, just as we didn’t know,” he said.
“There was never a script. This was a process that evolved. We knew we wanted to have the Highway Patrol. They’re the experts.”
Munday’s interview appears shortly after the film opens. Against a background of heavy Los Angeles traffic, an announcer tells viewers that “You too can beat a speeding ticket and we’re going to show you how. . . .
“We’ve gotten the inside scoop from current and former cops, presiding judges and high-priced lawyers. Advice that would cost you thousands of dollars if you went out and paid for it yourself.”
Retired LAPD officer Rick Bierend advises that three times out of four an officer who stops a driver will only issue a warning.
Ben A. Schuck, an attorney identified in the video as a motorist, then advises drivers that he has increased his chances of eliciting a warning by answering officer’s questions courteously.
“What I’m trying to do is give the officer an alternative to giving me a ticket,” he says, " . . . to give me a lecture if that’s what he would like to do . . . And I’m not going to give him that opportunity unless I carry on a dialogue with him.”
If courtesy does not work, excuses certainly won’t, Bierend says, using the example of a driver going 64 in a 25-mile-per-hour zone.
“She’ll say, ‘My car can’t do that,’ her new Corvette, or she’ll say ‘I was watching the speedometer and I was doing 27 miles an hour.’ So she’s saying one of two things: either I’m a liar or I’m grossly incompetent. I don’t like either of those, so I’m going to have to make her wrong and she’s going to get issued the citation.”
Arguing or pleading are equally futile, Bierend says.
“There’s no mercy as far as motor officers are concerned. You just don’t plead. The girls that are crying, it doesn’t influence us. The thing that will influence a motor officer is a forthright admission of guilt.”
CHP officer Munday counsels drivers to move slowly for identification when they are pulled over, citing grim figures about danger to officers in those situations.
“It’s very important that you keep your hands visible at all times,” he says. “You may be innocently reaching into a glove box or reaching under a seat for your wallet or registration. The officer has no idea what you’re reaching for.
“In the back of his mind are the facts. In 1985, for example, 20% of the officers who died in the line of duty lost their lives on traffic stops.”