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amazingme's avatar

Do you find anything wrong with this ticket for 'running a red light'?

Asked by amazingme (1860points) October 28th, 2011

About a month ago, my brother (who’s 21) and his friend and girlfriend were driving at 1:30 AM to the 24 hour Wal-Mart to pick up a movie. On the way there, he was pulled over for running a red light. Only thing is, he didn’t run the red light! (I know he isn’t lying because he’s horrible at lying). The officer made them get out of the car and searched it and even searched his girlfriend’s purse! There wasn’t any reason to be searching the car in the first place. The officer didn’t find anything and ended up giving him a ticket for running the red light (which, remember, he didn’t do). On the day of the court date, his witness doesn’t show up because he slept in (some friend, I know) and his girlfriend had her hands tied in something else. He ends up pleading guilty because he knew that the judge would side with the officer (He has had something similar happen before and understood that arguing would get him nowhere). The judge fines him 30 dollars. He was fine with that. Now, today in the mail, he got a letter from the court stating that he owes 90 dollars for this incident (Which he never did…just reiterating). The extra 60 dollars is because of court fees. So, do you think this is fair? He’s being charged 90 dollars for a crime he didn’t do in the first place, while he was under the impression he would be charged 30? Do you think anything about this is fair?

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24 Answers

bobbinhood's avatar

It’s perfectly fair. He plead guilty, so he suffers the consequences as if he were guilty. What’s unfair about that? Unfair would be if he plead innocent and was found guilty anyway.

Hibernate's avatar

The cop searched them to see if they were using drugs. Standard procedure.

Cupcake's avatar

Guilty = fine + court costs. Consider it a learning experience.

Brian1946's avatar

I’m not sure if this would be of any help now that he’s plead guilty, but was the intersection by any chance monitored by a red-light camera?

wonderingwhy's avatar

Do I think it’s “fair” – no. But the court costs have to be paid somehow and if you’re guilty, which he said he was, that’s a pretty easy way to recoup the expense. And, to my recollection they tell you about the potential costs on the ticket. If he wants to feel better tell him to get his two witnesses who claim he didn’t do it to each chip in $45. If he didn’t, they shouldn’t have an issue with it since the result could be considered directly related to their not showing.

Sort of as an aside. You can argue that it keeps people who are guilty from tying up the system by essentially threatening them with extra costs for wasting peoples time. But it can also be argued that doing that assumes guilt – particularly in such traffic violations as it’s often an “A-said B-said” situation (unless they snap a picture of you doing it now). Therefore with traffic violations the burden of proof is on the defendant who under most reasonable circumstances will have no ability to offer such proof.

amazingme's avatar

@Brian1946 Unfortunately, no. I’ve asked him why he plead guilty, but he felt it was futile to do otherwise.
@Hibernate How is that standard protocol when I’ve been pulled over at 2 AM for running a stop sign (something I didn’t do and didn’t get a ticket) and also have been pulled over for ‘speeding’ even though my car was in cruise control on the speed limit and have never had my car searched? Funny thing is, both time I had the same people in the car that he had when he was pulled over.
I posted this, because really I needed to rant, sorry. I just have such a huge problem with the law enforcement where I live. One time, my best friend had just dropped her brother off at school and got pulled over for a rolling stop. They made her get out, searched the car and her pockets. They found marijuana residue in her pocket… residue! Barely enough to pick up. Such a little amount, that you’d have to turn the pocket inside out and shake it to get it out…which the officer did. She ended up getting her license suspended for 6 months and got a huge fine (I don’t remember how much) for possession of marijuana. That really frustrates me. I know that pot is illegal and all, but seriously? Suspended license and huge fine for such a small amount?

deni's avatar

@Hibernate That is not standard procedure. A cop just can’t do whatever the hell he wants for no reason, even though a lot of people don’t know that. Maybe if the cop smelled weed or saw paraphenelia or the kid looked drunk or was driving erratically, then there’d be a reason.

@amazingme The ”””””””””””””””“war”””””””””””””” on drugs is so silly.

amazingme's avatar

@deni I’ve taken to keeping a huge lists of rights in my glove compartment and a video camera also…I know it sounds slightly ridiculous but the officers in my area get away with a lot of stuff they shouldn’t be getting away with. Mainly searching people’s vehicles. And I agree, the war on drugs is pretty silly.

robmandu's avatar

The outcome is fair as you describe it.

What’s unfair is what your brother ALLOWED to occur:

1. He allowed the cop to search his car? On what probable cause? Running a red light is not sufficient. The cop can ask to search, but as a citizen in the USA, your brother can refuse if the officer does not have probable cause.

2. He pled guilty to something he knows he’s innocent of. Ridiculous. The whole point of the court is to prove your brother ran the red light. What evidence did the officer have? Did the officer even show up to court? No evidence == not guilty. There are so many not-guilty outcomes possible here, your brother seemingly just gave it away.

And just my pet peeve: you’re complaining about a measly $90? Really? Be thankful it wasn’t much, much higher.

And my $0.02: I think your brother probably believes there was a possibility he was guilty.

And really, who hasn’t ever “accidentally” run a red light without getting caught? Big whoop.

amazingme's avatar

The reason why he allowed the officer to search his car is because, if my brother had said ‘No, you can’t’, that can be seen as probable cause.
Yes, the officer did show up to court. Neither the officer had evidence for, or evidence against. In cases like that, the judge usually sides with the officer, especially is the officer had decided to show up to court.
The reason I’m complaining about 90 dollars?? He’s on such a tight budget because he goes to school and spends all his money from work on rent, gas, insurance, ect. Not to mention paying for school. And he doesn’t get paid that much. So, yeah, I see 90 dollars as a problem.
Lastly, I know he didn’t run the red light because he doesn’t get this upset over something he did do. He’s gotten a couple traffic violations before, been upset about them, went to court and had a tranquil attitude towards it; But that is because he did commit a traffic violation.

XOIIO's avatar

He got off fucking lucky, I hit into a car thawt was speeding on my bike, and the walk lights don’t work and I have a 230 dollar ticket for “runnign a red light”

Zaku's avatar

The only thing fair about it is that he plead guilty and is being charged accordingly. The rest of it is outrageous, and I wish it had been overturned and the officer investigated. I think you should still call for the officer to be investigated.

You’ve got some backwards thinking going on. Don’t plead guilty to things you’re innocent of, even if it went against you in the past. And don’t give up your rights because you think you’ll be punished for standing up for them. If you have a right to deny a search, invoking it does not give the officer probably cause to do it anyway.

What community do you live in that has this nasty officer in it?

bkcunningham's avatar

Not being a smartalec, but it had been a month and he hadn’t paid the $30 he originally thought he owed? He should pay the $90 and take it as cheap lesson.

zenvelo's avatar

And where I live when you are asked how you plead, you say “I would like Traffic School please”. Still have to pay the court costs and the school fee, which can be more, but it keeps the points off your record and not reported to insurance.

Billy_Strauss's avatar

#1 Where do you guys live?
#2 Why do you think the cop pulled them over? Was your brother sure about the light?
#3 Always always always deny the police access to you or your vehicle. When the police ask if it is okay to search your vehicle always always always tell them NO, IT IS NOT OKAY IF YOU SEARCH MY VEHICLE. THIS IS IN NO WAY AN ADMISSION THAT YOU HAVE ANYTHING TO HIDE. YOU ARE AVAILING YOURSELF OF YOUR 4TH AMENDMENT CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL SEARCH AND SEIZURE.
#4 The Court Costs should have been assessed at the court when he was found guilty and his fine was set.
#5 He is an idiot for pleading guilty if he was not. He should have asked the judge for a continuance. He should go back to the court and go before the same judge and ask why his court costs were not assessed immediately upon being fined for pleading guilty.
#6 His friends are cowards and most certainly not his friends.

sinscriven's avatar

Yes it seems fair enough to me.
He should have refused the search, there wasn’t just cause to suspect drugs for a routine stop. And why should the court consider him innocent when he doesn’t even bother making a defense? He didn’t prove he wasn’t guilty, so it made it a cakewalk to convict him.

In the end, it’s your brother’s fault for not asserting his rights and defending himself in the least. Hopefully he can get traffic school done and learn from this experience.

Could be worse though, my ticket for a roll stop was $400. He got off relatively easy.

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Hibernate's avatar

@amazingme & @deni I was trying to state the same as @robmandu but I did not know the exact term in English. Where @robmandu explained better you guys need to remember the cop can always say “the smell of weed or other drugs was coming from the car”.

And in the end this is only a hypothetical situation: what if… I’m sure next time you guys will know what to do :P Oh and don’t get scared of officers next time.

robmandu's avatar

@amazingme wrote, “The reason why he allowed the officer to search his car is because, if my brother had said ‘No, you can’t’, that can be seen as probable cause.”

That is absolutely false, false, FALSE!

Refusing a non-justified search is within our Constitutional rights… and we have a duty as citizens to 1) know that, 2) understand it, and 3) protect it.

The cop could theoretically invent a false probable cause – like smelling weed – but your brother’s simple refusal is not enough.

Hibernate's avatar

@robmandu I’m curious to know one thing and you seem like you can help me out.
Let’s assume the above situation.
The cop might invent the “weed smell” coming from the car. His brother refuses. [I believe the car is private property]. Does the cop needs a search warrant to search his car even with that probable cause?

I ask this because I want to understand not to make fun of the situation. It’s for my own knowledge.

robmandu's avatar

The legitimate “smell of weed” is usually sufficient.

Of course, that’s impossible to prove in any meaningful way… unless some mj is actually found.

Here’s what you need to remember: you can’t be found guilty of a crime without actual evidence (usually).

Don’t approve a search of your car. Don’t take the field sobriety tests. Don’t take the breathalyzer in the cop’s car. You’re only required by law to identify yourself truthfully. Other than that you don’t even have to speak. It’s called the Fifth Amendment. Even if you’re detained, that can be better than inadvertently providing incriminating evidence.


I’m not in law in any way. But even a search warrant requires some evidence supporting probable cause.

Cops hassle young people. But there’s nothing wrong with politely standing up for your rights. Cops can ask for anything they want… but you don’t have to agree.

When in doubt, ask. Ask if it’s just a request, or an order. Ask if you’re being arrested or if you’re free to go. Most patrol cars have video running all the time… and the officer must follow the rules.

Point is, be smart, not afraid. Be polite, not belligerent. In America, it’s comparatively easy to stand up for your basic rights. And we should!

Hibernate's avatar

I know what my rights are. I was wondering about how that works in the US. Thanks for the reply..

bkcunningham's avatar

@robmandu, every state in America is an implied consent state in that when you are given a driver’s license you agree, depending on the specific state law, to present that license, registration and insurance information to a law enforcement officer if asked. That implied consent law in many states also requires you to comply with a request to take a field sobriety test and/or chemical testing to determine your blood-alcohol content. If you don’t comply, there are additional penalties, also depending on the various state laws.

robmandu's avatar

@bkcunningham, you’re right, of course. At the minimum, that will likely involve an evening in detainment at the police station.

For example, people often comply with field sobriety tests. They do so because they would rather pass a couple of tests in the hopes of soon being back on their merry way. After all, they’re innocent, right?

But what if a stone-cold sober individual inadvertently cues the officer into thinking he’s intoxicated? Maybe he stumbled on the heel-toe test? Maybe he’s had vision problems which somehow affects his nystagmus response. Now there’s “evidence” – likely on video – that can be used against him in a court of law.

I have a Texas-based lawyer’s business card with me… the back of it says:

Politely, but firmly, refuse to take ANY sobriety tests. Especially do not take the eye test (“HGN”) or a breath test. Generally speaking, no tests means no evidence, and no evidence means not guilty. For each test requested, ask if you are required to perform the test. The officer should tell you “no”. When he does, simply choose not to take the tests. If he asks you why, tell him a lawyer friend told you not to.

Say as little as possible. Be aware that you may be videotaped.

I did have an opportunity to serve as a jury foreman on a DWI case last year. Even if the alleged perpetrator refuses to take specific tests, there are many elements of the booking process at the police station that are captured on video. The process is rigged such that there are some “implicit” tests to help trick a person into demonstrating some level of impairment.

Remember, you’re innocent until proven guilty. The police have experience and infrastructure to enable them to capture many incriminating details of your behavior. Don’t give them any proof you don’t have to. Be respectful, be friendly, ask questions.

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