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I recall reading about speeding ticket defenses in some jurisdiction in the United States or Canada that the fact that the officer "reduced" the alleged speed that he obtained through his radar and such, invalidates the whole ticket. (Which is probably one of the reasons that the officers never negotiate what number they put on the ticket.)

E.g., if the traffic citation says you were going 80 in a 70 zone on an interstate, but, it turns out, the officer does have evidence from his laser that you were going 85 instead, then the ticket is invalid and should be dismissed by the judge as improper. (Would it matter if, for example, the officer did have another reading at exactly 80? Or if he has also followed you bumper-to-bumper for a couple of seconds at the speed of, say, 75, or 78?)

Could anyone possibly find any reference or confirmation of this? Would something like this be applicable in Texas?

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Here is a link to the relevant Texas Statute: Title 7, Subtitle C, Chapter 545, Subchapter A:

Sec. 545.351. MAXIMUM SPEED REQUIREMENT. (a) An operator may not drive at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the circumstances then existing.

Combine that with:

Sec. 545.352. PRIMA FACIE SPEED LIMITS. (a) A speed in excess of the limits established by Subsection (b) or under another provision of this subchapter is prima facie evidence that the speed is not reasonable and prudent and that the speed is unlawful.

This section mentions, as an example, among other points:

(2) except as provided by Subdivision (4), 70 miles per hour on a highway numbered by this state or the United States outside an urban district, including a farm-to-market or ranch-to-market road;

What this means is that if you are driving over 70 miles per hour on a type of highway mentioned in (2) above then you are, by legal definition, driving at a speed that is greater than is reasonable and prudent.

When you are cited for speeding you are not charged for driving at a specific speed in an area posted at another speed. You are cited for violating a broader law, such as in Texas, driving in an unreasonable or imprudent manner. The mention of the speed is merely a recordation of the facts that support the state's case against you.

Let's take the proposal to demonstrate the speed is too low to its logical conclusion. You plead not guilty and it comes out during testimony that you weren't driving 80 but really 85. The judge will still find you guilty of the underlying charge as the facts in the case still support that finding.

I have personally witnessed mistakes in tickets result in dismissal. Those mistakes have, however, been related to other facts about the case though: time of day, date of offense, etc.

I've also witnessed people attempt to claim a lower but still illegal speed. For example, "I wasn't going 85 I was only going 80." These resulted in findings of guilt.

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  • yes, i guess it's a good reminder that even though you'll never be given tickets for 4mph (and under) over the speed limit in any state, a finding of going over even by 1mph might still be sufficient evidence to support a case (of course, at those numbers, you could successfully defend on the basis that the measuring equipment is not precise enough) – cnst Aug 26 '15 at 23:57
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    Arizona, as an example, sets the prima facie speed limits at more than 10mph over the posted speed. If you're driving less than 11mph over the posted speed then the officer has to prove through other evidence that you're driving in an unreasonable or imprudent manner. He would have to use testimony such as weather, traffic levels, unsafe lane changes, etc. and not just speed. – Dave D Aug 26 '15 at 23:59
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    My daughter was pulled over in Texas for going 82 in an 80. She was let off with a warning. I was surprised by that one. The best ticket I ever got was in Texas going 90 in an 80. The State Trooper said, "I can see you're in a hurry so I'll write you up real quick and get you on your way." – Dave D Aug 27 '15 at 0:01
  • @Dave.D, lol, i'm surprised about 82 in 80, it's probably indeed not enough to issue an actual citation; yes, i was indeed surprised by how fast and efficient an Austin officer was at issuing the ticket, and getting on his way! They don't even write down your VIN or anything, just scan the bar codes with that little portable point-of-sale-style-thing, which then even prints out the whole citation. – cnst Aug 27 '15 at 0:06
  • I was tried and nearly convicted for 51 in a 50 mph zone in Texas. But the jury found me not guilty. But they wanted to get me for that. – mark b Feb 3 '17 at 6:37
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I've never heard of reducing the speed making the ticket invalid. In fact, many jurisdictions will amend the ticket to the actual speed that was taken on the radar if someone attempts to go and fight a ticket in court after an officer cut them some slack by lowering the speed, likely to eliminate that line of argument before the hearing begins. You have to remember that a traffic citation can be amended at any point before the judge starts hearing arguments, and I've seen an officer amend a ticket right there in the court room before arguments began (which is why people shouldn't depend solely on a mistake to get them out of a ticket when heading to court).

But to put this in perspective, prosecutors over the span of law have frequently used the tactic of lowering the offense in a wide variety of different circumstances because it makes it easier to get a conviction, gives them a break, etc. Whatever the reason, lowering the offense does not inherently make the offense invalid. Imagine a judge dismissing a murder charge because the prosecutor made a deal and only charged them with manslaughter, even though they clearly had the evidence to get a conviction for second degree murder.

Since speeding is only a traffic violation and not that "serious" it is much more likely that it is just a judge using their discretionary power and thinking, "well if you're willing to cut them a break and lower the speed, why not just let them off completely with a warning?" Going back to my first paragraph with this, chances are if you actually go to court your ticket will either a) get completely dismissed by the judge and you just get a warning or b) amended to the actual speed you were going. Likely it will depend on your previous traffic citation history.

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  • I don't think your example is correct. You're talking about the prosecutor making the deal, which is conditional upon you pleading guilty or no-contest to such deal, versus a cop having a discretionary power to put arbitrary charges on the ticket. Likewise, I highly doubt any judge will accept either the prosecutor or the cop to simply amend the charge on the citation at the last minute to a more severe one -- such ticket would likely be thrown out of court (what they could indeed amend are the minor errors like the misspelling, or wrong address, etc). – cnst Aug 26 '15 at 23:43
  • Do you have any evidence that a traffic citation was amended to a more serious charge on the spot by the prosecutor or the cop in the courtroom, and the judge has accepted such an amendment? (I'm not talking about the typos, those indeed can be amended at any time.) – cnst Aug 26 '15 at 23:44
  • I don't have an example, because the one I stated was an in-person experience, and the judge did not even question the officer about the amendment. It was quite literally the officer informing the judge that the charge was being changed (because he had used the wrong one). – animuson Aug 26 '15 at 23:55
  • My quick search over the Internet brought up this answer from a Criminal Defense Attorney: "Criminal and traffic charges can be amended or added all the way up to trial, so the charges could be amended into two cases at anytime." - Generally a judge would only decide to accept an amendment or not if the trial has already begun, in which case you would be motioning to amend the charges. – animuson Aug 26 '15 at 23:56
  • So, in the exchange you've overheard, did the defendant ask for the ticket to be dismissed on the grounds that the charge was wrong? – cnst Aug 27 '15 at 0:00

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