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Say one had a pregnant wife that was going into labor: I've already called for an ambulance, However: They are far away from reaching me. So in order to reach them faster: We jump into a car and drive towards to meet them. Now here is the thing: If I consider it to be a safe move: Can I speed over the limits without getting a ticket, or perhaps get a reduced ticket?

And this could also be a scenario: If I approach a red light: Can I drive slowly into the crossing while honking and flashing the hazard lights?


I'd like to know how this works all around the world. So one answer for each continent would be perfect.

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    "One answer per continent" is much too few; most continents contain multiple jurisdictions which may have completely different laws. But in many jurisdictions you may be able to claim a "necessity defense". – Nate Eldredge Sep 3 '15 at 13:18
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    You asked "is it legal". Better to ask "should I do it". It's your decision whether you want to do something illegal, weighing up the risks and consequences of doing it or not doing it. Going past a red light with traffic has a good chance that your wife gets to the hospital a lot later, and in a worse condition, apart from the risk to everyone else. Different from a red light on an empty road at night where your risk is a ticket. If you feel "honking and flashing hazard lights" is needed then don't do it. – gnasher729 Apr 18 '16 at 13:17
  • It's worth noting that speeding over short distances often buys you very little time. If getting to the hospital includes a stretch of road that requires five minutes at the speed limit, doubling your speed on that stretch will save only 2.5 minutes. In some situations, those 2.5 minutes may be critical, but in others, not so much. – phoog Nov 11 '19 at 22:19
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    It's probably worth noting that if your wife goes into labour unexpectedly you don't need to get to a hospital in a hurry. If the baby comes quickly, then it is extremely unlikely that there will be any complications that will need medical attention. If the baby comes slowly then there is time to wait for the ambulance (I would actually stay at home until the ambulance arrives). This is, of course, not really relevant to the legal question being asked. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Nov 14 '19 at 17:33
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The answer across the USA is that no, you are not indemnified against getting a speeding ticket or perhaps a reckless driving charge.

HOWEVER: In the mitigating circumstance of a medical emergency, if police did stop you they would most likely decline to give you a citation. If they did cite you, then a judge would most likely consider the extenuating circumstances.

The difficulty with your premise is that average people who are put into situations like this often make very poor decisions that endanger themselves and others. The last thing that the ambulance crew wants to do is extricate your in-labor passenger from your wrecked car before they can continue the transport.

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    Shrug This is why you should be able to demand trial by jury for traffic citations. While the lay may well read this way the jury is even less likely to accept a citation here than a judge. – Joshua Mar 4 '16 at 5:09
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    What law supports this answer? Traffic laws are pretty purely questions of state and local law, so purporting to provide an answer applicable "across the USA" is laughable. – bdb484 Nov 11 '19 at 20:04
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In Brazil yes, your ticket may be canceled (another link) (sorry, all links in this question are in Portuguese only), even though traffic laws are state-wide and ticket appeals granted can be as low as 20%(in some states).

A little bit of extra context. In Brazil most of the speeding tickets are given by eletronic means, without the driver being stopped by traffic authority personnel. That means you'll receive the ticket a few days/weeks/months later on your house containing all evidences (a picture of the car, the place and time when the violation occured, etc). You'll have to appeal showing evidences (like a statement from the hospital containing date and name of person in emergency) that confirm you were in a medical emergency situation. If evidence is real (confirmed by the hospital, for instance) chances are high that your appeal would be granted and the ticket nullified.

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In Wisconsin, you could try to claim necessity if you were speeding due to a medical emergency:

Pressure of natural physical forces which causes the actor reasonably to believe that his or her act is the only means of preventing imminent public disaster, or imminent death or great bodily harm to the actor or another and which causes him or her so to act, is a defense to a prosecution for any crime based on that act, except that if the prosecution is for first-degree intentional homicide, the degree of the crime is reduced to 2nd-degree intentional homicide.

However, this might or might not work. Speeding is not technically a crime; it's a civil forfeiture. The 1982 Wisconsin Supreme Court case State v. Brown held:

We need not and we do not decide whether a defense of legal justification is available to the defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding if the causative force is someone or something other than a law enforcement officer. We decide only that a defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding may claim that his violation of the law should be excused if it was caused by the state itself through the actions of a law enforcement officer.

So, if you made such an argument, the courts would have to decide whether to accept it. In the above case, two justices out of the six who heard the case said in a concurring opinion that "the public interest in highway safety and the expeditious enforcement of traffic laws outweighs an individual defendant's interests of a personal nature in any other circumstances." (I strongly disagree with characterizing the avoidance of imminent great bodily harm or death as a mere "interest of a personal nature", but they said what they said.)

Also, in the case of a woman in normal labor, it's not clear that there will be "imminent death or great bodily harm" if you don't speed. Your belief that speeding is the only means to prevent this must be "reasonable" given the circumstances, or necessity would not apply even if the courts decided that this defense could apply to speeding.

  • Speeding itself isn't a crime, is it? So I guess the cited provision will only apply if an actual crime has been committed as the result of speeding e.g. somebody got killed. – Greendrake Dec 8 '18 at 3:55
  • @Greendrake 939.12 says: " A crime is conduct which is prohibited by state law and punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Conduct punishable only by a forfeiture is not a crime." And 346.60 says the punishment for speeding is a forfeiture. So, a strict reading might indicate you are correct, but... – D M Dec 8 '18 at 12:18
  • @Greendrake ... see State v. Brown which held "We need not and we do not decide whether a defense of legal justification is available to the defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding if the causative force is someone or something other than a law enforcement officer. We decide only that a defendant in a civil forfeiture action for speeding may claim that his violation of the law should be excused if it was caused by the state itself through the actions of a law enforcement officer." – D M Dec 8 '18 at 12:23
  • So, the question is actually explicitly undecided. I'll edit my answer later today when I have time. – D M Dec 8 '18 at 12:26
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In the U.S., most police officers are trained to assist in the birth of a child on scene and incidents of pulling over a worried new parents who are speeding to a hospital (in addition to having the ability to contact dispatch and have EMS sent out to the scene). It's not an uncommon occurence on American News for a story about a heroic cop who was able to assist in a pregnant woman's child on scene of a car wreck or traffic stop.

Additionally, issuing tickets is at the officer's discretion and most cops are people and understand that a traffic ticket is not what is needed in the matter. They don't have to cite you for anything on scene. I can't find any confirmation at the moment, but I have vague recollection of some cops in said situations even providing emergency escort to the hospital (especially if new Dad is so nervous he got himself lost or turned around). In the U.S., on scene officer instructions trump road signs and lights (if a traffic cop waves you through a red light at a busy intersection, you are not legally running a red light, even if the camera shows otherwise). These days, the tickets for speeding while trying to get to the hospital because of medical emergency will likely be by speed camera.

If for any reason, you do not feel safe to stop on the side of the road when the cops light you up, turn on your hazard lights and reduce speed to the speed limit or lower. This will signal to the cop that you are not comfortable with stopping at the present location (and you do not need to defend the reason, but common reasons are the highway speed is too fast, there are not safe places to stop, the road is not well lit or you want to stop in a place where you are not alone with the cop... or worse an imposter cop...) but that you will comply with the officer (cops actually recommend this if you are being pulled over by an unmarked cop car, as it's not illegal to own sirens in the U.S. and some imposter cops will typically use them to help give the illusion to their victims... and real cops don't want to give up unmarked cars for highway patrol... they know that on highways, they tend to accumulate a lot of slow traffic immediately behind them for a reason). If you are not far from the Hospital (less than 10 minutes at best probable speed) proceed to the hospital (in the U.S. most highways have signage denoting an exit with a nearby hospital (a white H on a blue field) and if the cop sees you heading in that direction, it's not a hard guess to make. You should turn into the Emergency entrance and proceed to the closest entrance to the building. If you are not close, look for a brightly lit parking lot (if at night) at a Chain Pharmacy, Supermarket, Gas Station, or Fast Food Restaurant (You want to identify likely 24/7 locations, as this means there is staff (especially late at night, and usually graveyard-shift staff are reliable), and likely some basic supplies that can assist. In the U.S. supermarkets aren't as reliably open 24/7 as the other options, but in many cases they are close to the pharmacy.). These will usually be right off the exit. Additionally, look for a fire house or station or even a police station or barracks (In the U.S. Fire services typically have an EMS on hand, both are usually grouped together and the officer following you is going to be much more relaxed (if you were gonna lead a cop to a trap to kill him, it's not going to be right in front of another police station and fire fighters tend to be close enough for a nervous cop to feel safe). No matter where you stop, keep in mind as difficult as the situation is for you, you at least know that you're in medical distress. The cop knows nothing about you. To the best of your ability, comply with the officer's instructions, but let him know ASAP that you're in medical distress and the extent of your symptoms.

All of this is more De Facto than De Jure, so if you are ticketed for such an offense, you will be responsible for paying the fine or appearing in court (which you probably should do as my experience is that most traffic court judges will at the very least reduce the fine or points to the license for less pressing reasons than this.). Tactically it's in your best interest to argue a ticket in such a way... and it's also tactically to your advantage to try and bring the little bundle of joy in as well (try and bring a friend you can trust with removing the brat if he/she gets too fussy while waiting for your specific case... the judges may love babies, but they hate any interruptions of their court.). In either case, bring records of your hospital stay (including admittance) and birth certificate as further evidence that you went to the hospital because of the reason you said you were.

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