I was stopped by an officer that claimed I sped over a 30mph speed limit. When he saw that I have a radar detector, he proceeded to "cut me a break" and gave me a ticket for "failed to signal" (but I did use my signal, and the officer knows it).

He did not use radar (my radar detector would have indicated otherwise) and I was in the lead among other cars. I wasn't speeding, but accelerated faster than the other cars. It seems to me that he realized that he may not have a strong argument in court when he saw my radar. Therefore, I received a citation that was different than the one I was stopped for.

How would a typical case like this play out in court (generalized)? Would he tell the truth, and if he does, would that means the case would be dismissed on the grounds that I did not violate the law in which the citation has stated? (I would probably use "motion to summary judgement" if this happens.)

RESULTS from my case:

First Trial: Officer did not show up (did not give a reason). The Judge offered a continuance to the officer. Case postponed. (NYS penal code states along the lines that if the officer did not give a reason for missing the court date or is not one of the few exceptions for missing the date, case should be dismissed. However, in my case it wasn't. Perhaps the judge had the final say regarding this matter.

2nd Trial: Officer did not show up. Prosecutor tried to get me to come back. However, I mentioned the continuance is final and that the officer not showing up means there is no witness against me. I got my hearing in front of the judge and the case was dismissed.

Notes: After going through this ordeal, I realized that the prosecutors were really out to get people to agree to plea bargains. Even going as for as lying to me the officer was present to get me to sign a plea.

  • FYI, cops are generally trained in speed estimation; they can ticket you based solely on that if they want. As far as other means of measurement go, radar is far from the only one. It is unlikely the cop was cowed by the radar detector.
    – cpast
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 1:35
  • This is a good cross examination point. Not a deciding factor in the case.
    – Viktor
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 1:56
  • Did you in fact fail to signal? If we assume the officer tells the truth, then we should assume you failed to signal. The fact that he stopped you for a different violation doesn't change the fact that you didn't signal. In other words, there's nothing that prevents you from receiving "a citation that was different than the one [you were] stopped for." The citation is only improper if you either (a) didn't do anything that required a signal, or (b) did signal when you were required to.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 19:28
  • 1
    "FYI, cops are generally trained in speed estimation" and that is complete nonsense, kinda like estimating how much time has passed accurately without a watch.
    – Andy
    Commented May 4, 2016 at 22:54

2 Answers 2


I took my car to the mechanic to have a squeaky brake looked at. I was told it would cost $30. The mechanic fixed whatever the problem was. When I was checking out, they could not find a $30 brake-work item in their computer so they billed it as Tire Balancing $30. Or some such thing. Meh, accounting.

This is not how the law works.

The prosecution needs to prove every element of the crime you are charged with. They need to prove you did not signal. The way this usually works is the cop takes the stand and testifies, and you can cross examine him. Then you can testify if you want to, and can be cross-examined. There might be other evidence against you also, like a dash cam. Assuming there is no other evidence, and that the officer did not prove every element of failing to signal, you do not need to testify. You can tell the judge that the prosecution failed to make the case and ask to have the charge dismissed. Of course, if the judge thinks they did make their case, then you lose. On the other hand, you could take the stand and testify, and subject yourself to cross examination. Just a word of warning, if it's your word against a cop's word, you will lose.

Your best bet is to get discovery, get the dash cam, and show that you did signal.

Be aware, if you get too saucy, the prosecution can add charges. So they could add the speeding charge, but of course, (see above), they then need to prove it.

  • 2
    There is typically a statue of limitations (motor offenses) on additional charges. Something along the lines of 45 to 180 days. So after that time the prosecution cannot add charges.
    – Viktor
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 17:25
  • 4
    "...ask to have the charges dismissed. Of course, if the judge thinks they did make their case, then you lose." This is why you ask the judge to dismiss right after the prosecution rests and before you otherwise begin your defense. If the judge disagrees with your motion to dismiss, then you can go on presenting your own evidence afterwards. Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 18:06

You have been charged with the offence of "Fail to signal". How this would play out depends on whether you signalled or not.

All the other stuff, while interesting, is completely irrelevant to the offence you are charged with. A police officer has wide discretion in deciding whether to issue a citation or merely a warning. It appears he "cut you a break" and gave you a warning for speeding and issued a citation for failing to signal; this is totally OK. I am pretty sure he would tell the truth as he has nothing to hide.

So, did you fail to signal?

  • 1
    Your final question is a trap. ;)
    – user900
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 3:08
  • 1
    From the question, I infer that the OP did in fact fail to signal; he appears to be complaining that he was ticketed for a violation after being stopped for a different violation, not that he was ticketed for a violation he didn't commit.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 19:30

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