27

I know the normal advice is "don't say more to the police than you have to," but what if:

  • They tell you they pulled you over for speeding
  • You know you were speeding
  • The officer almost certainly has enough evidence to prove you were speeding

In this case, what benefit could there be to not admitting that you were speeding? Is there any benefit to admitting it?

2
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Jul 14, 2022 at 19:49
  • I mean, if you don't know why the officer pulled you over, but you suspect it was speeding, at least wait until the officer states his reason. The officer might be pulling you over for having a tail light out and forgot to check your speed (which he noticed because you were braking to reduce speed when you saw the cop car on the side of the road no less.).
    – hszmv
    Dec 7, 2022 at 16:05

12 Answers 12

48

The benefit of not confessing is that they have no confession from you. If you decide later to challenge it on some basis you will have given up any advantage you may have had to get the case dismissed.

15
  • 3
    Are there any reasons why a person should talk to the police? (The fact that the second tag I used exists implies the answer is no, but are there exceptions?)
    – Someone
    Jul 11, 2022 at 5:15
  • 61
    Sure, to be civil and act like a normal human being. (I.e. “good morning officer, how are you doing?”) You can be polite without confessing to anything. Jul 11, 2022 at 14:43
  • 31
    @Someone Be courteous to the officer and you increase your chances of getting off with just a warning. Jul 12, 2022 at 3:47
  • 2
    So what is the plan if you decide to go to court (to fight a ticket that you know was perfectly justified) and the judge asks you if you were in fact speeding? Pleading the fifth/saying you don't know is essentially a confession, given the testimony and evidence from the police officer, and denying it would be lying under oath. Could you explain in more detail the advantage you mention?
    – Marc
    Jul 12, 2022 at 7:10
  • 5
    @MarcPaul if you find out that they were, for example using an out-of-date speed gun or so, that would make it easy to fight the case. And what is the judge going to do with 0 evidence on hand? Yeah, everyone in the court room will KNOW you were speeding, but nobody will be able to convict you for it without evidence (or a confession)
    – Hobbamok
    Jul 12, 2022 at 8:29
63

Maybe.

  • In many but not all situations, the police have a certain latitude in how they charge an incident.
  • In many but not all socieities, speeding is seen as less morally repugnant than, say, theft or tax evasion. "Can happen to anyone, oops," the excuse goes.

So a credible expression of remorse might cause the police officer to issue a caution or verbal warning instead of a ticket. Unless you are in a place where there is a grossly antagonistic relationship between the police and the citizens, or where the police department relies on fines for funding.

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  • 17
    Doesn't even need to be remorse; honesty itself is sometimes enough. When I was a kid, I was pulled over, clocked at 25km/h over (speed limit was 60 on one side of the light I was trying to get through, 50 on the other lol). I was honest that I knew I was speeding and why. The cop said he appreciated the honesty and knocked it to a lesser charge that was a smaller fine, no demerit points, and wouldn't affect my insurance.
    – Daevin
    Jul 12, 2022 at 13:28
  • 2
    Note also that it might prevent him from getting nosy and finding the body in the trunk. :D On the other hand, in some places a confession might mean that then he's entitled to suspect you of pretty much anything he pleases, so it may lead to him searching further looking for more tasty fines... All depends on the officer in question really.
    – Perkins
    Jul 12, 2022 at 21:53
  • 1
    I've done this, apologizing, and avoided a ticket and even a formal warning. Just a conversation and a reminder to pay more attention.
    – Buffy
    Jul 13, 2022 at 18:00
  • @Buffy, might work, might not work. Hard to know in advance.
    – o.m.
    Jul 13, 2022 at 18:33
  • 1
    @nasch I'm pretty sure that "sorry" is never counted as a confession... in Canada.
    – Andy
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:05
44

The benefit of confession is that it makes the entire encounter go smoother. Denying something which you know you have done and which they know you have done (or even not admitting it) is just wasting everybody's time. You will end up being detained for longer; the cop has to spend longer dealing with you; you come over as an argumentative person (which will make the cop less likely to be lenient on you); everybody comes away from the encounter slightly more annoyed, slightly more delayed, and with a slightly dimmer view of the general state of humanity.

You also have to ask yourself: What are you going to do with the ticket? If you are going to pay it then what on earth difference does it make if you confess now? If you are going to dispute it (knowing that you are actually guilty) then you are really doubling down on making life difficult.

The smooth running of society depends on the reasonable behaviour of most of the people involved most of the time. Always being combative in encounters makes society run less smoothly. Specifically every time a cop encounters someone who is uncooperative it adds a little bit in their mind to the opinion that all non-cops are jerks to be dealt with harshly. Every time a cop treats a non-cop harshly this reinforces in that person's mind the idea that all cops are jerks who need to be resisted at all time.

If you admit that you did something that you actually did, then that makes you a person of integrity. Denying it, or even remaining silent in the hope that you will get away with it, makes you less so. Your integrity may or may not be valuable to you - it's up to you of course. But trading your integrity for an extremely small chance that you might be let off a relatively small fine, that doesn't sound like a good trade to me.

1
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Jul 14, 2022 at 19:52
5

On basis of this law the Oberlandesgericht (2nd highest civil court in Germany) in North-Rhine-Westphalia decided that it is up to the officer how harshly he wants to pursue an 'Ordnungswidrigkeit' (= minor crime, literally: against the order). Of course, there are caveats to this but it could be beneficial to your case to confess to the officer who pulled you over. He might let you go with a warning.

This is not true if your speeding is no longer considered an 'Ordnungswidrigkeit. If they would let you go then §258a STgB makes them liable.

3

Who doubts that in Law, we should never even hint there was a possibility of any infraction, and so what?

This situation is one you can only fly by the seat of your pants, and as the moment dictates… assuming your speeding was not what many drivers would consider excessive in the circumstances. That must take into account both to what extent you were speeding, and whether your offence was in a built-up area or on an open high-way.

Jim's earlier Answer was quite right. I've been in the same situation more than once and through simply fessing up to the speed I was doing, got right off - an even better result than Jim's reduction.

In every jurisdiction, every officer has an attitude. If you can't read that attitude, or course fall back on zipped lips.

Every officer also has far too much paperwork to complete for every ticket issued…

That means that if you can tell you're not dealing with a martinet and your offence really was fairy trivial, there's a good chance you will get away with accepting some personal advice instead of any kind of official warning.

"No, I was not speeding" will never help you.

"Yes, I was speeding" might help you.

"Uh… you know what… I'm not really sure… It's not impossible I was going a bit above the limit…" will often make all the difference if your officer accepts that you're sorry.

If your speeding was not trivial, why not just suck it up?

1
  • "Uh… you know what… I'm not really sure… It's not impossible I was going a bit above the limit…" is not "fessing up", it's actually just not saying anything at all. Everything is "not impossible", strictly speaking. Maybe your speedometer was broken, maybe you were hallucinating, etc. But I do think that might be a somewhat reasonable answer.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 13, 2022 at 10:34
2

The question you usually hear is "Do you know how fast you were going?" Point of interest: Your average speedometer is calibrated to read a little high. If you pay attention to it, you should avoid speeding. Unfortunately, if you tell the officer the speed reported by your speedometer, you'll likely give him a number higher that the one reported by his radar gun.

Should you choose to report a number to an officer, one harvested from a GPS system is less likely to actually hurt you.

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  • 9
    I have received the strictly anecdotal advice that saying "no, I don't know how fast I was going" will open you to a more serious charge of careless driving. I take this with a grain of salt, but the upshot was that the best advice is to either claim you beleive you were at the speed limit, or maybe acknoledge that you may have been going slightly over; some number that's in the lowest penalty bracket. And you'd be well advised to know the penalty structure for the jurisdiction you're in. However I have no legal basis for this.
    – CCTO
    Jul 11, 2022 at 20:14
  • 2
    This doesn't appear to offer any answer related to the law.
    – feetwet
    Jul 11, 2022 at 23:57
  • 4
    @CCTO If you "acknowledge you were going slightly over", that's still a confession, and can only hurt you. The safest way to answer "Do you know how fast you were going" is "Yes", or decline to answer at all. criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/…
    – amalloy
    Jul 11, 2022 at 23:57
  • 5
    @CCTO, I've heard the same advice; don't admit ignorance or lack of awareness. Just find a way to politely dodge any specifics and focus on the positive. i.e. "I was paying attention to the road and maintaining a safe following distance." Jul 12, 2022 at 4:54
  • 1
    I've also heard (anecdotal) that "I believe I was going the speed limit" doesn't give anything away. You can still later change your story because you just stated a belief in the moment, and "the speed limit" is not a number, just in case you missed a sign where the speed limit changed. If he claims you were faster, it's on him to produce evidence.
    – Tom
    Jul 12, 2022 at 12:50
2

Up to 3 years ago, radars used by the police to measure speed lacked proper certification. Thus, you could successfully challenge your ticket in court, and a lot of them was dismissed there, or in the court of appeal. Even radars with certification require certain conditions, like distance and angle, for the reading to be valid. There were also situations when police officers were caught trying to fine someone using speed readings from 10 minutes earlier*. I guess that's the results of tickets being part of the funding.

We also had the situation when police radar reported 12 km/h (7.5mph) on a house **!

If you know you were speeding, there's a chance you weren't speeding as much as police wants to fine you for (again, funding), and until you confess you have a decent chance to challenge your ticket in court.


* Article in Polish here: https://zwnszzp-katowice.pl/policjanci-polowali-na-kierowcow-z-ustawionym-pomiarem-radaru-komenda-wyjasniamy-sprawe/

** https://www.antyradio.pl/News/Zmierzyli-radarem-policyjnym-predkosc-domu-Okazalo-sie-ze-jechal-12-kmh-36767

1

You may always have an "out" that is not clear. Speed limits may not be correctly posted. Honest mistakes of fact can occur on both sides, there may be an emergency, you may be overtaking. Mind that an honest mistake of fact is not the same as ignorance of the law. If this is being handled person to person there will be boilerplate questions to qualify the ticket as safe.

Admitting "speeding" is stating an opinion that you agree that on the balance of the evidence you would likely be found worthy of the ticket. That opinion may be highly regarded at a later time.

All sorts of flaws in "due process" might occur after the fact as well.

1

Yes, it's okay to admit to the police that you were speeding. Yes, there could be benefits, but you're gambling with your chances.

Among police there's a wide range of philosophies when it comes to deciding when to issue citations. Individual departments can establish strict standards, but most leave it to the individual officer to decide when to be lenient. Here are the two most common approaches you'll encounter:

  • Type 1: Some officers have already made up their mind on whether you're receiving a ticket before even approaching your vehicle. If you get pulled over by one of these, nothing you do or say will get you out of the ticket, so it's best to be polite and brief. However, these guys might have decided from the beginning that they're simply planning to let you off with a warning, and being belligerent or defensive can easily change that warning to a citation. Don't make excuses or ask questions, just provide your driver's license, accept your cite, and move on. You retain your chances of successfully disputing the ticket in court, even if it's only a slim chance, since the widespread use of bodycams, dashcams, and other technologies makes it more than just "your word vs the cop's".
  • Type 2. Some officers want to evaluate the demeanor of the driver before deciding whether to issue a cite or not. These officers aren't interested in meeting a quota, but are actually interested in eliciting voluntary compliance with traffic laws. If you recognize what you did wrong and immediately own up to it and apologize, these officers see their job as completed. To them, simply pulling you over was enough to restore your compliance with traffic laws, so it isn't necessary to hit you in the wallet this time. However, if you do this, you forfeit any chance at disputing the citation in court, since your entire confession is now recorded on bodycam. You're throwing your chances of a warning at the feet of the officer with no guarantee for mercy.

Since there's literally no way of knowing which type of officer is pulling you over, it all comes down to your personal perception of police in general. Do you generally believe that police are filthy parasitic road pirates whose primary reason for existence is to extract money from hardworking civilians over trivial infractions? If so, it's highly advised that you keep your mouth shut. On the other hand, do you believe that police are generally reasonable human beings who have simply accepted the job of helping to maintain order in their communities? Then you might consider taking your chances with being open and apologetic. Just know that mercy is never deserved, so if you fess up and get a ticket anyways, you have no right to feel like you got screwed. You were speeding, you deserve the ticket.

The people who tell you "never talk to the police" and "never admit to anything" aren't completely wrong. The 5th amendment has unfortunately created a system that often rewards those who lie and conceal the truth with acquittals, while punishing those who voluntarily confess with convictions. I'm not saying the 5th amendment is bad or needs to be abolished, just that it's a 2-sided coin.

0

This isn’t so likely to happen in your example, but if you’re fighting other charges, and you get caught lying about something minor like speeding, it might destroy your credibility when you testify about something else. In America, you have the right to remain silent.

If you’re being charged with an actual crime, your best option is to politely decline to be interviewed by the police without your lawyer present (beyond showing your drivers’ license and any other exceptions you might be required to). Traffic stops for minor infractions of the rules of the road might be the exception, though, and I’ve gotten out of a ticket by being polite.

0

Depends on the jurisdiction. Let's take Slovakia as an example: if you admit you were speeding on the spot (and paying the fine counts as confession), you pay only half of what you would if you take it to the inspectorate (dopravný inšpektorát) and lose.

However, if you do pay it on the spot, you forfeit any chance of an appeal later. Yes, this is open to psychological pressure and abuse.

-3

If the officer had all the evidence he needed to ticket you for speeding. They wouldn't need to ask you. confession is what they needed. Say you were in a group of vehicles speeding. Officer points radar gun at the group, and for some reason you get singled out. Admission is never an option. know your rights

2
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