Ask a Cop? Officer’s Discretion


Original Question:

Subject: writing a ticket
Is it solely the officer’s discretion who gets a ticket and who gets a warning?  If you pull over a soccer mom with 3 kids in minivan for going 10 over, or a car load of teenagers blasting rap music, do they both get tickets?

Our Reply:

Yes, it is the officer’s discretion on who gets a ticket or not. While there are some officers who are ticket machines and give no breaks, most officers give occasional warnings, even traffic cops whose sole responsibility is to write tickets. But if an officer is assigned to work a special detail or a specific area due to complaints, warnings are rarely given since the police are working that area due to complaints from residents and need to "make an impact". The biggest deciding factor on who gets a ticket or not is attitude. A bad attitude will always guarantee a ticket. People who argue with the officer, make up some wild excuse or make belligerent remarks to an officer will usually end up with a ticket. Cops aren’t going to argue with you or sit there and take verbal abuse, they will just write the ticket and you can do your arguing in traffic court. 

While it doesn’t always work, honesty is the best chance of getting a break. Most officers will appreciate a driver that admits they made a mistake and believe it or not, a lot of officers will give a warning as long as the violation is not serious. 10 mph over the speed limit might get a warning on the freeway or on a roadway with a 50 mph limit while 10 over in a school zone or residential street might get you a ticket. Serious violations such as running a red light, excessive speeding or other violations that can seriously injure someone will usually result in a ticket.

As for your question of a soccer mom in a mini van with 3 kids going 10 over the speed limit vs. a carload of teens blaring rap music, they could both get tickets OR they could both get warnings. It all depends on the officer, the seriousness of the violation and most importantly, attitude.


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