Ted Rall: How One Speeding Ticket Can Ruin Your Whole Life

BreakingModern — There once was a time during the 1980s when you could find a parking ticket on your windshield, crumple it up and drive off as if it had never existed. Nothing would happen. Usually. It was worth the risk.

If your failure to appear in court results in your arrest, you could be in for a singularly unpleasant experience, one that could even cost you your job or your life. A former roommate of mine got busted buying a small quantity of pot from an undercover narcotics agent in lower Manhattan. It was noon; he was at lunch. When he wasn’t back at his desk at 1 p.m., his boss was worried. When he didn’t show up for three days (long waits to be processed through the system aren’t rare, especially when there’s a holiday), he became angry — and he fired him.

Then there’s the public beer/bike on the sidewalk guy I mentioned up top. He spent a night in jail — one night in a solitary jail cell with no windows, no water and a broken toilet. Cops refused to let him make a phone call before vanishing for hours.

You Probably Won’t Get Beaten Up in Lock-Up, But …

Yeah. I know. The Constitution is there to protect you. But in the real world, the Constitution often ends the second handcuffs hit your wrists. You’re probably not going to get raped or beaten in the lock-up, but if you need your meds to stay healthy — an asthma inhaler, say — you’re in deep doo doo if they throw you in jail. Standard procedure is to confiscate your drugs and ignore you when you complain.

This can kill people. Not that all authorities care. It’s procedure, like I said.

Even if the state doesn’t get all medieval on you, fines for non-payment are going to pile up exponentially. And thanks to sophisticated license-plate scanning machines that collect hundreds of millions of images per year for collection into a national database out of George Orwell’s worst nightmares, it’s only a matter of time before you get stopped and arrested … or have your car confiscated.

It ain’t fair. It ain’t right. But when you get a ticket, the last thing you want to do is ignore it.

For BMod, I’m Ted Rall.

Ted Rall

Author: Ted Rall

Based in New York, Ted Rall is an award-winning political cartoonist, essayist and Pulitzer Prize finalist. He covers news, justice, music and privacy for BreakingModern. Follow him @TedRall.

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  1. This is a great article. It should be mandatory reading in Civic Classes in High School…. oh wait.. we do not offer those courses in high schools anymore… damn

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    • Dino

      Years ago in California if you waited 7 years, your ticket would be expunged. It happened for me. I had to look up the word.

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  2. That supplemental assessment tripped me up. Apparently New York City sent my notification to an address 20 years out of date. Some years later, I was pulled over for a minor violation, whereupon the officer informed me that my privileges to drive in the state had been suspended for some time. Fortunately I was polite and honest and he let me drive back home out of state, with a caution to make those “the 20 safest miles you’ll ever drive.” And yes, paying a lawyer to resolve the matter was a prudent investment; he was clearly on good terms with the ADA.

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  3. ALWAYS plan ahead if you are popped. Also, right now, it’s cheaper to do the time in jail, L.A. California-style. Sometimes after you’ve pled, they will let you (within a limited timeframe) choose when you will serve your time. Plan all jail time (misdemeanor or low-grade felony) right before any holiday or anticipated time of national rioting (I’m not kidding). You may be tasked with a month, but you will actually spend no more than a day or two in lockup.

    Another facet, ALWAYS appear like a medical problem. Don’t be scared, but always be polite to the jailers. jail is now a revenue-industry for the government. If you appear too much like dead weight, short of a serious offense, they want to replace you with somebody who may have money to spend.


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  4. Mat

    Cool read. I was born in 1980 but in high school I had a couple of friends who got tickets but never dealt with them. It ended up turning into a way bigger deal than it needed to.

    Definitely need to take care of that stuff for sure.

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  5. May I suggest that you change the default font that you are using? It’s weight is so light that it is virtually unreadable, at least in the Chrome browser on my PC.

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  6. I would say this is an awesome article. But instead of trying to remember all that. Just do what I do and use your law firm membership.

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