The Best Way to Ask for Leniency for a Traffic Ticket

Traffic tickets are a pain: They can be costly, slow down your travel and put negative marks on your driving record. Steve Svenson, a police officer in Bristol, South Dakota, shares some suggestions about ways to ask for leniency for traffic tickets. Although Svenson says officers won't always be lenient, if you are going to ask for leniency, some strategies work better than others.

Be Honest

Swenson says most police officers have heard all the traditional excuses and can spot someone who isn't telling the truth. If you truly have a reason to be in a hurry, explain that reason calmly and rationally. Svenson says that if the reason is compelling—you're trying to get to an important appointment, late to pick up your child or have another good reason to hurry—and the infraction wasn't very large, many officers will let you go with a warning instead of a full-blown ticket.

Tell the officer who pulls you over if you honestly didn't know the speed limit, weren't paying attention or were distracted. Although these aren't good driving practices and the officer probably will give you a stern talking-to, he's more apt to let you go if you can convince him that your law-breaking was unintentional.

Go to Court

Attend your court date if the officer doesn't show leniency after pulling you over. Judges and police officers often are impressed that you care enough about the matter to go to the court appointment because most people skip court and simply pay the ticket. Svenson says that, in his experience, a judge is more likely to show leniency when a driver goes to court and provides an honest reason for the infraction.