By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
An app to escape punishment we probably deserve?
Placeholder Image

Attention all lead-footed drivers. There's a new and improved mobile app available to help you get traffic ticket dismissed in California.

There's no magic about the app, which was just released in its 2.0 version. It offers to assist drivers in fighting a traffic ticket through the "trial by declaration" process. I know what a trial by declaration is because I have used it twice. You don't need an app to fill out the free form supplied by the county courthouse. The app allows users to upload a picture of their driver's license and traffic ticket, answer a few questions and automatically generate the defense documents required to fight a California traffic ticket by mail using a Trial by Written Declaration. The app is free, but it costs $99 for an "expert defense."
Or you can fight for free by filling out the forms yourself.

The website says: "We've been doing this long enough to know what will work no matter where you are in California.

"Just so we're clear, we do not guarantee that you will win. We're just your best bet."

Every year in California, 24 million drivers get approximately 5.2 million tickets. Only about seven percent of offenders contest their citations. There's probably a reason we don't - we're guilty as sin.

In 38 years of driving, I've gotten a few speeding tickets.

Okay, actually more than a few.

Traffic stop #1.

My first came in 1980 as a Modesto Junior College student driving a Camaro with a V8-350 engine and four-barrel carburetor. I had just left the campus and was headed northbound on College Avenue when I was pulled over for speeding. MPD radar nailed me. I forget now how much the ticket was but I didn't fight it. I was 18.

Traffic stop #2.

Still a dumb kid, the Camaro and I saw red lights down Claus Road when it was just a two-lane road. The officer lectured me about my speed and what it would do to jack up my insurance rates so he let me off with just a warning. Whew.

Traffic stop #3 came in 1985 when I got caught in a Hughson speed trap on Whitmore Avenue just east of the high school. The speed limit there remains 25 mph in a quasi-rural area where a 20-something can hardly contain the urge to open up the throttle as you enter farmland. I was nabbed on radar by a Hughson Police officer and believe I was cited for going 22 mph over the speed limit.

The ticket was about $80 but I was informed I could fight it through a trial by declaration. That's where you write down your version of what happened and the officer writes down his. The judge reads both and decides who's lying through their teeth. Usually it's Mr. Motorist, you know, the guy about to lose money.

I didn't exactly know how fast I was going but I knew it wasn't 25 mph yet I worked like a high-paid defense attorney trying to get his client from going to the gas chamber. I stretched for any angle of defense. My stepdad at the time - a wannabe officer who didn't make as a reserve officer - urged me to fight the ticket on the premise that radar wasn't reliable under certain circumstance. Yeah ... yeah ... now that you mention it, I could have sworn that a refrigeration truck was rolling down the street at the time. I argued that the equipment interfered with the accuracy of the radar gun. I even went back to the scene of the "crime" to snap a photo of the location - conveniently as a "refer" was barreling down Whitmore.

I threw everything I had at it, hoping it would stick. It both did and didn't. My Hughson ticket was not dismissed but it was reduced in half to $40, a slight victory for me, for sure, but shame on me. I knew I was speeding.

When I see a cop flip a U-turn on me with red lights, my heart goes into hyper "oh crap" mode. Like winged doves, I imagine dollars fluttering out of my bank account that could pay for a utility bill or a credit card payment. It's not fun - and that's exactly why we get fined - to modify our behavior. Some claim tickets are to generate revenue but fines are intended to stop us doing what lawmakers feel is unsafe for us or others. Speeding is one of them.

I know there is an engineering science behind them, but common sense tells me that the setting speed limits is such an arbitrary activity. We've all seen speed limits and stop signs that make little sense (one is on Crabtree Road northeast of Waterford). We all know that really it's probably just as safe going 65 mph on a country road or sections of rural highway like 120 out of Oakdale where it's 55 mph. And honestly we probably can get away with going 10 mph over the speed limit, depending, of course, on the officer. But get clocked 66 mph on radar and your goose is cooked.

Traffic stop #5 happened on a family road trip to Mount Rushmore in 2001. We were eastbound on Hwy. 80 in a large white van coming downhill in an area where the road furled on the landscape like a flag in the wind. A Wyoming state trooper popped over the hill coming my way. He did an about flip. 86 in a 65.

The dialogue went something like this:

Officer: "Is there a good reason why you were going 86 miles per hour?"

Me: "Well, I was coming down a hill, officer."

Officer: "I said a good reason."

(At this point I felt like saying, "To get across your expansive boring God-forsaken state" but didn't think that would work in my favor).

Me: "Well, sir, no, I guess not."

He gave this a California boy a ticket that cost $120. My kids watched the whole thing.

Traffic stop #6 came on Thanksgiving evening - after I dropped my grandmother off - sometime around 2008. A CHP officer clocked me going 87 down Santa Fe Avenue near the Stanislaus-Merced County border. He was one of the nicer officers and went light on me. He first had me walk to his cruiser so I could see the digital read-out of my speed, much like a bailiff would graciously take a convicted murderer on a tour of the gallows from which he'd be swinging. He reduced my "official" speed on the ticket after I dropped a few names from my CHP media contacts. Shame on me.

Traffic stop #7 occurred in September 2014. On a trip home from Tahoe, I was driving westbound on Highway 26 near the line between Calaveras and San Joaquin counties. The lady CHP officer had zero desire to talk and only wanted my license after informing me that I was going 78 in a 55. She said she had to pursue me for several miles to catch up. I fought her ticket, even if it meant traveling to San Andreas. I was skeptical how she could be sure, in this region of winding and hilly roads, that I was even the guy in the maroon Nissan she was looking for. I didn't win. I bet the CHP has video equipment that recorded my plate along with my speed. (Ceres police have a piece of equipment that scans all license plates it passes in a quest to "hit" on stolens.)

Traffic stop #8 came a week later. I hadn't yet applied for online driving school yet to expunge the Calaveras County citation from my record - so it wouldn't drive up my insurance rates - when a week later I was driving down Milnes Road and a CHP officer nailed me in the dark with radar! The license came out and fortunately for me he said my name like it rang a bell. "Are you the guy with the paper?" I felt my salvation arriving with minor local fame. He flicked my license like he was thinking of going lenient. I felt the noose coming off my neck. I got off with only a warning. I gushed with thanks.

The revelation that he played favorites (just like police never give their own a ticket), might burn you up but believe me, the second-time-in-a-week stop scared me into submission. I watch my speed like a hawk now. The year 2015 was citation free.

I'm not saying some people don't unjustly get tickets. But I do think it's a shade disingenuous and dishonest fighting tickets we know we deserve. president Steven Miller said his app simplifies the ticket fighting process in order to "remove the frustration associated with fighting a ticket in court."

Here's a thought: How about avoiding that frustration by not breaking the law?

Maybe we need another app - the

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at