Almost everyone gets pulled over at some point in their driving career, and if you were pulled over for running a red light, there’s no need to panic. Assuming running the red light didn’t cause an accident, you will likely just receive a traffic ticket.
What should you do after being pulled over for running a red light?
First and foremost, always be cooperative and friendly when dealing with the police. Being angry or curt will never do anything to improve the situation. Contrary to how they are often portrayed, officers are human too and want to be treated with respect. Sometimes a little friendliness is all it takes to get off with a warning. If the cop does issue you a red light ticket, you have the right to challenge it in court.
When drivers are pulled over for running a red light, it is often a subjective observation or determination by the police. Most drivers aren’t blatantly running red lights in front of the police. Drivers are often pulled over because they went through a yellow light that turned red while they were in the intersection. In Massachusetts, there is no law about what to do during a yellow light. The driver’s manual only says “You must stop if it is safe to do so.” This is incredibly subjective and can work in your favor if you choose to challenge the red light ticket.
Contesting a Red Light Ticket
One of the best defenses when challenging a red light ticket is that it would have been unsafe to stop; or to do so would have put you or others in an unsafe position. This is a good strategy because it’s not pitting your credibility against the credibility of the police. The officer easily could have just seen the position of your car during the red light and not noticed the circumstances surrounding it. Explain the situation to the clerk-magistrate or judge. By way of examples:
- There’s a car following closely behind you as the light turns yellow.
- There’s not enough distance between your car and the intersection to come to a slow stop. Stopping would be abrupt and could very easily cause the car in tow to rear end you.
- What should you do? Most drivers will keep driving because this is the safest scenario for everyone.
- At the end of the day traffic laws are in place to keep the roads safe for everyone. Most judges will be understanding of this situation, as long as they believe your version of events. Be sure to support your story with eyewitnesses, photos, or videos if you can.
It’s also important to note the location of the police vehicle when you were first observed going through the intersection. As the driver, you will always have the best view of the light. If the cop car was right next to you, then they may have an equally good view but it’s more likely they were across the street or in a parking lot nearby. It’s much harder to judge when you drove through the light from a distance or from a different angle. It would be very helpful for your case if you had an eyewitness or evidence to prove the cop’s location.
Should I Just Pay the Ticket?
You also have the option of simply paying the ticket. Once you pay the red light ticket, you give up the right to challenge it. In Massachusetts, getting pulled over for running a red light could land you a $100-$240 ticket, as well as 2 points on your license. Those 2 points will bump up your insurance, so your overall cost of running that light will exceed the ticket in the long run. I suggest challenging it if you have even the slightest defense, but if you decide to just pay the ticket it’s not going to be the end of the world. Sure, it will be a drag to see your insurance go up, but at the end of the day it’s just a traffic ticket.
Should I Consult an Attorney?
If you have had more than one traffic ticket in the past year, consider an attorney. Three tickets in twelve months and you could be faced with a suspended license. It is always a good idea to consult an attorney.