Land of the Free*

Nick Austin
4 min readJul 21, 2018

I looked at the speeding ticket. It said I was going 75 MPH on Route 12, not too far from Mount Rainier. The penalty: $187. I was surprised the speed limit was so low, considering it was an empty country road with sparse traffic. If you look at the map, you see miles of nothingness. No pedestrians, no school buses, nothing. Speed limit signs were posted miles apart.

Approximate location where I got my speeding ticket. Route 12 (diagonal) is a straightaway with no traffic, and yet a 55 MPH speed limit is strictly enforced.

The police officer who wrote the ticket had told me that Washington State allows individuals to defer one ticket every seven years. You pay an “administrative fee” to the court, and they defer ruling on your ticket for 6 months. If you have not had another infraction in 6 months, the ticket is dismissed.

It sounds like a good deal until you find out the administrative fee is $175 — practically the same price as a speeding ticket. And if you get another ticket in 6 months, you pay the original ticket and the new ticket and you don’t get your administrative fee back!

The officer told me I could simply pay the ticket, but he warned me that they would notify my car insurance about the ticket and my rates would probably go up. How nice.

Since when did the United States become a land of fines and administrative fees, and threats to raise your insurance rates?

I decided to fight the ticket even though I had the option of dismissal because I found out the local city government used Route 12 to trap tourists into paying fines.

If the government wanted to ticket tourists on beautiful Route 12 near Mount Rainier, I wanted to fight back. They would get my money, but they would need to bleed for it.

I hired a traffic lawyer who went to court for me, and the State moved it to a non-moving violation but kept the fine amount the same. So, I paid the ticket but it didn’t affect my car insurance rates. On the books, my ticket looks like a seatbelt violation. Funny, I was totally wearing a seatbelt.

While I was satisfied with my outcome, I felt bad exploiting the privilege that money can buy in the law courts. If you send a lawyer to defend you and clog up the court, the court will give you leniency. If…

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