Contesting Traffic Tickets
The SLRC hosts a "Fight Your Traffic Ticket" workshop at SF State
May 15, 2006 12:28 PM
Around 10 SF State students came to the Business building with traffic tickets in hand, hoping to find help on how to deal with their pricey fines.
The Student Legal Resource Center (SLRC) - an Associated Students program that offers free legal information, resources and referrals to the campus community - hosted, "Fight Your Traffic Ticket," a workshop featuring traffic attorney Sherry Gendelman.
According to Gendelman, the most common reasons people get tickets are speeding, running red lights and stop signs, and a lesser known offense - driving a child without a seat belt.
"The thing that has been astounding to me as I teach this class is how little people know about what their basic rights are," Gendelman said.
The workshop, located in BUS 104 at 4 p.m., covered topics such as reading and contesting citations, appealing court rulings, wearing appropriate dress attire in court, and options for paying fines.
Alonzo Jones, director of the (SLRC), said that a "tremendous increase" in the amount of students who have come in with traffic-related issues prompted the need for such a workshop.
Raymon Panlilio, 26, a biology major, said he received two moving violations in the past month, totaling up to $300.
"I have two court dates coming up, and I want any information that might help me get me out of it," Panlilio said.
Another student said commuting causes her to get a lot of traffic tickets.
"I get a lot of tickets because I drive back and forth from San Jose everyday,” said Phuong Truong, psychology senior.
Traffic laws, while they are not crimes, are considered infractions, a breaking of a minor law that is not punishable by imprisonment, such as overstaying a meter or speeding.
And although Gendelman acknowledged that the police have the responsibility and right to police the roads and to enforce the vehicle codes, she said that knowing one's rights can be a definite advantage if one is confronted with an intimidating situation.
Gendelman suggested that when stopped by the police for a moving violation, the less evidence a driver provides, the more he/she is protecting his/herself.
"So when the police approach you and say to you, 'Do you know why I pulled you over,' they want you to confess to what you have done," Gendelman said. "Say as politely as you can, 'Officer, here's my registration, insurance and ID,' and nothing else. It is your constitutional right to remain silent."
Students said the workshop taught them a lot about dealing with traffic tickets.
"It's always good to know to learn your rights," Truong said. "I learned so much more than what I came for. So now, if I'm ever stopped, I know what to do."
Gendelman teaches the same class at San Francisco's Hall of Justice once a month.
As part of the Traffic Division of the San Francisco Superior Court Self Help Center, free classes are offered to the public. They are intended to make the courts more accessible or user friendly, as well as to prepare people on how to conduct themselves and how to prepare a defense against their violation.
Gendelman insists that her class is not aimed at helping people simply find ways to get out of their tickets, but rather, to inform them on how to exercise their rights.
“I love telling people how to defend themselves,” Gendelman said.
The next “Fight Your Traffic Ticket” workshop will be held on Wednesday, May 24 at 5:30 p.m., in San Francisco's Hall of Justice.
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