If you received a ticket for an unsafe lane change, you may want to fight it if you believe you that you safe changed lanes. Most unsafe lane change citations are based on the subjective interpretation of a law enforcement officer – something that is easier to undermine than "hard" evidence like readings from a radar gun or a red light ticket. Officers may issue unsafe lane change tickets when drivers don't use blinkers, cross multiple lanes of traffic, or don't leave room for other cars to maneuver around them.
Most state statutes require that drivers change lanes with caution. The law in your state may be something like this:
Whenever any roadway has been divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic in one direction, the following rule applies: A vehicle shall be driven as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane and shall not be moved from the lane until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.
Usually, you will have been cited because a law enforcement officer determined that you did not change lanes "with reasonable safety." So the trick to fighting your ticket will be to either undermine the officer's judgment or show that you were in fact driving safely. For example, if the officer states in his testimony that he gave you the ticket because your lane change forced another car to brake, you can counter that the other car had to brake because it was going too fast, not because you weren't driving safely. Also, take into account where the officer was when he saw you change lanes. If he wasn't close, you can bring his judgment into doubt by suggesting that he didn't have a good view of the incident.
For most simple unsafe lane change tickets, you can fight the ticket without a lawyer. You will have to go to traffic court and explain to the judge why you are not guilty of the unsafe lane change – so you'll need to feel up to talking in front of a judge with confidence. You'll also need to prepare your case ahead of time and be prepared to think on your feet during the hearing. For example, traffic court may be the first time you hear the officer's explanation about why he cited you, so before you go to the hearing you should think through all the possible statements he might make and be prepared to counter the officer's testimony on the fly. In addition, bring evidence that supports your case, such as photographs of the location, marked with your location and the officer's location and testimony from witnesses.
However, if your situation is complicated by an accident, DUI, or another citation that suggests that you were driving recklessly, you would be wise to get a lawyer's help. A lawyer will know what to expect in the court room, and how best to prepare your defense. It may be expensive to hire a lawyer, but in complicated situations, the money will be well spent because there is usually more than just a fine at stake. For example, if your lane change resulted in an accident, you could be personally liable for the damages – this could cost you many thousands of dollars and the loss of your license. So hiring a lawyer to put on your best possible defense could be well worth the expense.
Learn more about Fighting Your Traffic Tickets or DUI Laws & Penalties on Nolo.com. And if you decide that you need help from a lawyer, you can search for one with Nolo's Lawyer Directory.
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