Special Report: 'Life in the Fast Lane': Speeding Tickets, Excuses

We all get a little "lead foot" once in a while, and the police are there to remind us to keep the speed to the limit.

But, why do some of us seem to get let off with a warning and others get nailed with the fine?

NewsChannel 7 teamed up with a couple of local sheriff's offices for a special report you'll only see on WSAW.

NewsChannel 7's Hannah Anderson shows "Life in the Fast Lane" is tricky, and so is the way you handle yourself when the officer gets to your window.

You're cruising along on a nice, Wisconsin day when suddenly the blue and red lights flash in your rear-view mirror.

Your eyes jet to the speedometer, and you're know you're about to get a speeding ticket.

You pull out of the fast lane to the side of the road and start thinking of your response, as the officer walks up to your window.

"Do you know why I'm stopping you?" the officer asked.

There's a split second where you think, 'should I admit to speeding?,' 'should I make an excuse and talk my way out of it?,' or 'should I not say anything at all?'

That is a situation Portage County Sheriff's Deputy Travis Levandowski is all too familiar with.

"Unless you have a very valid excuse, it's really rare to talk your way out of a ticket," Levandowski said.

Deputy Levandowski said one of the most common excuses people try to give to him when he stops them for speeding is that they needed to go to the bathroom.

"So, we'll drive to the closest gas station, and I'll grab their drivers licences. We'll park their car. I'll let them go in and use the bathroom, and I wait outside in the car and write their citation," Levandowski said. "When they're done, they can come out and collect their fine."

And don't try to pawn off excuses to Marathon County Lieutenant Ryan Weber either. He's seen it all in his 14 years from broken speedometers to a man who drove 70 mph in a 35 mph area to rush his pregnant wife to the hospital.

"They (The couple) were 20 miles away from the nearest hospital," Weber said. "I called an ambulance for her, congratulated them on the birth of their baby and wrote him a citation for speeding."

So when you roll down your window the officer approaches and you come up with some sort of excuse when he asks you why you were speeding, believe it or not, both officers said the best way you can drive away with just a warning is to tell the truth.

"If there's one thing that law enforcement doesn't like it's when people lie," Levandowski said.

"They're trained that way," Wausau Attorney Keith Ellison said. "They're good at their job."

Ellison said you're better off saving your excuses.

He said the only obligation you have under Wisconsin State Statues is to provide your name and address to the officer, everything else you say can be used against you if you're planning on fighting the ticket in the future.

"One of the common things that they ask is, 'do you know why I stopped you?'" Ellison said. "It's a question that demands almost admission."

Ellison said by the time officers come to your window, they should have all the information they need to cite a ticket.

"They're really just trying to add more information to their case," Ellison said. "If you provide it to them, well then, I guess you've made their case easier and your case a lot more difficult."

However, the officers said keeping quiet may not come off as cooperative.

"If you say nothing and your uncooperative with the officer, you're not really showing us that giving you a warning is going to correct the problem," Levandowski said. "That's when you're more likely to give someone a ticket."

Now you've got your speeding ticket, but what exactly are you paying for?

Lieutenant Weber said the standard speeding forfeiture will put you back about a $175.

As part of the forfeiture, you'll pay for more than just the fine.

Weber said the fine only costs you $30, but the other part of the forfeiture you pay for includes costs for the county circuit court, jail, crime lab and online court documents like CCAP."

"Our ultimate goal isn't to penalize someone too bad," Levandowski said.

When that officer makes his split second judgement call on whether or not to give you a warning or a citation, help him out by saving the excuses.

"It's comical," Levandowski said. "Some people try to cry to get out of a ticket that doesn't work either."

Because Levandowski and Weber both said politeness at the window goes a long way after "Life in the Fast Lane."

"It doesn't matter if you have to use the bathroom. It doesn't matter if you're late for work or if you're a police officer," Weber said. "The speed limit applies to everyone."

Weber also said you can get a ticket for going too slow as well.

He said the best thing to do is go with the flow on the highways, anyone driving too fast or too slow is a safety risk for everyone driving.

No matter if its a civilian or a police officer, he said everyone, including police officers off duty, can get tickets for not following the law.


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