Personal Jurisdiction and Speeding Tickets

Before a court can do anything to you, it must first have jurisdiction.

Michael W. Flynn
September 6, 2008

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So, when you cross into that county in rural Nebraska, you are intentionally and physically availing yourself of the protections of that area. For example, if you get into an accident, then the local police and medical services provided by the county will come to your aid. You have the ability to pull over at state- or county-maintained rest stops. You are, in effect, asking the taxpayers of that place to shoulder the burden of your entry into the area.

Most listeners write that they were just passing through, and so it seems unfair that the county can give you a ticket and make you come back to a court in that area to challenge it. But, this idea ignores all the services that the county or state is prepared to offer you in an emergency. Alternatively, if a drunk driver hit you, and you wanted to sue him, then you would not hesitate to ask the local court to exercise jurisdiction over the drunk driver to force him to pay for your injuries. So, if you get a ticket, even if you strongly feel it was wrongly issued, you have entered the county and have subjected yourself to the power of the courts of that county. You can’t take the benefits of the area without the burdens.

And yes, you may challenge the jurisdiction of the court, but such an argument would require you to file a motion, which is most likely a more burdensome process than simply paying the ticket.

Moving to the mechanics of challenging the ticket, it widely varies from state to state, county to county, case by case. Some courts allow you to challenge a ticket in writing by submitting a statement signed under penalty of perjury. Some require personal appearance. Some allow for a “court call,” or telephonic appearance in the hearing. Some courts require you to first apply for a non-personal appearance by explaining why you cannot return to the court. It simply depends on the local court.