Our law firm handles dozens of traffic tickets on a DAILY basis. We have experience in all three Memphis City courts if you received your ticket from a Memphis police officer, and Shelby County General Sessions court if you received your ticket from a sheriff’s deputy. Our attorneys have also won many trials in traffic court. Don’t waste time coming to 201. Our professional staff will walk you through the traffic ticket process and make it as easy as ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant.
Traffic Ticket Attorney
Here’s a common scenario: you’re driving the speed limit on the interstate, and everyone is zooming past you. You accelerate 10 mph so you don’t get run over. Half a mile later you look in your mirror and see blue lights. “Surely, he’s not after me,” you think. After all, you were just keeping up with traffic. Sure enough, you pull over to get out of the way, but the officer stops right behind you. The officer approaches your car and asks for your diver’s license and proof of insurance. You hand him your license, but cannot seem to find your most recent insurance card. Before you know it, you’ve got a ticket for speeding and violation of financial law. You look at the bottom of the ticket and see where the officer writes, “MANDATORY COURT APPEARANCE.”
That 10 mph acceleration has now cost you 15-20 minutes on the side of the road. A few weeks from now, it will cost you another few hours by going to court. But it doesn’t have to. You can call the Memphis traffic ticket attorneys at Balestrini, Barnes, Jaber & Wood, PLLC. We can go to court in your place, and, more importantly, we can stop the ticket from appearing on your driving record and from increasing your insurance rates.
If you pay your ticket before court or are found guilty, because you represented yourself, the ticket is reported to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, who’s responsible for managing driver’s licenses and records. That agency places the ticket on your motor vehicle record (“MVR”) and assesses driver improvement points against your license. The ticket remains on your MVR for three years and cannot be removed or expunged. Further, each moving violation carries a predetermined amount of driver improvement points. Twelve driver improvement points in a calendar year will suspend your license for one year.
Hire us to handle your traffic ticket. We can handle the entire process by phone and email. This means you won’t need to take off work, go to court, beg for mercy or argue with a prosecutor. We handle thousands of tickets every year. We have a rapport with Memphis City prosecutors and the courts. We know the laws and each court’s unique procedures. We can keep the court from finding you guilty of an offense even if you did it. Call us before you pay your ticket or try to handle it yourself.
Memphis Traffic Laws with Commentary
Below are a list of offenses as listed the City of Memphis Code of Ordinances. Other municipal ordinances generally mirror these.
Speeding (21-106) – It is unlawful for any person to drive a vehicle upon the streets of this city at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour. However, the city engineer shall have the authority, after determining on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation that the stated limit is greater or lesser than is reasonable and safe, to designate certain streets or sections of streets as speed zones where greater speeds may be permitted or lesser speeds required. No person shall drive a vehicle upon the streets or sections of streets designated by the city engineer as speed zones at a greater speed than is permitted, when signs are in place giving notice thereof.
Commentary: By far the most common driving offense, it’s against the law to drive even one mile per hour over the speed limit. That means that if you were cited for 70 in a 55 zone, but your defense is that you were really only going 60, you could still be found guilty of speeding. However, we know how to get your ticket dismissed or kept from being reported on your MVR no matter how fast you were going.
Speeding in a School Zone (21-107) – No vehicle shall be driven at a greater rate of speed than 15 miles per hour on that portion of any street which has been designated as a school zone by official signs, during any time when school children are on the streets or sidewalks within such school zone, either en route to or returning from school or while school safety patrols or police officers are on duty. Such school zones shall be confined to such portions of the streets adjacent to school grounds, or for a distance not to exceed 750 feet beyond the boundaries of such grounds.
Commentary: Unfortunately, we see these tickets far too often. However, most clients say that they didn’t know it was a school zone or no children were present. Sometimes, this will be sufficient for us to get the ticket dismissed. Most of the time, you should be prepared to attend a defensive driving class to get this dismissed.
Driving on a Divided Highway (21-100) – Whenever any street has been divided longitudinally into two roadways by leaving an intervening space, such as a parkway, wall, sunken way, viaduct or traffic-guide, every vehicle shall be driven to the right of the longitudinal division. No vehicle shall be driven across, over or within such divided space or section, except through an opening in such physical barrier or divided section or space, or at a crossover or intersection established by the city engineer. This section shall not prohibit a driver from making a left turn into a private driveway where such turn is permitted and where such turn would require the driver to drive across a center dividing strip of the corrugated concrete type which does not constitute a physical barrier.
Commentary: Do you ever see folks driving down the shoulder during a traffic jam on the interstate? That’s what this is. Even though it’s unwise, we can get it dismissed.
Driving Within a Sidewalk Area (21-103) – The operator of a motor vehicle shall not drive within any sidewalk area except in crossing such in a traverse manner at a permanent or temporary driveway.
Commentary: Surprise, you can’t drive on the sidewalk. But, if you do, we can still get it dismissed.
Obstructing an Intersection/Crosswalk (21-104) – No driver shall enter an intersection or a marked crosswalk unless there is sufficient space on the other side of the intersection or crosswalk to accommodate the vehicle he or she is operating without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians, notwithstanding any traffic-control signal to proceed.
Commentary: Most drivers don’t know what that thick white horizontal line at intersections means, but it’s called a stop line. It is unlawful to stop at a light or stop sign beyond that line. If there is no line, you must stop before the stop sign. We rarely see tickets for this, but when we do, we get them dismissed.
Impeding Traffic/Minimum Speed Regulation (21-108) – No person shall drive a motor vehicle upon any street at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with the law.
Commentary: That’s right. You can drive too slow. Many think because there is a posted “minimum speed limit” that you can only drive 20 mph below that limit. However, this ordinance doesn’t say anything about like that. If you’re impeding traffic, you get a ticket. Just like the rest, though, we can get this dismissed.
Failure to Yield/Uncontrolled Intersection (21-109) – The driver of a vehicle approaching an intersection not controlled by a traffic sign or signal shall yield the right-of-way to a vehicle which has entered the intersection from a different street. When two vehicles enter an uncontrolled intersection from different streets at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the driver of the vehicle on the right.
Commentary: If there is no sign or signal, it’s first come first serve. If you get there at the sign time, let the person on the right go. Because we don’t have too many uncontrolled intersections we almost never see these.
Failure to Yield (21-110) – Whenever a yield right-of-way sign has been placed at or near an intersection, all drivers approaching such sign shall proceed with caution, slowing down or stopping if necessary so as not to interfere with traffic moving on the intersecting street and such drivers shall not proceed into the intersecting street until such movement can be made with safety.
Commentary: If you have the yield sign, you have to yield to other traffic. I’ve found these are most often issued when a car pulls out in front of a police car. No worries, though. We can still get it dismissed.
Stopping at Intersections (21-111) – When official stop signs are erected at or near the entrance to any intersection, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, in the event there is no crosswalk, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the intersection except when directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal.
Commentary: If there is a stop sign, you have to stop. However, the inverse is also true. If there is no stop sign, a yield is just fine (refer to 21-109).
Disregarding Stop Sign (21-111A) – (1) When official stop signs are erected at or near the entrances to any intersection creating a multiway stop intersection, the driver of a vehicle approaching such a stop sign, shall stop before entering the crosswalk on the near side of the intersection, or, in the event there is no crosswalk, shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway except when directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal. (2) The first vehicle approaching and stopping at a multiway stop intersection, after stopping, shall have the right-of-way to proceed into and through the intersection. Each succeeding vehicle approaching must stop at such intersection, and after stopping and yielding to the preceding vehicle, shall then have the right-of-way to proceed into and through the intersection.
Commentary: We see these all the time. This refers to the rule about stopping at the stop line. We always see this one instead of obstructing an intersection. Again, when proceeding, this is first come first serve. In any regard, we can get these dismissed.
Failure to Yield at a Stop Sign (21-111B) – Every driver who has stopped his or her vehicle at a stop sign in compliance with this section shall remain stopped and shall not proceed into or through the intersecting street until such movement can be made in safety. Such driver shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles moving in a lawful manner upon the intersecting street.
Commentary: This citation is issued when a vehicle is stopped at an intersection, but then pulls out in front of someone without the right-of-way. Usually this is an accident, but we can still get it dismissed.
One-Way Streets (21-112) – The city engineer is authorized to designate, by signs or markers, certain streets and alleys for traffic in only one direction where the conditions of traffic, width of street and other conditions make such restrictions necessary. Whenever a street or alley has been so designated as one-way, no person shall drive a vehicle upon such a street in any direction other than that indicated by signs.
Commentary: We see this a lot downtown. This usually doesn’t happen on purpose, but on purpose is not a requirement for a traffic offense. We can get it dismissed.
Turning Movements Generally (21-113) – No person shall turn a vehicle at an intersection, or turn a vehicle to enter a private road or driveway, or otherwise turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety.
Commentary: Memphis officers don’t cite for this offense very often. They usually cite to the more specific offenses below.
Improper Turn (21-113A)
Commentary: There is no written law on this, but it is covered more specifically below.
Improper Right Turn (21-113B.1) – Except as otherwise indicated by directional markings placed in conformity with provisions of this title, both the approach for a right turn and right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the street. The driver of any truck, bus or any large vehicle which cannot comply with the foregoing provisions due to the size of the vehicle may use such additional portions of the street or roadway as may be necessary for a right turn; provided, however, that, the driver of such vehicle, before making such turn, shall first determine that this movement may be made in safety.
Commentary: When turning right you have to do so from the right lane and turn into the right lane. Turning from the second lane is not allowed. However, this is usually cited for turning into the left lane on an intersecting road. Notice that large vehicles and tractor-trailers are allowed to turn from the left lane if it is necessary to safely make a right turn.
Improper Left Turn (21-113B.2) – At any intersection where traffic is permitted to move in both directions on each roadway entering the intersection, an approach for a left turn shall be made in that portion of the right half of the roadway nearest the center lane thereof and by passing to the right of such center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered. Whenever practicable, the left turn shall be made in that portion of the intersection to the left of the center of the intersection. At any intersection where traffic is restricted to one direction on one or more of the roadways, the driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at such intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle and after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection, as nearly as practicable, in the left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered.
Commentary: Left turns must be made from the left lane and into the left lane. Notice also that it requires the vehicle to pass the center line of the intersecting street before initiating the left turn. If you ever asked whether those folks that undercut the turn are breaking the law, the answer is yes.
Improper Left Turn from the Wrong Lane (21-113B.3)
Commentary: This is unnecessarily set out from the above turning citations. It’s all included in those laws.
Driving Straight in a Turn Lane (21-114) – A vehicle shall not be driven in the designated left turn lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway, which should never exceed 100 feet, or pass through any intersection.
Commentary: This actually contradicts a later provision in this same section which requires you to make your way into the turn lane at a distance more than 100 feet if you are turning left.
Prohibited Turns (21-115) – Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left turn is permitted, no driver of a vehicle shall disobey the directions of any such sign.
Commentary: If the sign says you can’t do it, you can’t do it.
Improper U-Turn (21-116) – No driver of any vehicle shall make a U-turn (reverse direction) upon any street except at locations designated by the city engineer with authorized signs and such movement shall not be made unless the same can be made in safety and without interfering with other traffic.
Commentary: This is one traffic law that varies from state to state. In some states, you can make a u-turn unless a sign says that you cannot. In Tennessee, you can only make a u-turn when there is a sign saying you can. It doesn’t matter if the road is divided by a median or you were using your blinker. No sign; no u-turn.
Turning and Stopping Signals Generally (21-117) – The driver of any vehicle who intends to stop or turn, or partly turn from a direct line, shall first see that such movement can be made in safety, and whenever the operation of any other vehicle may be affected by such movement, shall give an appropriate signal, plainly visible to the driver of such other vehicle, of his or her intention to make such movement. Such signal shall be given continuously for a distance of at least 50 feet before slowing down, stopping, turning, partly turning or materially altering the course of the vehicle. The signal herein required shall be given by means of the hand and arm or by some mechanical or electrical device approved by the state department of safety.
Commentary: This is the ole, “if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around,” scenario. You don’t have to use a blinker unless it affects traffic. If no one is on the street with you, it’s completely fine to turn or stop without the signal.
Change of Direction After Signal (21-119) – Drivers having once given a hand, electrical or mechanical device signal must continue the course thus indicated, unless they alter the original signal and take care that the drivers of the vehicles and pedestrians have seen and are aware of the change.
Commentary: We actually win cases because of this law more than we actually see it cited. Usually, it’s someone trying to merge on the interstate, the car to the left puts on its signal to get over, it starts to get over, the merging car gets onto the interstate, and the other car decides to get back in the right-hand lane. Often, the officer will cite the merging vehicle, not knowing that the other vehicle was the cause of the accident.
Failure to Yield to Right of Way on a Left Turn (21-121) – The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching in the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard, but such driver, having so yielded and having given a signal when and as required by this chapter, may make such left turn and the drivers of all other vehicles approaching the intersection from the opposite direction shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle making the left turn.
Commentary: This is a judgment call. This essentially says that if you can make the left turn without the oncoming car slamming into you, go. If you’re the oncoming car and you see someone making the left hand turn, you must slow down for them if you can.
Improper Backing (21-122) – The driver of a vehicle shall not back the same unless such movement can be made with reasonable safety and without interfering with other traffic.
Commentary: This one is simple. Make sure nothing is behind you or coming up behind you when you back up.
Failure to Yield to an Emergency Vehicle (21-123) – Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle making use of audible and visual signals meeting the requirements of the applicable laws of the state, or of a police vehicle properly and lawfully making use of an audible signal only, the driver of every other vehicle shall yield the right-of-way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection and shall stop and remain in such position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.
Commentary: This means that when you see the lights OR hear the sirens, you must pull over to the right and stop. This does not require that you hear the sirens and then locate the emergency vehicle.
Reckless Driving (21-128) – Any person who drives any vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
Commentary: We seldom see this offense in traffic court. Usually, Memphis police cite drivers with criminal misdemeanors, making this a far more serious situation. However, notice that this does not say that driving 20 mph over the speed limit is reckless driving. Reckless driving is often cited for driving at an excessive speed, but that is not reckless in Tennessee. Some wanton disregard for others safety must be shown (and set forth in the misdemeanor citation).
Striking a Parked Vehicle or Fixed Object (21-129) – It is unlawful for the driver of any vehicle while operating such vehicle on a public street or alley to drive such vehicle into, against or upon a parked vehicle or fixed object thereon.
Commentary: If you’re moving and run into a vehicle or object that is not, you can bet you will get the ticket.
Disregarding a Railroad Sign or Signal (21-133A) – Whenever any person driving a vehicle approaches a railroad grade crossing under any of the following circumstances, the driver of such vehicle shall stop within 50 feet but not less than 15 feet from the nearest rail of such railroad, and shall not proceed until he or she can do so safely. The foregoing requirements shall apply when:
A clearly visible electric or mechanical signal device gives warning of the immediate approach of a railroad train;
A crossing gate is lowered or when a human flagman gives or continues to give a signal of the approach or passage of a railroad train;
A railroad train approaching within approximately 1,500 feet of the street crossing emits a signal audible from such distance, or when such railroad train, by reason of its speed or nearness to such crossing is an immediate hazard;
Commentary: An approaching railroad train is plainly visible and is in hazardous proximity to such crossing.
Driving Around or Through Railroad Gate (21-133B) – No person shall drive any vehicle through, around or under any crossing gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while such gate or barrier is closed or is being opened or closed.
Commentary: If you see a train coming, stop. If the crossing arms are down or moving down, stop. It is not a defense that the crossing arms were down, but you did not see the train or waited 15 minutes before crossing the tracks.
Obstructing Traffic (21-139) – No driver shall stop, stand or park a vehicle abreast of another vehicle parallel to the curb or in any other manner so as to interrupt or interfere with the passage of other vehicles on any street except in the case of public emergency or when directed by a police officer.
Commentary: You can’t leave your vehicle in the middle of the street.
Unattended vehicle (21-141) – No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the street.
Commentary: Due to the number of stolen vehicles in Memphis, MPD has been citing these very often, even where your vehicle has been stolen. In other words, you cannot leave your vehicle running with no one in it while you run into the convenience store.
Safety Belt Required (21-23.2) – No person shall operate a passenger motor vehicle in this city unless such person and all passengers are restrained by a belt at all times the vehicle is in forward motion.
Commentary: This not a moving violation. It’s the responsibility of the driver to ensure that all passengers wear a seatbelt.
Failure to Report Accident or Provide Immediate Notice to Police (21-246) – The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person or property damage to an apparent extent of $50.00 or more shall immediately, by the quickest means of communication, give notice of such accident to the police division. Whenever the driver of a vehicle is physically incapable of giving an immediate notice of an accident as required by this section, and there was another occupant in the vehicle at the time of the accident capable of doing so, or whenever the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, such occupant or the owner shall make or cause to be given the notice not given by the driver.
Commentary: This is a “mandatory appearance” for which we can appear on your behalf. It’s only a myth that you can leave the scene of an accident if everyone agrees so long as the property damage doesn’t exceed $50. Every accident that has any damage is in excess of $50.
Violation of State Registration Law (21-269) – No vehicle, required to be registered under chapters 1 through 6 of title 55, T.C.A., shall be operated upon any street or public way of the city unless there shall be attached thereto and displayed thereon when and as required by chapters 1 through 6 of title 55, T.C.A., a valid and outstanding registration plate or plates issued therefor to the owner thereof for the current registration year, or a registration plate or plates issued to the owner thereof with the proper tabs, stickers or other devices attached or affixed thereto indicating a valid renewal of such registration plate or plates.
Commentary: If you’re operating a vehicle on the road, it has to have proper registration. It is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the vehicle being driven has proper registration. It is not a defense that you were driving someone else’s vehicle. However, we can get these dismissed by compliance if you will obtain the registration for the vehicle in which you were cited. If it was someone else’s vehicle, we will need their registration.
Improper Display of Tags (21-270) – Registration plates issued for motor vehicles shall be attached in compliance with state law. The registration plate issued for a truck shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The registration plate for a truck trailer shall be attached to the front of the vehicle. The registration plate issued for a motorcycle, trailer, semitrailer, or dealer's plate shall be attached to the rear of the vehicle.
Commentary: State law requires that the plate be attached to the rear of the vehicle. If it has a cover, the cover cannot be tinted; it must be clear. It cannot be attached or placed in the rear window. Finally, it must be visible. Again, this is a compliance issue. If you properly place the tags, take a picture, and send it to us, we can get it dismissed.
Inspection of Vehicle Required (21-301) – omitted
Commentary: We decided to leave this law out because there are no longer any inspection stations. However, this law is still on the books, and we have seen it cited occasionally since the inspections stations closed several years ago. In any regard, we can get this dismissed.
Defective Brakes (21-325A) – Every motor vehicle, other than a motorcycle, when operated upon any street within the city, shall be equipped with brakes adequate to control the movement of and to stop and hold such vehicle, including two separate means of applying the brakes, each of which means shall be effective to apply the brakes to at least two wheels. If these two separate means of applying brakes are connected in any way, they shall be so constructed that failure of any one part of the operating mechanism shall not leave the motor vehicle without brakes on at least two wheels.
Commentary: The only thing more important than the vehicle moving, is the vehicle stopping. By the way, motorcycles also need brakes, but they just have to be on one wheel.
Lights Required (21-327) – Every motor vehicle other than a motorcycle, road roller, road machinery or farm tractor shall be equipped with at least two and not more than four headlights, with at least one on each side of the front of the motor vehicle; provided that, auxiliary road lighting lamps may be used, but not more than two of such lamps shall be lighted at any one time in addition to the two required headlights; and, provided that, no spotlight or auxiliary lamps shall be so aimed upon approaching another vehicle that any part of the high intensity portion of the beam therefrom is directed beyond the left side of the motor vehicle upon which the spotlight or auxiliary lamp is mounted, nor more than 100 feet ahead of such motor vehicle. Every motor vehicle shall be equipped with two red tail lamps and two red stoplights on the rear of such vehicle, and one tail lamp and one stoplight shall be on each side, except that passenger cars manufactured or assembled prior to January 1, 1939, trucks manufactured or assembled prior to January 1, 1968, and motorcycles and motor-driven cycles shall have at least one red tail lamp and one red stoplight.
Commentary: Simply put, two to four headlights, two tail lights, and two brake lights. Much more detail is in this law which is not cited, but this section does set out the height and width requirements for those lights on various types of vehicles.
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Memphis, TN 38104
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