If you are pulled over and receive a traffic ticket, you have a few options: pay the ticket and move on, fight the ticket in court by yourself or enlist the help of a lawyer. Before you dismiss the idea of paying for legal assistance to fight a ticket, consider all your options.
Factors to consider regarding your traffic ticket
Depending on where you received the ticket and the violation, you may not be allowed to use a lawyer in traffic court, particularly if the ticket is not part of a criminal case. Read the ticket to learn more about your rights.
If you receive a ticket for a minor violation, hiring an attorney may not necessarily be cost-effective, for instance, if you know you won’t win the case or simply attending traffic school will dismiss the charges. However, if you received the ticket while traveling far from home or you are unable to take time off work to attend your hearing, you should consider hiring legal counsel.
If you decide to go to traffic school in lieu of paying a fine, you’ll spend several evenings or weekends in a classroom setting. If you decide to fight the ticket on your own in court, it will take time to prepare your case, plan your defense, gather evidence and learn the laws surrounding your alleged violation.
Auto insurance and your driving history
In some cases, a lawyer who fights your traffic ticket and wins your case may be more cost-effective than having a blemish on your driving record. Depending on your insurance company, driving record, the laws in your state and the violation, receiving a traffic ticket may cause your auto insurance premium to increase by up to 45 percent or more for at least two or three years.
If you have a less-than-stellar driving record and the court finds you guilty of the latest traffic violation, you may risk losing your driver’s license and/or paying large fines. Similarly, your auto insurance company may think that you are too risky to keep as a client and cancel your policy. When this happens, you may have to search for an insurance company that does business with at-risk drivers for a hefty premium.
Tricks of the trade
Traffic lawyers have an advantage over most members of the public—they have a rapport with the judges and prosecutors in traffic court. They know what types of tickets will require a jury trial, the court’s economic drivers and the laws that can help get a traffic ticket dismissed.
Depending on your jurisdiction, a judge may dismiss your case if:
- You agree to pay the fine and go on probation for a certain period.
- You agree to a plea bargain with the prosecutor.
- The officer makes a mistake on your traffic ticket.
- The officer who issued the ticket doesn’t show up to court as a witness.
Lawyers are familiar with traffic laws. They’ll take the time to fight your case properly. For more serious traffic violations, a lawyer may be able to arrange for you to plea for a lower charge or less points on your driving record, particularly if you had a good driving record.
The implications of receiving a traffic ticket may extend beyond paying the fine at the bottom of the page. Talk to a traffic lawyer to learn the best ways to deal with your ticket.