So you got a traffic ticket it…now what do you do?
A. Just pay it. “I’m busy, it’s easier to plead guilty than deal with it. After all, how much can it be? ”
B. Ignore it. “The Court will give up. Besides, after a year or so, the ticket is dead, right?”
C. Handle it yourself. “I’m sure I can talk my way out of this.”
D. None of the above
So which is the right answer?
It’s D. None of the above. The correct answer is: TALK TO A LAWYER.
Why not choose A, B or C?
A. It’s not just the fine that you need to worry about. If you plead guilty, you’ll be dealing with the fine plus a state surcharge, possible points on your license and probably an insurance increase. Some traffic tickets are even misdemeanors and carry potential jail time!
B. Most traffic tickets carry no statute of limitations. If you ignore the ticket, you risk having your license suspended by the court for failing to appear. You may not even know that you’ve been suspended. If you get caught driving with a suspended license you can be charged with a misdemeanor, arraigned at a local court, bail can be set and your car can be towed away. Now you’re looking at a lot of fines and penalties that could have been avoided.
C. There’s a lot you won’t know about the Court that you are walking into. For instance, in Essex County there are several towns that are “Northway” towns, meaning that I-87 (the Northway) runs through them. Those courts see a large volume of speeders and some have taken a hardline stance on high speeds (over 80mph). The major Northway towns are Schroon, North Hudson, Elizabethtown, Lewis and Chesterfield. As a former Prosecutor in each of these towns, I have a good understanding of what each court is willing to accept as a reduction. If you handle your own ticket, you’ll never be sure if you got the best possible result.
“But I can’t afford a lawyer!”
No, you can’t afford NOT to hire a lawyer.
First, if you hire an attorney, you’ll probably never have to go to Court, saving you time and money. Plus, the bigger the reduction you get, the less you’ll wind up paying. A serious speeding ticket (whether because you were going really fast or caught speeding in a work/school zone) can run upwards of $700. In most cases, you’ll save a lot more by getting a lawyer than by handling the ticket yourself.
Second, you want to avoid points on your license. The more points you acquire, the higher your insurance premium. If you accumulate 6 points within any 18 month period, additional monetary penalties kick in, and if you accumulate 11 points within 18 months, your license will be revoked.
Finally, with a bad driving record, you may be excluded from jobs you want to apply for or lose the one you have. Whether it’s a construction job, a job in sales that requires travel, law enforcement, an EMT or a home health aide (just to name a few) they’ll be looking at your driving record and they may decide you’re just too risky to hire.
But the officer told me that he gave me a reduction when he wrote the ticket, should I just plead guilty to it?
Maybe…but maybe not. It all depends on how big a reduction it was and how clean your current driving record is. You might be able to do even better!
The bottom line: Whether or not to fight that traffic ticket is ALWAYS worth talking about.