If you have received a ticket for an offense like speeding, disobeying signs or driving under the influence, you may decide you want to fight this traffic ticket in court. There are a lot of things that can go into making this decision, from the type of ticket you received to whether or not you can fight it yourself or need a lawyer.
Hiring a lawyer will be helpful if you have been ticketed with a serious offense that could lead to losing your license or even going to jail, but smaller infractions like parking violations may not require legal assistance. Something like a DUI is more serious, so be sure to get more on this site.
Your first step in deciding to fight your ticket is to figure out what kind of traffic tickets you have received. In the United States, most traffic tickets are split between “minor violations,” also known as infractions or civil charges, and criminal charges. The difference between these can vary from state to state or municipality to municipality.
A minor infraction could be something like not wearing a seatbelt, driving without a license or insurance, or parking on the wrong side of the street. You may want to pay the fine and plead guilty or contest it in court.
What Happens In Court
In order to fight your ticket, you need to request a hearing with the court. Depending on your state or city, your hearing may be seen by a judge or a magistrate. The ticketing officer will be subpoenaed and must be present at the trial. If the officer is unable to attend, your date may be rescheduled or the judge may dismiss your charge altogether.
While contesting your ticket, you have the option to plead guilty with an explanation. This is essentially entering a plea deal, so that the court may reduce the impact of your charges. For example, if you were ticketed for a traffic violation that occurred when you were trying to avoid a collision, the judge may decide to give a lower fine or avoid charges altogether.
If your ticket contains a ‘fatal flaw,’ the court can dismiss the ticket entirely. These flaws include your name, the date or the location of the infraction missing from the ticket.
What About Your Driving Record?
After receiving a traffic ticket, your record with the DMV will be updated. Your driving record will include the status of your license, and any tickets, convictions, or suspensions you’ve received. States have different point systems, which remove points from your license for each infraction. For example, a speeding ticket may have two demerit points, whereas failing to stay at the scene of a collision can be worth seven points. After receiving a certain amount of punitive points, you are at risk of having your license suspended entirely. If you are unsure of what is on your driving record, you can request a copy from the DMV.
It is possible to have tickets expunged from your record. Some offenses stay on your record for a certain amount of time, like five years for speeding. More serious offenses, like vehicular homicide, will stay on for life. This varies from state to state. In order to have the tickets expunged, you might need to meet certain prerequisites like attending a driving course or keeping a clean record for a certain number of years. You may also have to pay a fee. This will also vary by state. Check with your local DMV to see what your requirements are and if it is possible to have a ticket cleared from your record.
When Should You Call a Lawyer?
If you have received a ticket for a minor offense like speeding, you may not need a lawyer. However, if you are facing a serious offense like a DUI, you should look for legal help. A traffic lawyer can help you by doing the following:
Negotiating with the judge or prosecutor on your behalf to get a lower fine or lesser charge.
A lawyer can also negotiate if you are at risk of losing your license because of multiple infractions.
A lawyer can represent you in court. This is especially useful if you received a ticket in another state or city while traveling.
Avoid felony convictions. A lawyer can review your case, challenge the arrest, request to see the arresting officer’s notes and create an argument on why your charges should be dismissed, or secure a not guilty verdict in court.
Your lawyer can also arrange a plea deal, ensuring you get the best possible deal. This can include getting probation or community service, as opposed to jail time.
What You Shouldn’t Do
Avoiding paying your fine or missing a court appearance for your ticket could cause serious problems for you in the long run. The court can issue a warrant, your driver’s license could be suspended and your fines may increase or be sent to collections. Your car may even be towed.
A suspended license is temporary and often will be reinstated after you pay your fine and wait for a period of time decided by the courts. However, if your license is revoked, you lose your driving privileges and will have to reapply for a license after a minimum of one year.
If you’ve decided to challenge your ticket in court, and don’t have a lawyer, you should be careful to make clear and rational arguments as to why your charges should be dismissed. For example, accusing the ticketing officer of lying or being mistaken without any proof will not be accepted by a judge. You should also avoid downplaying the severity of your infraction, like defending yourself by saying no one was injured or you weren’t speeding by a lot. The judge may find you irresponsible and less likely to dismiss your charges.
If you receive a traffic ticket, it doesn’t have to mean bad news. Whether you want to fight your ticket in court, get your record expunged or make use of a legal team, there are lots of avenues for you to take to get back on the road and away from the courts.