Receiving a traffic ticket or citation can be a stressful experience. Typically, traffic infractions can be handled out of court by paying fines, however, there are certain times when court appearances and attorney representation are necessary. If you have violated traffic law, and are required to go to court, it is important to know when to hire an attorney.
If you are charged with a criminal traffic offense: Traffic violations like reckless driving, driving on a suspended license, and driving under the influence (DUI) can carry hefty penalties. If found guilty, these, and other criminal traffic offenses can carry heavy fines, and lengthy jail sentences.
When calculating the sentences for traffic violations, the type off offense and whether or not this is your first offense are taken into account. Traffic tickets are usually no more than a few hundred dollars, however, unpaid traffic tickets can lead to jail time. More serious violations like DUI or DWI can carry upwards of $1,000 in fines, jail time, and community service.
If you are going to dispute your ticket: Traffic attorneys can be very useful if you are going to dispute your ticket, or try and get it dismissed. You may have received a ticket from an officer who was not willing to listen to your explanation (i.e. malfunctioning equipment, speeding do to emergency, did not receive notice that your license was suspended), and need to dispute the ticket or have it dismissed. If necessary, attorneys can depose the ticketing officer and use the deposition to help you build your defense.
If you want to save time and save your record: Hiring a lawyer for your traffic case can save you from a lengthy day in court, or save you from missing a day of work. Traffic cases involving attorneys are often heard before other cases. In addition, attorneys may be able to appear before the judge on your behalf and save you a trip to court altogether.
Lawyers will also be helpful in keeping your driving record as clean as possible. Depending on the violation, traffic citations can lead to multiple points being added to your driving record. The more points you have, the closer you are to having your license suspended. These points can also increase your car insurance rates. An attorney can work to reduce the charge, and, in turn, reduce the number of points on your record.
Minor infractions do not require lawyers: Keep in mind that if you have received a minor traffic ticket you do not need a lawyer to represent you. Check your ticket to see if you are required to appear in court for arraignment, or if you can pay your fine in mail or in person. Some court systems even allow you to pay your fines online.
Despite the common opinion that attorneys are always money hungry, many attorneys will refuse to take on clients who have committed minor traffic infractions. Most attorneys charge a minimum of $100 per hour, therefore, the cost for research, building a defense, and appearing in court will far exceed the cost of the fine that a traffic client would have to pay. In most instances, the cost of attorneys fees would more than quadruple the amount of the fine.
Traffic citations, while very common, can lead to expensive fines and even jail time if they are not handled properly. You should hire a lawyer to represent you in traffic court if you are charged with a criminal offense, if you are going to dispute your ticket, or if you want to save time and your driving record. However, if you want to avoid hiring an attorney and going to traffic court, obey the law and drive safely!