Most people either just send in the fine – or go to court and make no real attempt to bob and weave their way out of a speeding ticket.
Cattle do the same thing on their way to McDonalds.
Even if you have a perfect driving driving record, every ticket is worth fighting with everything you’ve got- because the presence of even a single “moving violation” on your driving record – no matter how minor (or bogus) can end up costing you hundreds (possibly thousands) over the 3-5 year period it will be visible on your DMV rap sheet.
There’s the fine itself, of course. But that’s just a one-time hit.
It’s a few months later when your insurance policy comes up for renewal that the real pain will be felt.
Your insurance company is all about maximizing the revenue stream – just like the cop who gave you the ticket. And even though your piddling 66 mph in a 55 zone “speeding” ticket doesn’t in any fair-minded way mean you’re an unsafe driver, the insurance company will use it as a pretext for claiming that you are – and will jack your rates up accordingly. If they hit you with a 10 percent surcharge annually for the three years most DMVs will keep a moving violation “active” on your record, the dollars add up fast. Many times you’ll end up paying more to your insurance company in premium hikes than the cost of the actual fine itself.
Perhaps more than the cost of hiring a good traffic attorney, even.
That’s why fighting every ticket is so important. But it becomes even more important to beat that first ticket in order to avoid the consequences of getting a second ticket while the first one is still “on your record.” While some insurance companies will not mug you over a single moving violation, few leave you alone after number two.
Which is why it’s crucial to fight that first one – even if it’s just a little one.
So, what can you do?
Basically, your options come down to dealing with it yourself – or hiring a traffic lawyer to do it for you. The first option is obviously cheaper – and can work, too. But the second is more likely to succeed, simply because an experienced lawyer knows how the con is played.
If you want to go it on your own, you can try the following:
* Ask for a continuance –
Many states allow any person charged with a moving violation an automatic “continuance” – which means you can get the court to change your original court date to a later date, often simply by asking that it do so. Why do this? Several possible reasons:
One, let’s say you got a ticket in fall and the original court date is in November. By getting a continuance that pushes the court date into the new year, you might avoid losing the “plus” point that some states give drivers for going a calendar year free of convictions for any moving violations.
Two, you might just throw a monkey wrench into the bureaucracy. Paperwork does get lost; the cop might not show to your second, “continued” court date. If either happens, the charge against you might get dropped entirely.
Three, you have absolutely nothing to lose by doing this. It’s free – and it’s a good way to game the system. Just like the system is trying to game you.
* Sign up for “driver’s ed” –
In several states, you have the option of wasting a Saturday pretending to agree with a bored bureaucrat’s tired spiels about the righteousness of all posted speed limits and the deadly danger of ever driving faster. It’s eight hours in the can in return for the court dropping the charge. Well worth it. In some states, it’s even possible to take the DMV-authorized “driving school” online – which lets you avoid the hassle of spending an entire Saturday reliving high school detention. (See http://www.trafficschoolonline.com for more information.)
The critical thing is to avoid being convicted of a moving violation, for the reasons explained earlier. Many judges will “give you a break” by allowing you to plead guilty to “defective equipment” or some other non-moving violation -or pay a beefy fine.
Any of these options is preferable to being convicted for the original moving violation because your insurance company won’t have a pretext for a rate hike. In some counties/states, certain charges aren’t reported to the DMV at all – especially if it’s an out-of-state ticket.
Even the beefy fine’s preferable to a conviction on the original moving violation – because it’s a one-time hit vs. the ongoing fleecing you’ll get for having even one moving violation on your driving record.
So, what about lawyers?
The cost to rent a shyster to handle a minor traffic case (normal speeding, not “reckless driving,” DUI or a major charge that has a mandatory court appearance and the possibility you might get thrown in the clink) is typically between $500 and $1,500. It sounds steep – it is steep – but for all the reasons outlined previously, it can be money well-spent – especially if you end up getting another ticket during the next three years.
It’s pretty easy to find a traffic lawyer in most areas; just Google the county/state in which your case will be tried and add the keywords “ticket” and “lawyer.” Look for one who has been doing this for awhile and who regularly appears in the court where you’ll be appearing. The best defense lawyers are former prosectors. Interview your prospect, ask him specifically how he will handle your case – and what his success rate is in getting charges like yours reduced or dropped.
If he wins, you’ll have the satisfaction of seeing the cop who cited you turn beet red with anger as you slip the noose.
And that is worth a lot more than the cost of any fine.