Have you been pulled over and been issued a traffic citation? Most people answer “yes” here! But what happens next? Should you hire a traffic lawyer? Maybe. While we hate an ambiguous answer as much as the next person, it really does depend on the circumstances surrounding the violation(s) or alleged violation(s). How do you know if you need legal representation?
Minor vs. Major Traffic Violations
If you get a speeding ticket, you may be able to contest it in court without the aid of legal representation (more on that in a moment). But if you are facing serious charges, including driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless and/or negligent operation, it is important to have an experienced traffic lawyer on your side.
Let’s answer the easier question first: when might you not need an attorney? You were speeding, and the law caught up with you. It happens. As a result, you may get points on your license. In North Carolina, if you accumulate seven points, you may have to attend a driver improvement clinic, a.k.a. traffic school. If you get 12 or more within three years, the state may suspend your license.
Say you were speeding in a school zone: this will get you three points. If you do not have a reasonable chance of successfully contesting this ticket in court, you can sign up for traffic school in order to earn a point reduction or even get the ticket dismissed. (On a side note, if you have a good driving record, you can proactively take a course in order to reduce your insurance rates!)
In this case, it is likely best to save yourself the money of hiring an attorney and either pay the ticket or attend traffic school. And then, of course, obey the speed limit and traffic laws going forward!
If You Contest a Ticket…
Let’s say you want to contest a ticket. The burden is on you to prove that you did not violate the law. For example, you would have to prove that you were not speeding. This often involves time-consuming research about the equipment the law enforcement agency uses to track speed, making requests for dashcam footage, pulling GPS data from a smartphone app, or obtaining and/or photographic evidence that the speed limit sign was not visible or was obscured (e.g. by tree branches or covered with graffiti).
You may have heard that if the officer who gave you the ticket or citation does not appear in court when you contest the ticket, you automatically win. This isn’t always the case, so don’t rely on it. If you choose to fight, have proof on your side.
Generally, it is only worth it to retain a traffic lawyer if your ticket is severe (i.e. much higher than the average of $250 - $350) and/or if you risk losing your license.
Dealing with a Major Violation
What if we’re talking about something more serious than going a few miles over the speed limit or rolling through a stop sign in an empty intersection? Traffic attorneys typically handle cases involving driving under the influence (DUI), careless, negligent, and/or reckless driving, license suspensions (e.g. multiple tickets or multiple infractions), and other serious circumstances. They also often represent commercial drivers, who are held to higher standards and must comply with more strict rules than other drivers.
If you find yourself in a serious situation, getting a traffic lawyer can make the difference between being able to get back out on the road and facing stiff fines, penalties, loss of license, and even jail time.
How Can a Traffic Lawyer Help?
First and foremost, your attorney can provide invaluable legal advice and guidance. They will be able to listen to the facts of your situation, evaluate the evidence, and advise you as to the best next steps. They will also be able to give you a realistic sense of the outcome you can expect, and this is important as you decide what to do going forward. Traffic lawyers have extensive knowledge of this area of the law, and often have connections in the judicial and law enforcement communities. Again, this is important.
Your lawyer can also go to represent you in court, handling the complex process that is so overwhelming for those without this in-depth experience. Those who are represented by an attorney are more likely to have a successful outcome in court.
But another benefit is that, by hiring a lawyer, you may not need to go to court at all. This is because they can handle negotiations, including plea bargains, on your behalf. For example, they can negotiate a moving violation down to a non-moving violation so you do not accumulate points on your license.
Contact Robert P. Laney
If you are wondering whether you should hire a traffic attorney to resolve your situation, contact Robert P. Laney today. We will help replace wonder - and worry - with sound advice and action.