Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Traffic Violations -- When You Need a Lawyer

Almost 3 of every 4 phone calls I take are related to a traffic violation of one type of another.  Some of those calls are regarding more serious charges like DWI's and careless/reckless driving, but the vast majority are regarding small tickets, such as speeding tickets and stop sign violations.  One of the questions people ask first is whether or not they really need a lawyer to help them deal with a traffic violation.  I'll try to give some straight forward and honest answers to this question and hopefully help people better understand what a Minnesota traffic attorney can do for them when faced with this type of issue.

If you have been charged with a traffic violation that doubles as a misdemeanor charge (such as DWI, careless/reckless driving, hit-and-run, etc...), you definitely should hire a Minnesota traffic attorney.  Any misdemeanor charge can carry with it a penalty of up to $1000 and 90 days in jail.  These types of offenses also often carry with them license suspensions or revocations, as well.  When you're dealing with penalties this severe, there is no "savings" to be realized by avoiding hiring an attorney.  Call a couple of Minnesota criminal defense attorneys, find one you trust, and let them help you move forward in your case.  It'll be well worth your investment.

As for more minor "petty misdemeanor" tickets, whether or not you really need an attorney depends greatly on your circumstances.  There are only a couple of situations that I encounter where I recommend people hiring an attorney to handle their petty misdemeanor traffic cases.  One situation is when the accused has multiple traffic violations on their record, and adding another would hinder their ability to hold car insurance.  The other is when someone uses their license to earn a living.  Let's look at both of those situations separately.

If you've been saddled with a bunch of tickets in the past 5 years, chances are you've seen an increase in your insurance premiums.  If you continue to pile up tickets, it's possible for your insurance company to deny you further coverage, meaning that you could be out in the cold and be unable to operate your vehicle.  If you are at the breaking point with your insurance (or simply can't afford any more premium increases), having a Minnesota traffic attorney work with you on your case could help you get the ticket lowered to a reduced charge, at the very least.  If you have reason to believe that you were wrongly issued a citation, an attorney can help you fight said ticket in the courts and get you the best deal possible.  By reducing your ticket (or getting it dismissed altogether), a Minnesota traffic attorney can help you keep your insurance premiums consistent, saving you thousands of dollars in the process.

If you are someone who uses their license to earn a living, having a Minnesota traffic attorney could help your cause quite a bit, as well.  Truck drivers, taxi drivers, mail carriers, delivery drivers, and heavy equipment operators all have a vested stake in keeping their license clean.  Tickets can cost you your job, safety bonuses, or the opportunity to find a higher paying position in the future.  A Minnesota traffic attorney can analyze your case to determine whether there are any aspects of your situation that can be challenged.  If no such elements exist, a dedicated attorney can still help you negotiate a deal with prosecution that can lessen the charge you are convicted of and help keep your license pristine.  If you're family depends on you keeping a clean license to survive financially, take the time to speak with an attorney to see what options you have.

So, now that we know who the people are who can benefit from a Minnesota traffic attorney, why is it that the average person with a speeding ticket won't?  Basically, it boils down to finances.  If you've been issued a citation for a petty misdemeanor ticket, don't have multiple other tickets, or have a professional interest in keeping your license clean, hiring an attorney will probably just be an added expense to your case.  The vast majority of speeding tickets are very difficult to challenge.  If you decide to take your ticket to court, there is very little likelihood that the judge will take your word over the police officer's.  There isn't much a lawyer is going to be able to do to change this fact.  The basic ticket in Minnesota costs $128.00.  A Minnesota traffic attorney is likely to charge you at least a couple hundred dollars for their services.  This cost can be justified under some circumstances, but rarely is this the case for your basic traffic ticket.

If you find yourself the recipient of a basic speeding ticket/stop sign ticket/red light ticket, you've got a couple different options.  First, you can choose to pay the ticket online/over the phone/in the mail.  You'll be pleading guilty to the charge on the ticket, but you'll eliminate the chances of having to pay any late fees or penalties for neglecting to pay the ticket.  For all intents and purposes, that ticket will be on your record for five years.  If you receive no further tickets during that period, it's unlikely that your insurance will be effected (assuming you weren't going 40 over the limit).  For most people, this option is easiest, as it doesn't require you to take a morning off work and go down to the courthouse.  However, your second option is to appear for your court date and attempt to challenge the ticket.  Often, the citation you receive will have a court date printed on the ticket.  If it doesn't, there will be a phone number for you to call to get one.  The benefit to taking this path to dealing with your ticket is that prosecutors tend to be willing to negotiate with people who show up.  If you've never been to traffic court before, imagine a zoo without working fences.  People everywhere.  Children running up and down the aisles.  Lines at the clerk's desk to check in.  It's pretty awful.  This actually works in your favor when dealing with a ticket.  The prosecutor has to talk with all of those people before they go in front of the judge.  He's going to do what it takes to get you out of his office as quick as possible.  This could mean reducing your fine, reducing your charge, giving you a payment plan (if the money is an issue for you), or offering you an adjudication which would allow you, through good behavior, to have the ticket removed from your record after a year (while still paying the full fine).  These options are all significantly better than simply paying the ticket and moving on.  If you have the ability to attend your court date for any traffic ticket, take the time to do so.  It could save you big bucks.

If you or a loved one have been issued a traffic ticket and are wondering if there's anything a Minnesota traffic attorney can do for you, call or email one today in order to get the process started.

As always, none of the content on Minnesota Criminal Defense Blog is intended to act as either legal advice or legal advertising, nor does viewing this website create an attorney/client relationship between the author and the reader.  If you have legal questions or are in need of advice, stop surfing the internet for answers and call a license attorney in your jurisdiction.

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