There are roughly 200 million drivers in the United States, and it is estimated that approximately 1 out of every five will receive a traffic ticket over the course of one year. Whether for common tickets such as speeding, improper passing, careless driving, failure to observe traffic lanes, failure to yield at a traffic intersection, or running a red light, to the potentially deadly DUI/DWI, racing, tailgating, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident, improper turn, improper turn at an intersection, improper backing up or U-turn or reckless driving, traffic tickets encompass a large variety of offenses. While some violations are certainly more common than others, there are always options when dealing with a traffic violation. It is best to consider what those options are because amassing penalties, points and DMV/insurance surcharges or even going to jail can have a severe impact on your daily life, license, registration, insurance and/or privilege to drive in the state.
Checking the Ticket
When a ticket is written for a violation, a lot of information is recorded. The make, model, color, and license plate number of your vehicle will all appear on the citation, as well as the time and place of the alleged offense. Make sure that all of the information on the ticket is correct. A large difference between what is written and what is fact may be grounds for dismissal, mitigation and/or compromise/down grading of a ticket. For example, if you drive a compact car, but the ticket claims your vehicle is a truck, there is a good chance you can successfully contest the ticket due to the officer’s mistake.
There will likely be an area of the ticket which reads, “Court appearance required,” with a small box next to it. If the box is unchecked, you do not have to appear before a judge if you wish to plead guilty. If the box is checked, however, you must appear in court on the date indicated, regardless of what you intend to plead. Different courts have different hearing schedules. If, for whatever reason, you cannot make a court appearance, call the local municipal court and discuss the matter with them so they can reschedule your appearance.
Paying the Ticket
One option to deal with a traffic violation is to visit the local borough hall and pay the ticket. If you are not required to appear in court and want to plead guilty, you can likely visit the court office and pay the ticket without ever having to appear in front of a judge. However, that is admitting guilt, and you will sustain whatever penalties, points and DMV/insurance surcharges the violation includes. You may also be sentenced to jail time depending on the offense. Many people think it is easier to pay the ticket, but there are many potential consequences and most often this is not the best resolution option or approach to take. A competent traffic attorney can work wonders on a ticket matter and typically will yield amazing results such as getting the ticket(s) dismissed, points reduced or eliminated, fines lowered or eliminated, mitigation/conversion of a ticket to a lesser or different offense which carries with it no points and DMV/insurance surcharges and the avoidance of jail time. Overall, a savvy traffic attorney can save you from your ticket(s) having a huge impact on your daily life, license, registration, insurance and/or privilege to drive in the state, much less your life and liberty should the offense call for jail time. Ask yourself the question of how much is your license/privilege to drive worth to you? How do you feel about going to jail? Do you need your car to go to work? Get around? Pick up your kids and/or spouse, travel, etc.?? I can’t even fathom not being able to drive my car. I would be so hampered and limited in my life I would suffer tremendously, be devastated, lose my job and cause an enormous strain on my friends and family constantly pestering and relying on them for rides anywhere I needed to go. God forbid you do go to jail you may also end up with a criminal record which could cause you to lose your job or not be able to get another job once you have a criminal record.
Different violations have different penalties and DMV/insurance surcharges, ranging from the small to the severe. For serious offenses, like drunk driving, DUI/DWI, racing, tailgating, leaving the scene of an accident, failing to report an accident, improper turn, improper turn at an intersection, improper backing up or U-turn or reckless driving it is imperative to consult with a competent, experienced traffic lawyer who appears regularly in the traffic court where your ticket will be heard. These are very serious matters that can possibly result in you serving time in jail. Each state has its own strict laws and means of dealing with these offenses, including license suspension, fines, substantial surcharges, and imprisonment. However, a lesser violation, may simply result in a fine, less or no points and the avoidance of DMV/insurance surcharges and jail time under New Jersey’s traffic and vehicle laws.
While many traffic violations require paying a small fine, there are other penalties that a guilty driver will sustain. Most states have what is known as a point system for traffic violations in which the car was in motion, otherwise known as moving violations. Each violation carries a certain amount of points, and if a driver exceeds a fixed number of points, that driver’s license will be suspended for a given period of time and the driver may go to jail. For example, accumulating 12 or more points in New Jersey means the driver will lose his or her license. Lesser violations have lesser points, and more serious offenses have more points and possibly jail time. While different states have different statutes, points can remain on your license for quite some time, and you may incur DMV and insurance surcharges for points or exceeding a certain number of points.
Most insurance companies regularly review driving records and may raise the cost of insurance for convictions of traffic violations. Even if the offenses are relatively minor, as the violations amass, so will the amount you pay. Of course, different violations can determine the monetary increase due to the severity of the offense. Tailgating is much less likely to increase insurance rates by the same amount as reckless driving. What most people don’t know is your insurance company can increase your insurance premium by up to $1,500 per every 2 points for a period of 3 years on top of DMV surcharges which vary as well. That equates to up to $4,500 in insurance surcharges/premium increases for every 2 points you get, not to mention the DMV surcharges which you can be penalized with on top of that! The resultant cost of a mere 2-point ticket can be HUGE!! That’s why you need an experienced, skilled, competent and savvy traffic attorney to represent you on your ticket. The money you pay him or her upfront can literally pale in comparison to the amount you’ll pay overall in the long run should you elect to just pay the ticket. Imagine the financial impact on a 4-point ticket. Everything just doubled and you can pay up to $9,000 in insurance surcharges/premium increases and more and even higher DMV surcharges! However, this pertains only to moving violations. Receiving a ticket for parking in front of a fire hydrant should not affect your insurance rates, as long as the ticket is paid in a timely manner.
Contesting the Ticket
Before you decide to dispute a ticket, and therefore, plead not guilty, it is worth checking to see if there is legal proof to contest the charge. Any relevant data about the scene, such as the weather and the amount of traffic, or any witnesses or cameras may be beneficial. Buildings, heavy traffic, other vehicles or impediments could have obstructed the officer’s view or use of a laser or radar gun/speed measuring device such as LIDAR. If an officer stopped you for speeding, it is possible that he or she used a radar, laser or LIDAR gun, in which case, the speed measuring device/machine has to meet certain requirements. If the machine was not properly calibrated or utilized, that might be grounds for dismissal of the speeding ticket.
However, contesting a ticket on your own can be time-consuming, difficult and nerve-racking, especially if you don’t what you’re doing or how the traffic and vehicle laws work in your state. It is possible that you will have to make multiple court appearances, which could mean time away from work and your family. This does not have to be the case though – if you hire a good traffic attorney, he or she can utilize a limited power of attorney or plea by affidavit so you don’t ever have to appear in court – only your lawyer will. Thus, another benefit to hiring an experienced traffic attorney who regularly appears in court on traffic and motor vehicle matters is he or she should be able to guide you on when such circumstances exist so you can use a limited power of attorney or plea by affidavit so you don’t have to attend or appear in court.
Before pleading not guilty, it is wise to contact the particular municipal court. Some municipalities prefer to know in advance whether someone is going to plead not guilty. You can also request a hearing date if one is not initially provided.
Contesting a traffic violation may simply be a matter of negotiation. A seasoned traffic lawyer may have the charge reduced, points reduced or eradicated or penalties/fines lessened depending on your driving record.
Whether you want to contest a ticket or not, the matter must be addressed. Don’t stick the ticket in your glove compartment and forget about it. Failure to address a traffic ticket can lead to terrible repercussions, such as a warrant being issued for your arrest, and your driving privileges, license and/or registration being revoked by the DMV.
How to Reduce Points
Points are naturally deducted from a driver’s license, assuming that driver avoids accumulating more points within a fixed period of time. For example, one year with no traffic violations or license suspensions may result in a 3-point reduction on the points assessed against your license in New Jersey. Different states offer various driver improvement courses, defensive driving programs and traffic school to aide in potentially reducing your points further if applicable and you qualify. Some programs are mandatory if a driver has committed multiple or severe violations, but some programs are also voluntary and can result in a credit or reduction in your insurance premium. Consulting with an experienced traffic attorney before attending any such courses is sensible, because there is a limit to how often a driver can attend certain programs, there are prerequisites and/or qualifications to being able to take such courses and not all classes may prove beneficial depending on your circumstances.
Hiring an Attorney
Seasoned, savvy, skilled and experienced traffic lawyers know the technicalities, ins and outs and customary norms of traffic violations and how to navigate the daunting and scary maze that is the traffic court system. Further, they know the intricacies of how each type of ticket or charge can be mitigated, plea bargained, reduced, dismissed or generally handled to get you the best result and outcome with the least impact, if any, on your license, registration, insurance and privilege to drive. If a ticket cannot be dismissed, an attorney can possibly negotiate a plea bargain. It may be in your best interest to merely pay the fine, but there is no way to know for sure before consulting with such a competent and learned lawyer. If you choose to hire the right traffic attorney, he or she should gather all of the information and evidence pertinent to your case and fight vehemently on your behalf. Some traffic violations have serious penalties and even jail time, but even violations deemed minor can affect your license, registration, insurance and privilege to drive and result in huge insurance rate increases for years. Having an experienced and skilled traffic attorney working for you almost invariably will prove to be extremely valuable in many different ways as previously outlined in this article.
The odds of someone receiving a traffic ticket in his or her lifetime are very high. If it occurs, there is no need to panic, because there are clearly many different ways to deal with a traffic violation. Discussing the ticket, charge or infraction with an attorney will grant you the best advice concerning how to proceed. Don’t procrastinate – consult with a seasoned, savvy, skilled and experienced traffic lawyer and start dealing with your traffic violation today. Most people and clients I’ve talked to have told me they were very glad they did in the long run as it yielded huge cost savings for them while avoiding jail and protecting their invaluable license, registration, insurance and privilege to drive their vehicle.