Traffic Ticket 101

Anyone can get a traffic ticket, already a good driver. After the initial aggravation of the ticket wears off, many people will send in payment for the fine. You may not be aware that you have other options to settle the ticket.

First of all consider the consequences of the ticket. You will almost certainly pay more for your auto insurance, probably for the next three years. The additional cost will depend on the rules for your company. It could be something like 10% additional for the first ticket and 25% or more for the second ticket. So if your rate was $100 per month, two tickets could cost you $900 additional for insurance over three years (plus the ticket fine). Your insurance agent can probably give you an calculate for the increase for your policy. For some occupations the tickets could also put your job at risk.

Because the secondary cost of a traffic ticket is high you may want to analyze your options. Every state has different rules. In my state of Texas you can get one ticket per year dismissed by taking a six hour driver’s safety course. Then you get a discount on your insurance instead of paying additional. This gives you a big payoff for the six hours of time. This is allowed only one time per year and some violations are not eligible. You can check with the court clerk to see if something like that is possible in your state.

In many courts it is possible to get a deferred judgment for a traffic violation. The way it usually works is you pay a fee to the court and the estimate agrees to dismiss the ticket. There are usually conditions such as a clean record for the next few months. Sometimes you can position this yourself. Other times an attorney would try to make the deal for you.

If you are innocent or wish to plead not guilty, you can represent yourself or hire an attorney (laws and court rules differ by state.) An attorney will often greatly increase your chance of a good outcome. In my area attorney fees for representation are typically $50 to $200 for minor violations. Many traffic lawyers will offer you a free consultation. They can tell you about their fees and what they will do for you. There is no guarantee of getting a dismissal. One method of ticket defense in my area is to plead not guilty and request a jury trial. The trial is usually set for months later. The ticket is often dismissed after the estimate calls roll on the court date. Over the last 30 years I have hired a lawyer for traffic ticket defense multiple times. I have had every ticket dismissed except one. (This may not be typical results.) In my case I am sure that what I paid the attorneys was far less than I would have paid in fines and additional insurance. Please observe that I am not recommending bad driving or telling you to always hire a lawyer for traffic ticket defense. This information is intended to make you aware of possible options.

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