Understanding Whether You Should Pay Your Traffic Ticket or Go to Court
While traffic tickets may feel inconvenient, ignoring them can wreak havoc on your driver’s license, raise your auto insurance and even lead to more serious charges. Don’t ignore the ticket! You must act within thirty days to avoid suspension of your license. Here, Maryland traffic violation attorney Jeffrey Scholnick provides an overview of instances when asking for a trial to dispute the ticket is recommended (most of the time).
Don’t Just Pay Your Traffic Ticket!
If you have never received a traffic ticket before, and you receive a ticket for a minor offense, it is recommended you appear in court. Rather than receive points by paying the ticket, a Judge is very likely to reduce the fine and give you Probation before Judgment (PBJ) if you have a good driving record. PBJ is your main goal because it means that you do not have any points and your auto insurance rates will not increase due to your ticket.
When appearing in front of the Judge, it is important to tell the truth. Judges can sense when a Defendant is lying and will quickly decide to penalize the fibbing fool. While some people believe that an honest excuse or a claim of ignorance will hurt you, it is best to tell the truth. Particularly if this is a first offense, a Judge will give you a “mulligan.” There is an old saying among lawyers that applies here: “The worst truth is better than a good lie.”
If you are pleading guilty or guilty with an explanation and have a reasonable excuse, the Judge will usually take pity on a first offender or someone who hasn’t had a ticket in a long time.
When you go to Court, don’t ask for a trial if you really don’t have a defense. Look at the law with which you are charged so that you can see if you have a defense. If you don’t have a good defense, don’t waste the Judge’s time. The Judge will have many other cases that day and won’t appreciate theatrics. You are not Perry Mason and, if you are Perry Mason, Traffic Court is not the place to prove your acting skills. Plead guilty with an explanation. But, if the Officer does not show up, or you have a good defense, then plead “not guilty” and make the Officer prove their case.
Never, ever, ever, ever (add additional “ever” 100 times) lie about your driving record. That big box on the Judge’s desk is not a T.V. set. It is a computer that can access your record. The quickest way to get ALL of the points and a $500 fine is to tell the Judge that you don’t have a recent ticket when you were in court a year ago. Judge’s hate liars!
If You Can’t go to Court, You Can Send an Attorney
Unlike offenses that include the possibility of jail time, you do not have to go to Court for speeding tickets. If you have a business trip or a vacation scheduled, you can have an attorney go on your behalf and defend you or obtain a PBJ or reduced sentence. If you can’t make the trial and can’t find an attorney, then pre-pay the ticket and ask for a trial date. The worst mistake is failing to show up in Court or neglecting to make arrangements before Court because you will then have a suspended license. This will lead to even more significant problems. Driving on a Suspended License is an offense for which you could receive a prison sentence. Lastly, if a police officer does not appear in court on your new court date, the case will be dismissed.
Most Importantly, Do Not Forget to Send in Your Request for Trial or Your Money
In the old days, if you threw the ticket the Officer wrote into your glove compartment, you would get a trial date. However, this rule has changed. Now, you must either pay the fine (and get the points) or complete and send in the bottom right portion of the ticket to the Annapolis address on that part of the ticket. Do nothing and, after thirty days, your license is suspended.
When you are sending in that bottom portion of the ticket, you have a choice to: (1) pay the ticket; (2) plead guilty and ask for a hearing on mitigating circumstances to reduce the penalty; or (3) ask for a trial.
If you are not paying, you might as well ask for a trial. Then, if the Officer doesn’t come to Court, the charges are dropped. If the Officer comes to Court, but can’t find his notes or his ticket, the charges are dismissed. Assuming you were polite and cooperative, you can ask the Officer if you acted appropriately and this will help you in the result. Judges like drivers who don’t make Officers’ jobs tough over minor traffic offenses.
Discuss Your Traffic Ticket with Experienced Traffic Violation Attorney Jeffrey Scholnick
While everyone makes a mistake on the road from time to time, and the inconvenient traffic ticket you receive for it may be justified, there are also plenty of instances in which an individual may be able to fight their traffic ticket and win. While traffic violations and instances where a traffic ticket requires you to go to court vary on a case-by-case basis, do not hesitate to contact traffic violation attorney Jeffrey Scholnick, who can go over your case with you in detail and determine whether or not it is viable to go to court.
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