So I got a traffic ticket. Now what? Should I just pay it? Do I need to appear in court? What impact will this have on my driver’s license? Will my insurance go up? Can I actually go to jail for this?
All good questions. In fact, there are several issues you need to consider when receiving a traffic ticket:
1. Do I really need to hire a lawyer to represent me on this charge? Several of our clients hire us simply because they cannot afford to miss work. For most traffic offenses, we can usually work out an arrangement with the Prosecutor and the Judge so that our clients do not actually have to appear in Court. This allows our clients to “take care” of their tickets with as little personal inconvenience to themselves as possible. More importantly, however, is the fact that most of our clients don’t want to go to jail either! Many traffic offenses now come with mandatory jail-time. Thus, some defendants who walk into court with the intent to simply plead “guilty” and pay their fines are awakened to the harsh reality that a finding of guilt by the Judge on their particular offense comes with a mandatory stay in the County Jail. Again, in most instances, we are able to convince the Prosecutor and/or Judge that alternatives to jail-time are available and appropriate.
2. Will this traffic ticket cause my auto insurance rates to go up? The answer to this question depends on your particular insurance policy, but generally the answer is “yes.” Keep in mind that, in Missouri, insurance rates are based on the individual’s driving record. If you receive a “moving violation” (i.e. Speeding, DWI, Stop Sign offense, etc) and you are convicted of that charge, the violation goes on your driving record for at least 5 years. In short, the more “moving violations” that appear on your driving record, the higher your auto insurance premiums. So, in hiring an attorney, the goal is to have the ticket dismissed or reduced to a “non-moving” violation (i.e. Defective Equipment) so that the offense does not appear on your driving record – thus, no insurance rate increases. By keeping the moving violation off of your driving record, you could be saving hundreds – possibly even thousands – of dollars over the next 5 years.
3. Can I actually LOSE my driver’s license as a result of this traffic ticket? Again, the answer to this question depends on the type of offense and how many previous moving violations you have on your driving record. In Missouri, the State will “suspend” your driver’s license for at least 30 days if you accumulate 8 points within an 18-month period (typically, a municipal speeding ticket is 2 points; and a speeding ticket issued by a Sheriff’s Department or Highway Patrol is 3 points). Additionally, in Missouri, an accumulation of 12 points within a 12-month period will cause you to lose your license for an entire year. In addition to being extremely inconvenient, suspensions and/or revocations of your driver’s license can cause your future insurance premiums to sky-rocket, as the insurance companies will “flag” you as being a high-risk driver.
4. Is it possible to represent myself in getting this traffic ticket reduced or amended? Keep in mind that the only person with the authority to amend your “moving” violation down to a “non-moving” violation is the Prosecutor. Also keep in mind that, as a traffic offender, the Prosecutor is not your friend. The Prosecutor’s job is to obtain convictions and ensure that the laws of his/her jurisdiction are enforced. The only thing that causes a Prosecutor to “plea bargain” or dismiss a charge is the threat of going to trial. On your own, the Prosecutor does not view you as much of a threat because you are probably not familiar with all the rules of discovery and presenting evidence. But with the assistance of an attorney, the Prosecutor faces the real threat of losing his/her case; thus, your attorney is trained to enter into discussions and negotiations with the Prosecutor in order to get the charge dismissed or reduced to a “non-moving” violation.
If you have received a traffic ticket, contact us to today (816.230.5550) to discuss your options. Again, in most instances, we can take care of your ticket(s) with minimal inconvenience to you and without you even having to appear in court.