The only things certain in life may be death and taxes, but it is highly probable that at some point or another, you will be issued a traffic ticket. Panic will ensue as you catch a glimpse of those flashing blue lights behind you, and realize the law enforcement officer is not passing you to catch someone else. To some, traffic tickets are a huge deal, while to others, perhaps, they are a somewhat common occurrence. No matter your driving record, check out these six things you probably didn’t know about getting citations:
- Paying off a ticket means you’re pleading guilty to the offense for which you were cited. If you receive a traffic ticket, the officer is most likely going to tell you that you can just pay the costs listed at the bottom, and avoid going to court on your court date. Great, right?! Well, not exactly. Paying those costs listed on your ticket means that you are pleading guilty. What does that mean? It depends on what you were cited for, but if you were cited for a moving violation, your insurance and license points could be affected. Moving violations include speeding, unsafe lane change, running stop signs, HOV lane violations, and following too closely.
- Failure to appear in court could result in the DMV suspending your license. Often, court dates are a month or two after the date of the offense (when the ticket was written), and people completely forget about their court date. If you or an attorney on your behalf does not appear in court on your court date (unless handled prior to), the judge will issue an “FTA” – failure to appear. An outstanding FTA – or multiple FTAs – usually lead to the DMV suspending your license. Not only that, if you have an FTA, you’ll be on the hook for an extra $200 fee to the court.
- If you go to court on your court date without hiring an attorney, you’ll likely be there for 3-4 hours. And you’ll talk to a district attorney about your ticket for approximately 1-2 minutes. And you may have to come to court several times. Hiring an attorney usually (it depends on the offense) prevents you from having to go to court at all. Attorneys also can handle tickets in a separate area than the public, which is much more expedient.
- Being convicted of speeding at least 15 mph over a posted speed limit of 55 mph or higher means your license could be automatically suspended. A “conviction” means you paid off your ticket or otherwise pled guilty to this offense. Just because your license is not physically taken from you does not mean it isn’t suspended. Suspended licenses can cause a myriad of problems. Often, people don’t even know their license was suspended, until they get pulled over, and are issued a ticket for DWLR – driving while license revoked. Then, not only do they have to handle that ticket, afterward they also have to arrange with the DMV a hearing to have their license reinstated. The DMV charges $100 for license reinstatement.
- You can use a Prayer for Judgment Continued to eliminate an offense from your record. This is often a tactic used when the original offense is reduced, but the reduction is still a moving violation that could affect insurance or drivers license points. For instance, if you get a ticket for speeding 25 mph over the speed limit, and it is reduced to speeding 14 mph over the speed limit, likely, your attorney would try to use a Prayer for Judgment Continued. A Prayer for Judgment Continued can be used if you haven’t used one in the past three years. It is similar to probation: so long as you stay out of trouble for the following three years, the offense you used the Prayer for Judgment Continued on will be eliminated from your record. If you do get in trouble within the following three years, the offense will go back on your record and you may face court costs accordingly.
- Having your ticket reduced to a non-moving violation will save you from license and insurance points. Non-moving offenses include improper equipment, failure to notify DMV of address change, failure to carry proper registration or insurance, expired license plate, and illegal parking.
Elspeth G. Crawford is an attorney at Adkins Law, P.L.L.C., located in Huntersville. Her practice focuses on handling traffic offenses, DWI defense, family law matters, and estate planning. For more information, call (704) 274-5677 or visit www.huntersvillelawyer.com.