Should You Hire an Attorney for Traffic Tickets?

June 29, 2012

Why is it necessary to get a lawyer for a traffic ticket?

With traffic tickets for small offenses, such as speeding or failure to wear a seat belt, drivers usually plead guilty and pay the fine. Taking the time out of their busy schedules to wait in traffic court for their hearing, which usually comes months after the initial traffic ticket, is either unattractive or simply impractical.

However, hiring a Maryland attorney to contest a traffic ticket in court may have more benefits than one might think.

Suppose you are late for an appointment and you’re going 15 miles per hour over the posted speed limit of 65 in the “fast lane.” You come up behind a car that is going the speed limit and you start tailgating that car. You’re in a hurry; you don’t want to be late. As soon as the lane to the right opens up, you swerve over and start speeding again until you come up behind another car going the speed limit. You pass that car as well. You’re just trying to get to your appointment somewhat on time.

Unfortunately, a police officer has used radar and he reads that you’re going 80 in a 65 mph zone. He also observed you tailgating and passing on the right, causing him to turn on his lights and siren to pull you over. Your reasoning behind the speeding, tailgating and passing doesn’t sway the officer.

He issues you a ticket for exceeding the speed limit by 10 to 19 mph, which has a potential fine of $140 and carries a two-point penalty on your driving record. He then issues you a citation for aggressive driving because you committed three of the seven violations associated with aggressive driving during a single or continuous period. That ticket has a fine of $370 and five points.

Speeding to try to make your appointment on time just became much more complicated. You’re going to accumulate seven points and $510 in fines. It’s time to start thinking about hiring a lawyer.

In Maryland, drivers are typically charged with two types of offenses:

  • a minor infraction (or “payable”), which is a traffic offense that results in a fine and/or points on the driver’s license; or
  • a serious traffic infraction (or “must appear”), which is a criminal offense that might result in jail time.

A minor infraction, such as speeding, may seem simple enough; you get a ticket, you pay the fine, and then it’s over with. However, minor infractions may result in not only a fine, but points against the driver’s license. Not to mention, a driver can be issued multiple minor infractions, like our scenario above. The resulting points may then affect the driver’s insurance rates, causing them to increase, or even result in a suspension of the driver’s license. Additionally, the Maryland MVA has the right to request a hearing if a driver has accumulated five points. In our situation above, the MVA could possibly invoke its right, and it would greatly benefit the driver to have counsel present at the hearing.

Alternatively, if a driver is charged with a serious traffic infraction, such as driving with a suspended license or driving under the influence (DUI), the driver is facing the possibility of jail time, fines, points against the driver’s license, and the revocation or suspension of the license.

It is in the driver’s best interest to hire an attorney when facing potential incarceration. A lawyer may be able to have some charges reduced to minor infractions or work out a deal that keeps the driver out of jail. If the driver is found guilty of a serious traffic infraction, he or she not only faces possible time behind bars, suspension of the license, points and fines, but now the driver has a criminal record.

In Maryland, if a driver accumulates eight to 11 points from either (1) minor infractions serious traffic infraction, (2) driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, (3) falsifying information on their license, or (4) failing to pay a traffic fine, the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) may issue a license suspension. A license suspension typically lasts from three months to a year, depending on the specific sentence.

If a driver accumulates 12 or more points in a two-year span from minor infractions or serious traffic infraction, the MVA has the right to revoke the driver’s license. If the driver was convicted of an alcohol-related offense, the driver may be required to take alcohol education classes and install an Ignition Interlock (“Breathalyzer”) device on their vehicle.

Even though traffic tickets seem simple enough to handle by paying the fine, the ramifications can be much more severe than expected. When facing the accumulation of points, increased insurance rates, fines, and/or possible jail time, it is in the driver’s best interest to consult an attorney.

The law office of Cochran & Chhabra has provided this website and its content for informational purposes only. The information is not intended to be legal advice or counsel. Your use of this site and its content does not construct a lawyer-client relationship with Cochran & Chhabra. You should consult an attorney for individual advice concerning your particular situation.

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