Few people are able to avoid a traffic ticket at least once in their lives. Whether it’s a speeding ticket during your college years or a failure-to-yield at the age of 40, eventually you’ll see those flashing lights in your rear view mirror and know you’ll be paying up.
Paying the ticket is often the easiest option, saving you the trouble of a court date. But there are benefits to going to court, especially if you know you aren’t guilty. It’s important to know the cost of various options to avoid making a decision that could cost you more. If you’ve earned a ticket recently, here are a few of your options.
Pay the Ticket
There are varying thoughts on paying your ticket outright. Traditionally, drivers were told that if they didn’t go to court, the ticket would put a black mark on their driving record, increasing their insurance premiums as a result. This may have you imagining hundreds of dollars extra every year. However, premium increases can vary from one insurance carrier to another. If you’ve had no other incidents in the past several years, one ticket likely won’t affect your rates at all. However, if you pay this ticket and have another incident in a few months, you may wish you’d fought it.
Whether you choose to pay the ticket or fight it may also depend on whether you can argue your guilt. The officer who issued the ticket will likely be there and unless you have some type of proof, you’ll probably find the judge will side with the official who issued the ticket, regardless of what you say.
Go to Traffic School
Even if you know you’ll be found guilty, going to court may be a better option than paying the ticket. If it’s your first offense in a certain period of time, your local court will likely give you the option of attending traffic school. These courses are multiple hours in length and provide a review of basic traffic laws. In some cities, you can even take the course online.
Chances are, you’ll find that you still must pay court costs and fees for the course, making the process almost as, if not more, expensive than simply paying the ticket without going to court. The only benefit to taking the traffic school route is having the ticket erased from your record. Make sure once you’ve completed the course that the state is notified to avoid the violation going on your record anyway.
Hire an Attorney
Another little-known option is to hire an attorney. This may sound cost prohibitive but there are now law firms that specialize in traffic tickets, charging a small fee to fight on your behalf in traffic court. These are designed for non-criminal moving violations, but these firms also often handle criminal traffic violations, as well.
If your traffic violation was part of an automobile accident, you may already need an attorney to handle any personal injuries that resulted. If you’re consulting with a personal injury lawyer about your case, feel free to ask for guidance on how to handle your traffic violation.
Contest It Alone
You don’t need an attorney to battle your case in court, but you’ll have much better luck with one. There are several grounds on which you can contest your ticket, including challenging the officer’s conclusion or proving your conduct was justified under the law. If you have photos or witnesses who can support your case, you’ll have a better chance.
When arguing your case to the judge, be as respectful as possible, keeping a calm tone and waiting until you’re expected to speak. If you let your emotions take over, chances are your arguments will be disregarded and you’ll find yourself paying the fine or going to traffic court. These tips for winning your case without a lawyer can help, including dressing professionally and showing up early.
If you’ve gotten a traffic ticket, you may be unsure what to do. By knowing your options, you can make the decision that decreases your cost, whether it’s saving the time you’d spend in traffic school, preventing higher insurance premiums, or fighting the case and walking away without owing a fine or having a mark on your record.