How Do I Know When I Should Fight A Traffic Ticket?
My personal opinion is that a motorist should never plead guilty to any offense because you just don’t know what the far reaching consequences might be unless you consult with a traffic ticket defense lawyer. They can look at your driving record, employment, medical and social obligations and discuss the whole picture with you – so you can make a knowing and intelligent decision. In almost every case, it doesn’t make sense to plead “guilty” as charged so the only procedural alternative is to plead “not guilty.” “Not guilty” is not the same as saying you’re innocent of the charges. It is the proper procedural step to take for challenging accusations against you. The burden of proof is on the People (i.e., the prosecution) to prove each and every single element of every single charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
The criminal justice system requires the prosecutor to carry the burden of proof for any conviction. They have to establish everything. For example, they have to ID the motorist; they have to identify that they were the one who they observed driving the vehicle. They have to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Judge that they had the properly calibrated radar or a laser device, in proper working order, calibrated regularly, and it was tested at the start of their shift. They have to prove that they did, in fact, observe the particular vehicle and were able to get a clear radar or laser read on that individual vehicle, that they did not lose sight of it, and that the vehicle was operating at the speed in excess of the posted speed limit, and that the speed limit sign(s) were properly sized, located, and accordingly, visible.
A lay-person is just not familiar with the statutes or corresponding case law interpreting the statute, and what it takes to successfully defend that case. In most instances, if a motorist takes their ticket to trial themselves, it will almost certainly not be the result they were hoping to get. Not only is knowledge of the substantive statute and case law on traffic offenses required – it’s also courtroom procedure which controls. It can be very challenging for an attorney, let alone, a lay-person.
Keeping your record as clean as possible will allow for the best results in the long run. Since the laws keep changing and becoming essentially more restrictive, we all have to be cognizant of the bigger picture – which is the long-term record. Most ticketed motorists are very good people who make mistakes. They need help to get through the process and successfully come out the other side – so their whole future isn’t marred by a lapse in judgment.
A common ticket issued these days is the cell phone ticket. Talking or texting while driving are five point tickets. That is the equivalent of a ticket issued for passing a school bus while discharging children! These are the kind of tickets I regularly fight. To compound matters, a five point ticket is construed by DMV as a “serious driving offense” or an SDO. If you get a certain number of SDOs, it can have catastrophic consequences to your ability to drive at all. This is why you shouldn’t just plead guilty. In particular, if it is combined with a record of DWIs in the preceding 25 years – you could end up in the worst case scenario, facing a lifetime revocation. These are recent regulations that all have potential consequences when coupled with an alcohol related offense.
Thus, it is of supreme importance that you challenge these traffic tickets while you can at the very outset. The alternative is to suffer the consequences of them at a later date or have to hire counsel to seek to go backward in time to vacate convictions from years before.
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