Getting pulled over for a temporary lapse in better driving judgment happens to the best of us and it is certainly no one’s favorite experience. Though the roadside police encounter may feel like hours, most general traffic stops only last a few minutes. And once you’re back on the road (and being overly cautious not to make the same mistake twice in one day) you may have a hundred concerns running through your mind. How much is this ticket going to cost me? How will this affect my permanent record? Is my insurance going to go through the roof? Or how about “should I find a traffic ticket lawyer?”
There are many moving violations for which motorists can be cited, and the severity and complexities of each differ. For the purposes of this blog, we’ll be referring to minor moving violations such as speeding, lane violations, following too closely (tailgating), traffic light and stop sign violations, and no proof of insurance. Most courts will insist that you hire an attorney for more serious moving violations, such as Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”), Driving While Suspended or Revoked, Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and Careless and Imprudent Driving (Reckless Driving), as these offenses can have severe consequences, including jail time. And anytime law enforcement issues a traffic citation in connection with an accident, the motorist should hire a qualified attorney to handle the citation.
But what about a garden variety minor traffic violation? Do you need to hire a lawyer for that?
There is no law that says you must hire an attorney for a minor traffic violation, and few courts (if any) would require it. But if you have a good driving record and want to keep it as clean as possible, you will likely benefit from the services of a qualified attorney.
Of course, you can always plead guilty without a criminal defense attorney, and most courts will only assess a fine for a minor traffic violation. But doing so will result in points being assessed against your driving record, which will cause your insurance company to raise your premiums. And once you have a certain number of points on your driving record, your state will suspend or even revoke your driver’s license. Furthermore, even minor traffic violations are often considered a misdemeanor, so pleading guilty may create a permanent criminal record – even if you pay the fine promptly. And a criminal record can have lifelong consequences. So before you opt to just pay the fine and move on, we suggest strongly weighing the effects such would have on your insurance and your permanent record.