How to hire a traffic ticket lawyer
If you've recently received a traffic ticket, you may be wondering if you need to hire a lawyer. It can be easy to just pay the fine if this is your first, relatively minor offense.
However, keep in mind once you pay the fine, you've essentially admitted guilt. This means the ticket becomes part of your driving record for 3 to 5 years, and up to 7 for more serious violations. Here's what you should know about hiring a lawyer for your traffic ticket.
What does a traffic ticket lawyer do?
Even if you are facing a less serious infraction, you may still want to talk to a lawyer, especially if you've had multiple tickets in the past 3 years. Here are examples of what a lawyer can do for you if you've received a traffic ticket:
Negotiate. A lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor and judge to get a lesser charge or lower fine, for example.
Keep your driving privileges. If you've had multiple tickets in the past, you may have accumulated enough negative points on your driving record to put your driving privileges in jeopardy. If this is the case, a lawyer may be able to help you avoid that outcome.
Represent you in court. If you got your ticket in a different state while on vacation, for example, a lawyer can represent you so you don't have to make a time-consuming and costly trip for a court appearance.
Avoid higher insurance rates. Being convicted of certain types of moving violations may cause your insurance rates to rise. A lawyer can help negotiate a lesser offense, or arrange for traffic school to wipe the offense from your record.
Arrange a plea bargain. Felony convictions carry very stiff penalties and you should plan to defend against it. A lawyer can review your case and see if there are any areas that you can challenge the arrest itself, the evidence against you, or the arresting officer's version of events to get the case dismissed or secure a not guilty verdict. If that is not possible, the lawyer will get you the best possible plea arrangement, possibly lowering fines and swapping probation and community service for jail time.
How much does a traffic lawyer cost?
There is no standard price to hire a lawyer for a traffic ticket. Some lawyers charge a flat rate to defend against certain violations, such as speeding. Others, especially those defending more complex cases, will charge an hourly rate.
Depending on where you live and other variables, you might pay between $250 and $400 for a routine traffic ticket, and between $1,000 and $2,000 for a first-time DUI, for example.
Five questions to ask your traffic lawyer
Some large cities have law firms that work on nothing but traffic tickets. In some cases, this is a good place to start, since you know this is their area of expertise. If you don't know how to find a good traffic lawyer, you could ask for a referral from a friend, or check Avvo's directory for a lawyer near you.
Once you've chosen a candidate, these are good questions to ask to help you decide if it's a good fit:
How long have you been handling traffic cases like mine?
How many traffic cases like mine have you successfully handled?
What would you consider a successful outcome in my case?
How much will you charge me?
Will you appear with me in court, or will you send someone else from your firm?
It's important to know not just how long your lawyer has been practicing in traffic court, but also how many cases he or she has actually defended.
You should always hire a lawyer if you are facing jail time or loss of driving privileges. If you're charged with a lesser violation, these tips will help you know if it's in your best interests to seek legal advice.