When the lights flash in your rearview mirror, and that sinking feeling in your stomach creeps in, you know: a traffic ticket is about to put a damper on your day. While you can pay, many people don't realize that fighting a ticket is an often overlooked option with a number of real upsides.
Why you should fight your traffic tickets
Paying your ticket is an admission of guilt and that means in addition to a potential fine, you may be looking at points on your license and, depending on the seriousness of the infraction, other consequences as well.
While some tickets might be more complex, most tickets don't take too much time or money to fight – and if you know what you're doing, you may just walk away without points, a fine or any other negative consequences. Win!
So should you fight your ticket?
How to Know If You Have a Case
If you are interested in fighting your NY traffic ticket, there are a few things to consider:
- Check your ticket carefully for any errors; if there is a mistake you may have an easier time fighting the ticket
- Is your ticket based on camera footage? If so, you may have a chance at dismissal
- Understand the specifics of the law you have allegedly violated and look for any holes
- When you received the ticket- was the officer's view obstructed by trees, buildings, or objects? You could argue the officer could not have properly seen the situation
- Consider the reason for your ticket – for example, if you switched lanes without signaling, perhaps you avoided a dangerous object in the road
It is a good idea to keep all documents and events of the ticket organized. Write down the time and date of the ticket. Describe in detail the weather conditions and the officer's behavior- this can be relevant to your case. Keep a copy of your insurance, registration, and ticket. Staying organized can increase your chances of building a solid defense.
Fighting Your NY Traffic Ticket
Once you decide that you have a chance to fight your New York State traffic ticket, you will need to promptly complete the appropriate steps.
First, pay careful attention to the time limit you have to enter your plea. Most likely, this is fifteen days. You can enter your not-guilty plea online with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, or send it in by mail. Next, pick a date for your hearing. Take extra care to ensure this is a day you will be able to attend. You will receive notice of your hearing in the mail. (Of course during the Coronavirus pandemic, the courthouse has been closed. I'll be writing something about that shortly.)
The next step is to begin building your defense. Keep in mind all the points you considered when deciding to fight your ticket, and write them down in an orderly manner. Look at your driving history, present yourself in a good light, and gather your evidence.
It might be a good idea to watch a hearing online or research what to expect. That way, you can come in more confident and prepared for the situation. Do not forget to dress your best. You do not need to look fancy or wear a suit, but make an effort to look appropriate, put-together, and professional. This will show respect for the court, as well as for yourself.
Your hearing is likely to include an opening statement, an examination of the police officer, and your testimony. If you bring a witness, you should ask them questions to help fortify your case.
Finally, you will get the judge's decision. The process does not necessarily end there. If you are unhappy with the decision, you might be able to appeal.
(Please keep in mind that the procedure for fighting a traffic ticket in New York City may differ.)
When Should You Consider Hiring a Lawyer?
When it comes down to it, the decision to hire a lawyer is yours alone. You might not feel a pressing need to hire a traffic ticket lawyer. Or, you may want a little extra help in handling the situation. Keep in mind that every procedure has a time limitation and certain boxes to check, so if you handle the case yourself, you will need to be super diligent and organized, as well as dive into some legal research.
Whether you fight a ticket or not will depend on your circumstances. It is wise to consider the full picture – is this your first ticket? If so, you may be able to handle the case on your own. If you have multiple tickets, or a more serious charge like a DUI/DWI, your willingness to risk the chance you can lose if you take the case yourself might be lower.
Take your time to consider all of your options and your specific circumstances and come to a comfortable decision.
Cost of Hiring a Lawyer
The cost of hiring a lawyer is relatively low. Most likely, a typical fee will range from $250-$500. Compared to the cost of heavy fines and potential consequences like license suspension, you may decide that is a cost you can bear.