October 28, 2009
“Thank you Officer.”
Although politeness like this may not get you “out” of a traffic citation, any police officer will agree that a good attitude serves you much better than the alternative. Forget about what type of day you have had, be thankful if you only get issued a citation, and can return to fight another day.
Many people believe the only way to deal with a traffic citation is to pay the fine, take the points, and go to driving school. Depending on a number of factors, including the type of violation, and your driving record, you may have other options.
In Broward County, a violator actually gets four opportunities to decide how to deal with a citation: 1) plead guilty by mail, pay the fine, and perhaps elect driving school; 2) attend the initial appearance, pay the fine, elect driving school, or plead “not guilty”, and request a full hearing; 3) attend the pre-trial conference, where a magistrate will give you the opportunity to change your plea to “no contest”, and accept a “plea bargain”; and 4) proceed to a final hearing.
Pleading guilty to your traffic citation entitles you to pay the entire fine, take points on your license, if required, and perhaps attend driving school.
If you plead not guilty, either by mail, or in person at the initial appearance, your case will be set for a “pre-trial conference”. A traffic magistrate will give you the opportunity to change your plea to “no contest”, in exchange for a reduced sentence. Usually this reduced sentence is an offer of “withhold of adjudication”, no fines, no school, no “points”, and assessment of nominal court costs. While many things determine the severity of the potential offer, if you have an attorney, a relatively clean driving record, and were not involved in a accident or speeding in a school zone, your chances of avoiding points and high fines are good. While retaining an attorney to represent you at this stage is not strictly necessary, it may help you receive a better “deal”. Also, most attorneys who do this type of work charge very reasonably for this service.
Finally, you may opt to maintain your plea of not guilty, and proceed to trial. We don’t have space here to discuss the procedure and practice of even the simplest traffic misdemeanor trial. Unless you were involved in an accident, or have a very poor driving record, your best bet in most situations is to accept the plea-bargain. However, if you do decide to go to trial, retention of an attorney is probably a very good idea.
Feel free to contact us for a referral to a lawyer that specializes in handling Traffic Tickets.