Retain me to fight your traffic citation!
Even if you have a squeaky clean DMV record, you should still consider fighting your traffic citation with a lawyer. Reasons why include:
--Avoid the hassle of going to court at all; Penal Code §977(a) authorizes your lawyer to appear in court for you at all stages, including trial;
--Avoid the point--- the Veh. Code §12810 point count system authorizes DMV to suspend your license if you amass four points in a 12 month period, six in 24 months or eight in 36 months (an at fault accident is one point);
--Don’t waste traffic school (available only if no previous attendance within 18 months) on a close case where reasonable doubt may be established;
--Convictions will likely raise insurance rates for three years;
--Although not a guarantee, traffic school is still discretionary after a guilty finding at trial,
More detail as to the above:
1. The hassle---Traffic court arraignments and trials are usually characterized by long lines and waiting. Attorneys receive priority since Judges, Commissioners, clerks and bailiffs know that attorneys generally appear in more than one court daily. This does not guarantee a victory, but does accord a certain respect given by the court to a trained, experienced and respectful attorney in good standing. This can be a definite advantage.
2. The point system--- Points are calculated from the offense date---not the conviction date --- which is often months removed from the offense date. Suspension is called for if the driver’s point total reaches the prohibited numbers set forth in §12810. Certainly a person who violates the §12810 point total will be super motivated to avoid getting that last suspension causing point and retain an attorney. But why wait until it’s almost too late?
I’ve represented many clients with point count problems in DMV hearings called “Negligent Operator” hearings. Generally, the DMV will send out a warning letter when a 3rd point pops up within a 12 mo. period. One more point, the letter says, will result in a suspension. When the 4th point hits the books, DMV sends a suspension letter that also offers the option of an in-person hearing where the driver can appear and attempt to show any mitigation that might cancel, minimize or reduce the suspension.
Each case and driver is different and there are several ways to show mitigation at the hearing. Examples include driving excessive miles, extenuating circumstances in the offense(s), taking remedial measures, hardship and more. This sort of showing depends in large part on the attorney’s effort, planning, preparation and presentation at the hearing.
3. “Wasting traffic school” --- There’s some strategy, luck and art involved here. Sure it’s easy to say that “I won’t get stopped again” (causing you to forego a trial and accept traffic school), but you just never know when an officer decides he’s seen something that justifies a stop. I often say that an officer can spot almost anyone violating some VC section whenever the officer is paying attention. It’s easy to violate one of the myriad VC laws.
If the citation looks like a close case, meaning one where you have a good chance with a trial, then going to traffic school (instead of chancing a trial) just might not be a good way to go. So it’s best to take a long view with these types of decisions while having the benefit of your attorney’s guidance.
Many judges will deny traffic school AFTER losing a trial but that denial is often based on aggravating facts developed in the trial evidence. If there are no such aggravating factors, then traffic school should still be a viable option post trial.
4. True costs----Many people feel that a moving traffic citation does not justify the cost of retaining a lawyer saying “it’s only a ticket.” But the true cost of a moving traffic violation (not including the approximate $200+ fine) is closer to $1,000 – the likely insurance premium hike over a three year period (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/insurance/ true-cost-of-a-speeding-ticket-in-california-after-insurance-increases). And, that’s just for a single citation. This (plus any lost employment from court attendance) is plenty motivation to seek a free consultation with a skilled attorney.
5. Strategy--- Guess what? Delay, delay and more delay helps your chances. Prosecutors and judges press for early trials in criminal cases -- they don’t like delay simply because they know that witnesses sometimes retire, leave the area, get called up for military duty and sometimes just simply don’t have a good recall of what happened after a significant delay. While there are no prosecutors in traffic infraction court (traffic infractions are considered criminal offenses, albeit on the lowest rung), the same principles apply in terms of delay. Generally, criminal defendants want delay and the courts/prosecutors want a speedy resolution. Skilled attorneys know this truism and have several legal maneuvers available to properly position their cases to maximize your chances.
There’s a fair amount of drama in traffic infraction cases—usually highlighted by the officer’s appearance or, in some happy cases, his/her non-appearance. A non-appearance means dismissal but an appearance does not necessarily mean defeat. It depends on the facts, the officer, his/her caseload and attitude that day. I always speak to the officer beforehand in a very respectful and friendly manner and can sometimes negotiate a result to avoid a point and traffic school.
The average person representing themselves in traffic court does not stand much chance at all without an attorney who has been through these “wars.” Chances dramatically increase with representation although attorneys cannot make iron clad guarantees of victory. I can say that, if retained, I guarantee to fight hard for you and will do my best to obtain an outstanding result.