Cost of a Traffic Ticket

Cost of a Traffic Ticket
You need the help of a lawyer

True Cost of a Speeding Ticket

You know you were driving faster than the posted speed limit. The police officer was polite. He gave you a ticket for driving too fast. He apologized for doing so as he handed the ticket to you. Next day you called the number of the court on the ticket and you were told that you could plead guilty and pay a fine of $95.

You think about your situation. You know you are guilty, can easily afford the fine, have a good driving record, and wonder why not just accept the points. You know points come off your record eventually. You ask yourself if you really need a lawyer to fight a New Jersey speeding ticket?

It seems that paying for a lawyer would cost more than the cost of the ticket and any increase in car insurance from the points. You hesitate. You wonder if you have reached the correct conclusion.

The problem is that $95 is just the beginning. Four points on your license will sit on your license for the next few years. What if you get another ticket in that time? Points add up. Also, depending on your insurance carrier, your insurance is likely to go up $500 or more per year for the next three years.
Yes, you should hire a lawyer who will go to Court with you and speak to the Prosecutor on your behalf. Your lawyer will likely be able to get some of the points removed outright. The fact that you were guilty is a moot point. By negotiating with your attorney the Prosecutor has one less case to worry about on his busy Court calendar. He is not inclined to interrupt the flow of his business by playing hardball with a defense attorney over a relatively minor traffic offense.

The Prosecutor knows he may win the case if he tries you, but he wants to get home like everyone else and itís not as if you're getting away with murder. So, in the end you may save hundreds, perhaps thousands of dollars.

When a Cop is a Real Jerk

On a rare occasion you may receive a speeding ticket from a police officer who is not polite. Perhaps you were driving a little over the speed limit but are sure there is no way you were traveling as fast as the ticket says you were driving. The cop was a real jerk. Perhaps you asked to look at his radar unit to see the reading and he would not let you. Perhaps he shows you a reading that you think was not from your driving. You ask ó Is this justice?

It may not be justice but it is a fact of life. The officer is not obligated to show you the radar reading. He doesnít have to prove to you that you were speeding, he just has to prove it to the Court. And while it would sure be nice, there is no requirement that the officer be pleasant while issuing you a ticket, although most of them are polite.

But no matter what happens itís a good idea, even if you have to bite your tongue to do it, to be cordial to the officer. Even if he is confrontational, you should remain calm and polite. If you plan on contesting the ticket and saving points, the Prosecutor will listen to and be influenced by the Officer. If you expressed confrontational words to the officer, or otherwise gave him a hard time, he will remember you and that memory may make it difficult to negotiate with the prosecutor.

You really need a Lawyer To Help With Your Traffic Case
An attorney is schooled, trained and experienced. He or she is familiar with court procedures, with the rules of evidence, knows what defenses do and donít work and often has familiarity with the personnel involved in your Municipal Court hearing.

By yourself you offer very little opposition to an experienced Prosecutor. If you donít like the deal he proposes, if you do not fully understand the deal offered, or if the Prosecutor doesnít propose a deal at all, you have little leverage or ability to influence the outcome of the following court proceeding.
An attorney represents a genuine obstacle to an easy or successful result for the Prosecutor. He can make appropriate motions and knows the appropriate means, if any, to combat the proofs presented. Even if your defense might not succeed, the threat of a defense will often cause a Prosecutor to offer a better plea bargain. It is simply a matter of fact that a represented defendant will generally receive a better plea offer than the unrepresented one.

Also, unless you have been through a lot of traffic court proceedings (in which case you really, really, need an attorney) an attorney provides a certain comfort level you otherwise donít have. Your attorney knows where to go, who to speak to, where to sit, where to stand, what to say and, gets preference over the other matters without attorneys in scheduling.

Mistake on NJ Traffic Ticket

If an officer misspelled your name, or got a number wrong from your license plate or made a similar error on your ticket you may think the ticket will be or should be thrown out. Probably not. There is virtually nothing the officer can do wrong on the ticket that will invalidate it. While this tactic may work in other States, New Jersey Courts do not get overly concerned that a number or letter is off a summons. If there is enough on the summons to advise a reasonable person what they did wrong, that will usually be enough. The Court on its own motion, or the Prosecutor, may simply amend the ticket to reflect the correct spelling or number. Your lawyer can help you judge if there is enough on the summons.

If the Officer Doesn't Appear

There is a common misconception that if the officer who issued the ticket does not appear the ticket will be dismissed. Perhaps this is so because theoretically it should be true. In theory, if you appear and the Prosecutionís witness (the officer) doesnít, there is no case to present and the case fails because there is a ìLack of Prosecution.î But as a practical matter the Judge will not generally go so far as to throw out a case the first time this happens.

You can ask the Judge to dismiss the matter, and the Prosecutor, who is aligned with the officer, will stand and offer just about any excuse why the officer did not appear. The Prosecutor will do whatever is necessary to get an adjournment while hoping for the officerís appearance the next time. An officer can be reprimanded if his case is dismissed due to lack of prosecution so the Prosecutor goes to great lengths not to let that happen. The Judge is aware of the officerís predicament so he may also have this in the back of his head. It is possible that the case can be adjourned even more than once for these reasons and consequently, you are forced to return over and over. By the time the officer does show up, he may be less than thrilled to meet you. So, while in theory, the case can be dismissed due to Lack of Prosecution, it is a rarity. In such case it is helpful to have your own lawyer standing by your side.