1 Free Legal Consumer Guide Series Brought To You By Meeting All Your Legal Needs For 50 Years
2 2 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE If you read this guide, you will discover what you need to know about your legal issue, and learn about your options. Then you will be armed with information so you can make an informed, intelligent decision about what to do. What you should do now: Read this Free Legal Consumer Guide. You should be informed before you talk to an attorney. Call an attorney. At least get an initial consultation to discuss the unique facts of your situation. The best solutions come from applying the law to the facts of your case. No book can do that. Most attorneys offer a 1 hour consultation to discuss your case. You have many good choices in Southern Maryland. Of course, we hope you choose us! We want to be your family s attorney. Contact us today. Disclaimer: (1) Using this guide will not make you a lawyer, and is no substitute for hiring one. Do not represent yourself in any serious legal matter. (2) This guide gives general information and advice. Effective legal advice requires understanding the unique facts of your situation, and applying the law to those facts. (3) Using this guide does not create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The only way to do that is by meeting with us. (4) The legal advice and information in this guide applies only to Maryland.
3 3 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket AUTHOR PAGE David Hebb has been practicing law since He concentrates his practice in criminal law, bankruptcy and litigation. See his full bio at /a bout-us/david-hebb David Gormley is a partner here. He has been practicing law since 1992, and concentrates his practice in bankruptcy, real estate, and criminal law. See his full bio at /about-us/dave-gormley Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Southern Maryland serving clients for 50 years. We have more attorneys and a larger staff than other local law firms. That means we can help you and your family in a wider variety of legal matters. Each attorney concentrates in a few key areas so you get the expertise you need, and the personal service you want.
4 4 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket TABLE OF CONTENTS New Laws Are In Effect! 6 Yes. You Do Need An Attorney.. 6 OK. So Maybe You Don t Need A Lawyer. 8 Watch Out! Points Add Up. 9 Options For Handling Your Ticket 9 Option 1 Pay Up 11 Option 2 Request A Waiver Hearing.. 12 Probation Before Judgment. 14 Increased Fines??? Option 3 Trial. 16 Copyright 2013
5 5 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket How to Handle a Traffic Ticket Most people, at some time in their lives, will get pulled over by the police for a driving infraction. It happens to even the best drivers sometimes. Traffic tickets are annoying. They can be expensive and dealing with them can take up your valuable time. But if you get one, you have to deal with it. The first thing you need to know is whether or not you can handle this yourself. Do you really need a lawyer for this? That depends on the nature of the traffic ticket. In some cases an attorney will be essential. In other situations you may be able to save yourself time and money by dealing with the traffic ticket on your own. We will try to tell you when you need a lawyer for your traffic ticket and when you can probably do it on your own. However, our best advice is always going to be to call a lawyer for a consultation at least. We do not charge for any criminal law consultations, and that includes traffic tickets. At the very least, you can send us a copy of your traffic ticket, and we can tell you (over the phone if it is convenient) whether you need an attorney or not.
6 6 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Read This Guide! News Laws Are In Effect The laws for handling traffic tickets changed in There are new procedures now. Even if you handled your own case before, you should read this guide now as things have changed. There are new procedures you must follow. Tickets used to be issued from ticket books. Now an officer is more likely to issue you an electronic citation printed in his or her patrol car. The District Court does provide a self help guide on their website at Their guide won t give you any advice like this one will, but it will have up to date addresses, phone numbers, and links to pay your ticket electronically. This guide is accurate as of 2013, but things can change any time. Yes. You do Need An Attorney First, let s talk about the more serious situations where you do need an attorney in your corner. Sometimes, the penalties are so serious that you would be crazy not to get an attorney.
7 7 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket You should retain an attorney for these situations: If you receive a traffic citation that says you must appear at Court. Some traffic tickets are called payable (meaning you can just pay and not appear in Court) and some are must appear (meaning you better show up for Court). Most tickets are payable and you can handle them on your own. If you get a must appear, hire an attorney. Those are more serious violations. If you receive a ticket for a violation that has a possible jail sentence. Traffic citations involving a traffic accident, especially if someone was hurt in the accident. Traffic citations which carry a lot of points. If you get too many points, you could lose your license, or at least watch your insurance rates go through the roof. If you have multiple prior traffic offenses; and If you drive for a living and getting a traffic citation that carries points will cause you to lose your job. If you find yourself in any of these situations DO NOT pay the fine associated with the traffic ticket. Instead, contact an attorney immediately. If you are ever unclear about whether you need a lawyer, it never hurts to call an attorney and at least discuss your issue.
8 8 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket OK. So Maybe You Don t Need a Lawyer If you do not fall into any of the categories listed above, and you have a payable traffic ticket, you might be able to manage your traffic case on your own. The rest of this guide applies only to payable tickets. If you have a must appear ticket, hire an attorney. Let s say you are going to do this on your own. To be properly prepared, you have to do a little research (beyond just reading this article). You have to know the fines or penalties you are potentially facing. How much will you be fined for each offense? How many points are associated with each of those offenses? Below we have a link to a website where you can look up your type of citation and see exactly what fines and points you can receive for your offenses if you plead guilty: 0.pdf
9 9 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Watch Out! Points Add Up It s very important to pay attention to the points you rack up over a two year period. If you get three to four points within two years you will get a warning letter from the MVA. Five to seven points over two years will land you in a driver improvement class. Your right to drive will be suspended if you get eight to eleven points over two years. And if you get twelve or more points your driving privileges will be revoked. We strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer if you are even flirting with 8 or more points. Options on Handling the Traffic Ticket The new laws in 2011 require you to do one of three things within 30 days of getting your ticket. If you fail to take action and choose one of these options, the MVA will get notice and they may suspend your license. And if you get caught driving on a suspended license, you could go to jail. This is a serious penalty for ignoring your ticket. Do not simply ignore a traffic ticket, or wait until the 30 day deadline is about to run out.
10 10 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket If you need information about your ticket, you can find it on Maryland Judiciary Case Search on the internet. Go to casesearch.courts.state.md.us (no www in front of it) and enter your personal information to find it. And yes, everyone else can see it too. Sorry. It is a public record. Also, no matter what you plan to do, read the fine print on the ticket. The ticket tells you how to do all the stuff we discuss below. It provides addresses, explanations for electronic filing, and has check boxes where you can make your selection. Most people do not read the ticket, and that is the first thing you should do. If you have not read yours, stop right now and go read it over before you continue. The rest of this will make much more sense.
11 11 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket There are three ways you can proceed. The options are explained in detail below: Pay: You can simply pay the full amount of your fine and be done with the case. You will get the points and have to pay the fine for that particular citation. Waiver Hearing: You can go to Court and plead guilty and ask the Judge for mercy. This is a very common practice. We recommend you do this. See below. Trial: You can go to Court and plead not guilty and have a trial. You will be able to testify and present evidence, but the police officer will too. Option 1 - Pay Up You may choose to take the first option and pay your tickets if you are in fact guilty of the offense, there are no points associated with the traffic offense(s) and you can afford to pay the citations. This may save you the trouble of taking a day off from work to possibly get the same result. Realize that if points are associated with your ticket, you will get those points if you merely pay. If you can afford it, and your insurance won t go up, then this may be an option. But you can probably get the points dropped or reduced if you show up at Court. Read on to find out how.
12 12 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket If you want to pay, we recommend writing a check and mailing it to the address on your ticket. You can pay online, but a nonrefundable convenience fee applies. To do that, go to https://orders.paymentsolutions.lexisnexis.com/md/maryland court/. Option 2 - Request a Waiver Hearing This used to be called plead guilty with explanation. It is the same thing now with a different name. If you choose this option, you will not be able to contest the ticket when you get to trial. You are pleading guilty. Although it is common practice for the Judge to cut you a break if you do this, he or she does not have to. They can make you pay the full fine and give you all the points. We still advise most people to do this. Just be aware of what you are doing. Option two may be the right choice if you have no points on your license and you are in fact guilty of the offense(s). This may be a good idea if you cannot really challenge the facts, but you cannot afford the points. In that case you can go to court, plead guilty and ask the Judge to consider reducing the points, making you pay a higher fine instead of points, or granting you a PBJ (discussed below).
13 13 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket To request a waiver hearing, you must check the box for request waiver hearing and mail in to the Court (they have one copy called the return to court copy) at the address on the ticket. There is also an electronic option explained on the ticket. The Court will automatically schedule your hearing date and send you notice. Do not miss that date! If you need a continuance, you must ask for one in writing. This is a Motion to the Court and the Court will rule on it and send you notice. If they refuse to continue your trial, you better show up. At that hearing, you must show up and explain why you committed the offense. If you have an explanation, go ahead and make it. But realize it is an explanation - not an excuse. You already plead guilty, and you are not going to get much sympathy from the Judge. But you can tell the Judge if there are extenuating circumstances. Do the Judge a favor, and make your explanation brief and to the point. The Judge has your life in their hands. You want him or her to like you. So you should be exceedingly nice and get to the point.
14 14 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket If you do not have any explanation, that is OK too. Just be honest. Judges love honesty. They hear baloney all day long, and you will stand out (in a good way) if you just own up to the offense and admit you did it. This is most useful in speeding tickets. We have all gotten them, and the Judge is not going to look at you badly for speeding. He or she will, however, look at your badly for not taking responsibility or lying. Probation Before Judgment You should request the Court give you probation before judgment. A Probation Before Judgment (or PBJ) means that even though you plead guilty, the Judge will strike the guilty finding and place you on a period of probation. The benefit of a PBJ is that you don t get any points through the MVA. Granting a PBJ is totally up to the discretion of the presiding Judge. They don t have to give you one. It helps a lot if you are extra nice to the cops when they pull you over, and you better be nice to the Judge when you appear in Court. (Do we really need to tell you that?)
15 15 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket When the Judge gives you a PBJ, they usually make you pay for it. The Judge may sentence you to community service or make you pay a higher fine in order to escape points. Most often it s worth it! You should also be aware that you give up your right to appeal when granted a PBJ. Increased Fines? The Judge can also increase your fine, up to a maximum of $500. This does not often happen unless you are shown to be a real menace on the highways, or you were a real jerk to the police officer who pulled you over, or you act like a jerk in Court. Never act like a jerk in Court. That goes without saying. But if you did lose your cool with the police officer when you got a ticket, things may not go well for you at trial. You should think seriously about hiring an attorney to smooth things over.
16 16 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Option 3 Trial If you feel you are not guilty of the offenses you are charged with, you do have the option of going before the Court and pleading not guilty. You will get your chance at a trial, where you can testify, produce evidence, cross examine witnesses, etc. Even though it is just for a traffic ticket, it is a real trial and you have the right to all the formalities of a criminal trial including an attorney. Before taking this route you should know that, while not impossible, a successful defense to a traffic citation is rare. We don t want to discourage you, but we do want to be honest. Examples of offenses that are nearly impossible to defend are speeding cases where the officer used certified radar equipment, and failing to follow a traffic control device, such as a stop sign or a red light. The Judge is probably not going to believe your word over that of the officer. That is not always true, but you have to have a pretty special set of facts and be a special sort of person to get the Judge to say an officer is not accurate when he testifies against you. Again, we just want to be honest. You probably do not want to hear that, but it is the truth.
17 17 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket If you plead not guilty and demand to have a trial, the officer who issued the citation must be present in Court to present evidence of the offenses. If the officer is not present then the case will be dismissed by the Court. If you received a speeding citation by going through a speed trap where one officer was operating the radar equipment and another officer was issuing citations, both officers must be present in Court to testify. If the officer or officers are present, they get to testify first. You get to cross examine them. When they are done testifying you will have the opportunity to let the Judge hear your side of the story. You will be allowed to call witnesses and present documents to help the Judge understand your defense. Remember this: offering an excuse as to why you were committing a traffic offense is not a defense. An excuse (such as being late for the doctor or having some type of emergency) would be better used by pleading guilty and explaining why the Judge should be merciful in his or her sentence. There you have it! A quick and no frills guide to handling your own traffic ticket. We hope you found this free legal consumer guide helpful and we wish you the best of luck.
18 18 How To Handle A Traffic Ticket LOCAL RESOURCES Southern Maryland has a lot of great non-profit organizations that can help you and your family if you are facing a need. These are a few we know, trust, and highly recommend. Legal Aid Bureau: legal services without cost United Way of Charles County: has the definitive list of local Human Services Agencies right on their website. Lifestyles of Maryland: They pretty much do it all, or can refer you to someone who can. Housing, food, medical, financial, employment, transportation, etc College of Southern Maryland: A lot more than classes! They can refer you to services, provide fitness testing and screening, and give health & wellness classes for all ages Maryland Community Services Locator: online search for health, social service, and criminal justice resources in Maryland. Sponsored by the University of Maryland.
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