It’s inevitable. At one point or another we have all looked in our rear view mirror and seen those ominous red and blue flashing lights. Sometimes they pass us by and other times we’re not so lucky. Now you have a traffic citation and you have to decide what to do with it. Should you just pay the fine, ask to mitigate or should you contest the ticket? And what do each of these options mean? Can a lawyer really help you out, and is it financially worth it?
YOUR OPTIONS are to pay, mitigate or contest. If you pay the fine, you admit the violation and it is reported to the Department of Licensing (DOL). The infraction will likely be on your record for three years and effect your insurance rates for the next three years (if not longer). If you mitigate, you admit the violation but are asking for the judge to reduce the fine because of extenuating circumstances. If your driving record is decent you have a good chance of having the fine reduce, however the violation is still entered as committed, reported to the DOL and effecting your insurance for the next three years. Choosing to contest the ticket is the only option that can keep the ticket off your record and away from you insurance.
CONTESTING your infraction does not mean that you have to stand up and say you were not speeding (or driving in the HOV lane etc.). What it means is that you are not admitting to anything and you are asking for the State or City to prove their case. The State or City then must present enough evidence to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (50.1%) that you indeed violated the traffic code. In reality, this is a very low burden for the State or City to reach. When it boils down to the Officer saying you violated the traffic code and you saying you did not, the Judges typically side with the Officers that they see everyday. This is where having a skilled traffic attorney handle your case can make all the difference.
AN ATTORNEY is trained to first look for procedural errors that may result in keeping evidence out; so it never boils down to your word against the Officer’s. With little or no evidence to present, the City or State’s job is much more difficult. There are many errors that can be found in an Officer’s report that can be used to obtain a beneficial result for you. Some issues may result in a dismissal while other may result in the prosecutor offering to amend you ticket to a non-moving violation (such as inattentive driving). These non-moving violations allow the City or State to still collect revenue, but since they are categorized as non-moving violations, they do not end up effecting your insurance. The cost of an attorney up front is typically less than the amount you will pay in increased premiums for insurance over the next three years. This is especially important for CDL holders, intermediary license holders, or anyone the drives for work.
Every county, city, Judge, and prosecutor is different. Because of the low burden of proof that is required for the State or City to show a violation, judicial discretion plays a big role. It is not uncommon to have issues result in dismissals in one court, amendments in another, and no consideration in yet another. Having a working knowledge of the courts, prosecutors, and judges is essential to obtaining the very best outcome. I have defended people accused of traffic infraction in King County, Snohomish County, Skagit County and Whatcom county and each court has its own differentiating characteristics. It is the same way with the Cities, from Bothell to Lynnwood to Mill Creek to Mukilteo, all of them have their own distinct set of guidelines and procedures.
Your best chance at having your ticket dismissed is to hire a skilled traffic attorney. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your infraction, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy, LLC at 206-427-4901.